Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wayne Hancock, Eddie Bear and the Cubs, Whiskey Breath, the Unwieldies, Fishing Season at the Dive Bar Tuesday Oct 14, 2014

Pretty damn exceptional line-up for this night at the Dive Bar. They definitely try to give you as much bang-for-yer-buck at these gigs and this night things started at a fairly reasonable time, so it wasn't an overly late Tuesday night.

Starting the night was a group that I was completely unfamiliar with called Fishing Season, who had a somewhat nautical theme to their look, down to the bass (fish) mounted on the bass drum. The songs tended to have a kinda sea chanty feel to them and the lead guitarist had a really cool and interesting tone that sounded almost violin-like. Couldn't really think of anyone that they sounded like - think that someone mentioned Cake and I thought vaguely Violent Femmes, but that's not really it, either.

The Unwieldies are now performing with dobro/second acoustic guitarist Richard Wells, which is a nice addition to their sound (and check out his contributions to their new CD, Always the Optimist) and which frees Jack Ball to concentrate solely on violin. Unfortunately, the number of acoustic instruments going through the PA created a sonic problem for this primarily electric venue and the sound balance for the band was, frankly, pretty bad. Feedback, distortion and other issues that do not work well with wooden music detracted from the Unwieldies lovely melodies and intricate tones. They persevered and still performed well, with some powerful moments ("Rain Damage", especially, stood out), but it was not their best - through no fault of their own. See them next Thursday at the Velveteen Rabbit, which seems more suited for their sound.

Thankfully, the sound issues were cleared up for Whiskey Breath's set, although they only had one acoustic instrument, so there were less obstacles to overcome! Guitarists Brandon and Lahm often perform as a duo (and Brandon sometimes even braves it as a solo at times), and their songs hold up well in that format, but it's always good to see the full band rockin' out with their blend of country and r'n'r. The rhythm section of Justin and Steve adds plenty to the sound as they lock in with the cool groove (though the pedal simulating a double bass drum set-up was a bit unnecessary :) ) and contribute to the melody and dynamics. The guys did a number of their catchy originals - "Jim Beam is my Home Boy", "Midnight Special" ("loving her but I was thinking about you"), "You're To Blame", "Westbound" - as well as a nice take on "Down Home Girl" (the Lieber/Butler song done by the Coasters and the Stones). Of course, they closed with their "controversial" song about domestic violence "She Broke My Heart So I Busted Her Jaw" (the title of which Spooky Tooth used first, but does anyone but me remember that?). Well written and memorable song, but it has gotten them banned from at least one establishment. For some reason, Lahm seemed to be hanging back on the harmonies this night, though his singing compliments Brandon well, and if I had any complaints, it would be that I would like to hear him riff a bit more around the songs, but I guess that's the guitarist in me talking!

While Eddie Bear and the Cubs have a somewhat revolving line-up, tonight we got the main men Larry (vocals/guitar), Erik (vocals/guitar), Davis (bass), their rock-solid drummer (I'm sorry I can never remember his name! Wish they would put members on their Facebook page!) and smokin' lead guitarist Brian. They sounded terrific this night and it's always a pleasure to watch and hear these men work - the playing is all top-notch (I always keep my eyes on Brian's playing hands to try to get some tips) and the vocals and harmonies are excellent - Erik has the smoother voice while Larry is gruffer, but still melodic, and his singing better than ever each time I see them. Surprises (to me, anyway) this night included a fine take on Elvis' "Little Sister"and the Blasters' "Long White Cadillac" and their closer, the medley of "Going Down" and "Voodoo Chile" always pleases! I think that there is a lot of talent nowadays in LV and the Cubs are right up there with my faves in town!

I was not familiar with Wayne Hancock before and was surprised to find out that he was born in '65 and made his debut recording in 1995! His sound is old-school country and I assumed that he was an earlier dude since he has such a superior, traditional sound. His line up this night including him on acoustic guitar, a stand-up bass, a female steel guitar player (who stood while playing - highly unusual), and two lead players with different sounds - an acoustic/electric player that had a bit of a jazzier feel and a Tele man who played a bit more traditional (and terrific) country and rockabilly licks. He lists influences such as Hank Williams (I believe that they did one of his tunes, though I didn't write down which one), Ernest Tubbs and Jimmie Rogers and this is all apparent in his show. Wayne has a fine voice, as well, and the material is all strong. He had some issues with his sound this night - personal preference as opposed to real problems - so I don't know if he was completely happy with the night, but the many fans in the audience, who stayed late on a Tuesday night, certainly dug it all!

Another strong Dive Bar night! Thanks to all for making this one happen!