Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hopeless Jack & the Handsome Devil and Sun Blood Stories @ the Crux (12/5/12)

I had actually planned to stay in this night--had some projects for the day job that I wanted to put some work into.  Then I remembered that Keesha Renna's Vagabond Promotions had set up a special blues night at the Crux featuring hard-rocking Portland duo Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil.  After a bit of deliberation, I said, "Screw it.  The day job is always with you."

I counted a little over forty people when I got down to the Crux.  I arrived in time to observe a blues dance lesson that Keesha had helped arrange.  Looking back, starting the night with this was a brilliant move: it got the crowd pumped up and ready to dance by the time that the bands started playing.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the entire night.  My disregard of the day job goes only so far.  Still, apologies to Matt Stone and Indecisive.

Sun Blood Stories kicked off the night's live music.  Their languorous grooves, slippery basslines and fiery guitar were exactly what the situation called for, and they all sounded in excellent form.  Ben Kirby worked his smoky, aching drawl so deftly that I'm now convinced he's one of the best singers in town.  Amber Pollard's girly backup vocals complemented Kirby's low moan nicely, and her tamborine helped accentuate the beat.  Drummer Brett Hawkins swung and stomped as if daring the crowd not to dance.  And in addition to playing bass, Andy Rayborn wandered amongst the crowd and let rip some wailing saxophone solos.

Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil played next.  This set emphasized slightly slower-tempo material than has been their norm, but that just encouraged the crowd to keep dancing.  It also showed that this duo is built for comfort and for speed.  Hopeless Jack Biesel's baritone growl sounded as ferocious as ever but also showed increased nuance and soulfulness.  Smilin' Pete Thomas worked a new ease and swing into his drumming without sacrificing any of his brute force.  It only took a handful of songs to get most of the audience on their feet.  By the time that HJ & THD played their full-throttle finale, just about everybody was dancing, clapping and whooping.  Friggin' glorious.

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