Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Hilltones, The 1Uppers, Rachel Lyn Harrington & the Knockouts, The Black Crabs and Marshall Scott Warner at Slims Last Chance New Years eve 2011

There was an awful choice to be made on New Years eve; who to see? The list of talent was endless. I really wanted to see Eldridge Gravy at the Tractor, or Miss Mamie Lavonna at Conor Byrne, the choices were dizzying. I decided to see my favorite band, The 1Uppers at Slims.

What a bill, you can see the list in the headline. But 5 bands on the same stage means you don't get much time with each band. It does give you the chance to see a lot of talent in one evening, but if you blink you might miss a great moment.

I arrived at about 9:30, as it turned out I was a little late and only heard 20 minutes of The Hilltones. That was a big mistake as they were great. Right off the bat they reminded me of the Lonesome Strangers, great harmonies, simple but skilled licks on the guitar and a great stand up base. I have found their Facebook page but haven't found the names of the band members yet. I see they have a steel guitar that joins the 3 core guys at times, last night it was 3 great musicians that commanded your attention from the first lick. They really rocked and had great technical expertise as well as just having fun. I figure if a band is all smiles and is really into it they are going to make great art.

The next band was my current favorite local band, The 1Uppers; a group of incredibly talented guys that play original country music. Much of their music is written by Jon Hyde, the Steel man, vocal and de facto leader...he sets the tempo for the band. Full disclosure; Jon and I work together at the best coffee company in the world; I respect his work down at big green as much as I do on the stage.

Please pardon the dark shots, I don't use a flash in deference to the artists. Nobody wants a flash in their face.

I have seen The 1Uppers 2 times before, both times I was blown away at their expertise and originality. The first time I saw them, at Slim's (one of my favorite venues, must try the one of the chiles or the crawfish Po-boy) they had all the members on the stage. 5, yes 5 guitars...I was in heaven, as any red blooded American should have been. They range from hard driving country to lovely original traditional country melodies. What really cemented my love of them was an instrumental they do; absolutely kicking head-bobbing country/rock. 4 guitars duel with each other, showing off the talent of each member, it is marvelous. Jon plays steel, David Russell on acoustic, Kris Geren on the Telecaster and John Hendow on the Stratocaster have so much fun that I get high just watching them. John and Kris must be long lost kin as they move as one, trading licks that would make any musician jealous... John has a calm, faraway look as he melts his guitar. Caben Buswell is rocking on bass and Eric Eagle keeps the band moving with a steady beat and very creative percussion. They make such a monstrously great sound that I am left with my mouth agape every time.

Last night they were minus John, he plays with The Dudley Manlove Quartet and they played just up the street at the Sunset. While I was disappointed that John was not with the 1Uppers, I understand his choice in this instance. The 1Uppers got all of 40 minutes on stage, DMQ was an all night gig. I imagine it was great as John would add magic to any other set of musicians. Still they were dynamite, I thought they stole the show but I am prejudiced. Even Jonathan from the Black Crabs acknowledged that they one upped everyone...I second that.

Besides all the great original tunes they do (like I said, most written by Jon) they did two killer tunes; the instrumental that I mentioned before (Eric blistered his Telecaster, damn I could listen to him all night long), and they played a Smith's tune. Skeptical, I listened with song of the evening.

OK- one more thing about this band I love. The harmonies between Jon and David are just plain lovely; a very original sound that I know will carry them far. David is a great front man with a wonderful country look and a voice that will send you to country heaven.

As it turned out the next band was playing their first gig; Rachel Lyn Harrington and the Knockouts. An all girl band (as I was reminded several times by one of their fans standing next to me) of seasoned pros that rocked the house. They are billed as country soul, Rachel has a lovely voice and a great delivery. Playing guitar and singing lead, she was really fun to watch. They played some covers and some original stuff, both types made me happy.

I am not going to be able to provide the names of all the gals here, they are so new they don't have a lot of information out there yet. The lead guitar was restrained but perfect, adding the right flavor to Rachel's rhythm. Loved the drummer in her snakeskin boots. The club is so small that the drummers were mostly using brushes, a full on stick must make too much of a bang. Kirsten Ballweg (of the Black Crabs) played the bass, both stand up and traditional electric.

They really had some fun, again when the performer is happy the crowd is also happy. We will see a lot more of these talented musicians.

The Black Crabs do what they do best; tear it up. With experience and talent you get a rare mix like this; 3 folks who can command the attention of everyone in the building from the get-go. The confidence that Tom, Jonathan and Kirsten perform with is a joy to behold. They attack the stage with Jonathan scorching his Les Paul and singing lead, Kirsten pounding the doghouse and vocals and Tom keeping everybody honest on the drums and sometimes singing lead, they have a sound that is unique and entertaining.

They played many of their best known stuff and some I hadn't heard before. They had several guests and the last one, a bloke named Charlie was a great addition. I have not seen the Crabs before so I am not sure if he is a regular. He played rhythm and sang vocals on some rockin' tunes. He was onstage at midnight and did a great version of Auld Lang Syne.

I didn't make it to Marshall Scott Warner, it was past midnight and I was ready to turn into pumpkin. I had been dancing for the last 3 hours and couldn't dance no more. I don't drink at these events, I am always worried about the ride home. I go alone to most of these gigs so I can come and go as I please.

I almost forgot one of the most important parts of the show; the sound man. I introduced myself to Jim as he was having a smoke outside. I have been at Slims when he was at the board before and it is always a good clear show. All you can ask of a sound guy is that each instrument can be heard clearly and as the musician intended. Jim makes the artists and the audience happy. Last night he had to work overtime as he had to mix for 5 bands. Jim had just got back from a European tour with the Sonics; cool gig to travel with the Godfathers of Seattle Rock. The Sonics are Gods abroad, especially in Japan.

I really concentrate on the artists, I rarely get involved in people watching as I have enough fun watching the talent. I did catch a interesting scene tho, a certain performer of the last group disappeared into the men's bathroom with a member of the opposite sex...15 minutes later they emerged with sheepish grins. I said "next!" with a big smile, least to say that didn't happen.

Get out and see some live music soon. You might be surprised at what you see, you will never be sorry you got off the couch and went out to see some of these great local bands. They need your support, you need their art!

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