From blues to punk to bluegrass, all in one Seattle night

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Gravel Road, Hillstomp, O’Death
High Dive
Seattle, Washington
November 18, 2008

As fall spirals towards an increasingly dark, dank and rainy close in Seattle, many people begin to settle into a sort of human hibernation mode. Throwing down a well booked triple bill that included two of the Pacific Northwest’s own hill country blues authorities and one very special returning junkyard gospel band from NYC was seemingly all a bar room need do to pull the sleepy urban residents out of their caves. This triple blues showcase definitely made for a rambunctious Tuesday evening.

1.jpgOpening band Gravel Road (Seattle) is a group that has recently been riding on a highway scholarship as T Model Ford’s backing band. The blues rock trio provides a concrete foundation for the legendary Mississippian, and this year’s collaborative work with him has definitely brought palpable results to their own live show. Drummer Marty Reinsel hits the snare with the masochistic authority of a stern British school master and never stops delivering the heavy-footed rhythm backdrop.

This evening’s stage was a fine place to showcase and share the band’s enthusiasm for all of the new action they have going on.  The dueling slide guitar strings of Stephan Zilliox and Kirby Newman were implausible fun to listen to on " Shot the Devil" and guest appearances by vocalist Maria Berg and guitar/harmonica player Britton Sukys for the songs "Call My Name" and ".44" closed the performance with just the right amount of devilish fun to get the crowd ready for more hill country noise.

2.jpgPortland, Oregon’s Hillstomp provided the second set. This west coast duo has assiduously worked their way into the souls of many punk/roots/blues enthusiasts and their inexorable world wide touring has put the word on the street that the garage twosome can and will have a jumpin’ mosh pit formed in a matter of minutes.

Tireless rhythmus John Johnson is THE authority on how to structure beats from a pile of debris. The innovative noise coming from his homemade kit of buckets and various found metal objects instantly seized the attention of this audience and provided the perfect backdrop for the coarse (yet oh so smooth) and expeditious finger work of his front man Henry Kammerer. Opening songs "Jumper on the Line" and "Coal Black Mattie" paid homage to their always mentioned and beloved idol R.L. Burnside and had this crowd bouncing and hollering within minutes. The band’s own rendition of "You Gotta Move" was a particular swaying soulful treat.

Headlining act, New York’s O’Death, began their set by acknowledging enormous and generous respect for Hillstomp and Gravel Road and took advantage of the already warmed up (actually over heated) crowd by kicking off their set with the adeptly rowdy tune "Adelita." Electric violinist Bob Pycior worked his way around the front of the stage with a curious grin and keenly demonstrated just how to add a splash of fiddle fluster to any punk gospel tune

The band’s demeanor was accented early in the set with the removal of shirts from drummer David Rogers-Berry and bassist Newman. The crowd applauded (and ogled) the valiant half naked bottom end as front man and guitarist/vocalist Greg Jamie focused on expressing himself with his audacious voice and acoustic guitar.

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The show continued on to gain energetic momentum as the jubilant crowd moved in celebration of the melancholy yet up beat melody. An encore was rumbled for and the band didn’t hold back a thing when they closed the evening out with a loud and heavy "Nimrods." The exhausted audience most certainly left this Tuesday night show feeling fulfilled! 

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