A night that progresses from an overload of twang to a frenzy of folk (and hair) to a salubrious dose of sultry jazz-rock is a great success in my book. Following the CWMA hip-hop showcase the night prior (one with a near 1,000 percent increase in attendance from the hip-hop show in 2012) was no easy feat, but these three bands on the bill at Burt’s Tiki Lounge Friday night aimed to impress -- and succeeded.
The Bully began the evening and filled the one-of-a-kind venue with their brand of gutbucket blues that can be found only in the twangy sounds of America’s heartland. The songs of whiskey drinking, pill popping and downtown strolling were penned and sung by Jake Fish (bassist of The Devil Whale) for this new project, which employees members of The Devil Whale, The Poorwills and more. Fish himself said that this is the seventh year -- with eight different bands --t hat he’s participated in the CWMAs, which might just land him in our record books.
The Bully’s set of mostly originals, tunes like “Whiskey with the Bully,” “California Sun,” “Downtown Clan” and “Apartment Lights” was aided by whiskey shots on stage and waves of cheers and salutations (Fish even had a “soliloquy” on stage, thankful that he had the opportunity to share the stage with bands that he’s been wanting to see for awhile). Fish, not normally a frontman, has the charm and wit to pull the crowd in and leave them with a feeling of hope, even amidst sad songs. The set was rounded out by a Ryan Adams cover, “Nurse With Pills” and a tune written by local singer-songwriter Glade Sowards, “Crowd.”
There are thieves among us, for the “band of mighty souls,” Folk Hogan, stole the show and performed a set of about 10 songs that was probably my favorite CWMA set of all-time. The five-piece punk-grass band continued the whiskey-fueled, PBR-induced night, but cranked up the volume and energy. And their fans -- some of the most energetic and enthusiastic locals I’ve ever seen -- reacted by throwing beach balls, shouting at the band, raining confetti and making sparks fly on the ground whilst dancing (no shit).
With hardly a dull moment to slow the pace down, Folk Hogan captured the essence of a band hellbent on engaging an audience, and they did so with songs that owe as much to Irish bar sing-a-longs as to The Misfits' fervent blasts of punk. Songs like set opener “Zombie Prince,” “Flying Trapeze,” “Freakshow” and “Fire Breather” are as fun as the titles allude to. And “March of the Drunkards” and “Band of Mighty Souls” offer choruses made to be sung along to with a pint high in the air. Folk Hogan is first and foremost a live band, and their set testified to a love of playing for a devoted crowd.
The spectacular amount of sparkles and deep-red lipstick of leading lady Amber Taniuchi, weren’t enough to distract the crowd from the sultry, jazzy sounds -- influenced by Nat King Cole, Adele, Norah Jones and Ella Fitzgerald -- which ended the evening.
While the band does have an EP release, it doesn’t truly represent them because, aside from Taniuchi, the lineup has changed drastically. Songs from that disc, like the pining for love numbers “Love Kidnapper,” “Naked Truth” and “Hope is Still Around the Corner,” were given a little more edge tonight because the bassist was a total shredder -- his laying down the low-end with thumps and whacks was a pure joy to watch -- and the guitarist, who was in transit for 20 hours prior to the performance, added a jangly, crunchy sound from carefully plucked notes. The new band has recorded one song, however, which they played tonight, and if “Baby Hit the Beats” is any indication of where they are going, you should pay some mind.