The 80s had new wave. The 90s had grunge. It's hard to pigeonhole the 2000s, but if you wanted me to pontificate I'd say the first half of the decade's rock scene was governed by cargo shorts and pop-punk and the later half was handed down to the po-faced indie kids. Now, well into the 2010s, we've got ourselves a blues/garage revival. Who said there's no longevity in rock and roll?
Pickwick and Black Joe Lewis, one hailing from Seattle, the other from Austin, are just two of bands looking back to the likes of Howlin' Wolf and James Brown. They played The Bishop Monday evening, and drew a larger crowd than I've seen there. God knows shoegaze revival act Weekend didn't get this kind of welcome when they blew through town (I'm still salty about that).
But just because it's popular doesn't mean it sucks, and even though blues revival isn't exactly my style, by the end of Pickwick's first song I was impressed, thanks mostly to the super solid rhythm. Full disclosure, I was right in front of the bass amp, and maybe my ears weren't hearing much of anything else, but the drum 'n bass went a long way to anchor the slightly ridiculous, if endearing, vocal stylings of frontman Galen Disston.
Black Joe Lewis went on around 10:00 pm and played for just a little over an hour and a half.
I didn't know it at the time, but their frontman is in fact named Joe Lewis, a blues rock prodigy who apparently learned to play guitar one day while working at a pawnshop. I'm sure there's some embellishment there - it's just too rock and roll to be true - but who cares. Lewis, with his crimson telecaster, shredded through a substantial set of sandblasted Texas blues. At one point he played it with his teeth. Later he played it over his head.
As a live vocalist, though, I found Lewis a bit lacking, but every so often he'd let a long, howling primal scream that made up for his thin voice. Also worthy of note was a great brass section that let out a few toots to add some extra oomph to the songs. Fan favorite "Booty City" benefitted more than most - it would have a sounded a little sparse and substantially less funky without the horns.
The crowd was into it. Kids were dancing, beers were being spilled, and one heavy set balding guy fell onto his back before stumbling out The Bishop, presumably to throw up and contemplate what events in his life lead him to getting wasted on a Monday night with people half his age.
It was a little disappointing when, after a solid five minutes of chanting 'encore,' we didn't get one. I don't know if its fair to blame old Joe Lewis, maybe The Bishop has to abide some noise standards past midnight, but the set's ending felt slightly anticlimactic.
Complaints aside, both bands were largely excellent, and their performances made me grateful the Archers of Loaf got slightly wrong twenty years ago - there might not be longevity in rock and roll bands (I doubt anyone but the most ardent blues fans thirty years from now will be collecting original Black Joe Lewis records, or I'd have bought one at the merch table), but the basic genres will be around forever; they'll keep getting remade and remodeled by the next generation. Monday night at The Bishop was a testament to doing that right.
Post by Bryan Brussee
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