stone foxes

It had been a while since my last visit to the Red Devil Lounge, the last time being a stop in to check out a friend of a friend in a 90s cover band. My experience this time couldn’t be more different from my previous one. Being a little worn out from a long week, I started off the evening with one of the house specials, the Starfucker, a double rockstar and vodka. Getting the boost I needed I was ready to take on an evening of some blues-rock, 70s throwback sound.

Kicking off the evening were my East Bay brethren, Telegraphics. Nate Witherbee, guitar and lead vox, forewarned us of what was about to ensue – “a night of music unbeknownst to anyone before

[us].” I would find out that the guys had only been together about a week, but you’d never have guessed if they hadn’t spilled the beans. Telegraphics are one of those bands you can’t really pin down. They’re all over the map in a catchy, controlled manner. They list their influences as everybody from John Scofield to RHCP to D’Angelo. My ears caught a bit of the Talking Heads merged with the Mad Caddies. Whoever you choose to compare these guys to, the crowd was definitely digging it. Hoots and hollers, claps and fist pumps – it was a pretty packed house for an opener and Telegraphics handled it quite well.

It soon became apparent that the the glue in the band wasn’t the frontman, but rather Greg Waters on lead guitar and sax. Dude has chops. I don’t know how else to put it. The guy can play and you can tell he’s put in his time out at the woodshed.

The fellas got some assistance via female vox and dance accompaniment towards the end of their set, and I tell you what, her voice reminded me entirely of Regina Spektor. She definitely added some spice to the mix (note to Telegraphics: you should get her as part of the group fulltime; even when she wasn’t singing her sultry stage presence kept the audience’s eyes glued to the stage).

Next up on the bill was Bhi Bhiman. The lone exception to the electrified evening, Bhiman took the stage with nothing more than his voice, a guitar, and some great music. Even before Bhiman said anything he got my approval, sporting an Oakland A’s sticker on his guitar. As soon as strummed his first strum and sang his first note my mind instantly flew back to my dad’s favorite artist , Jim Croce, only in the new millennium.

[audio:] Bhi Bhiman – “Telouise”

My favorite cut of his was “Brand New Band” featuring the lyrics “Well I told you once, and I told you twice, you’ve got two black eyes, do you need more advice?” sung with such nonchalance you could easily miss what he was actually saying. After hearing his set, I now proudly wear my “Bhiman” t-shirt, with its glorious Nascar typography.

A bit of a surprise at the end of his set, but a very welcome surprise, was Bhi’s cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Cee-Lo has an impressive voice and did great on the original, but Bhi brought the song a greater vulnerability. Combined with his confidence it became a sort of triumphant vulnerability, almost declaring “Hey you, yeah you, you’re crazy. So am I. So is this whole damned world we live in. But screw it, embrace it, and enjoy it.” It never ceases to amaze me what one man and one guitar can do, especially when that man is Bhi Bhiman.

The Stone Foxes took the stage following Bhi(man) and proceeded to give me massive injections of testosterone in three minute intervals, and it was greatly appreciated.

[audio:] The Stone Foxes – “Beneath Mt. Sinai”

Things kicked off with some dirty, swampy blues laden riffage. That was more than enough to get me to shuffle away from the bar and see how far towards the front of the stage I could get. That in and of itself was a battle, and a testament to the draw the Stone Foxes can generate.

Stone Foxes take all of the awesome things to come of the 60s and 70s. The aforementioned dirty, swampy blues, the Southern whiskey-tinged rock – it was like “Dazed and Confused” was being masterfully re-scored right before my eyes.

At one point it was like a Stevie Ray Vaughan drove a Delorian back to the 50s and came up with a killer combo. What really sets The Stone Foxes apart is that they’re not trying to  bend or break the conventions, but rather embrace them. Their sound remains recognizable but with a slight twist, and never do they sound like a cover band. Thank God.

They described themselves as a modern day version of The Band between songs. Nothing could be more accurate. Just as Robbie Robertson and crew took the American folk, rock, and soul and paid homage with their own original songs, The Stone Foxes take the blues and rock that came before them, and pay homage with own original music.

Describing themselves as a modern take on The Band proved to be quite the foreshadow as the guys chose “The Weight” for their encore. So. Freakin’. Awesome.

Strangefeather closed the night out. Fitting the bill perfectly, they were blues with bite, but still embracing the pop sensibility of early Motown. I got the chance to meet Josh outside between sets. If you ever need a pick-me-up, just talk to Josh for ten minutes, this guy’s love of life is contagious as he was perpetually sporting a smile. A genuinely nice guy who happens to rock out regularly.

“Born Again Gangster” was a great cut. Aside from the lack of Jack Bruce on lead vocals, the song reminded me of a killer Cream jam. Nick Cramer, pounding away on the drum kit pulled out some sweet tom tom heavy,  Ginger Baker-esque fills.

If you thought these guys were just straight ahead rock, well, you’re wrong. “Baby Stop Wasting My Time” introduces the soul to the rock, and apparently two get along together famously. At least when it’s Strangefeather doing the work they do.

The best part of Strangefeather? They are indeed strange, incorporating a band member who plays the paintbrush. Yes, you read correctly, the paintbrush. Jesse Mosher is the man behind the brush. Live art + live music= live blowing of the mind. I’ve seen this before, but only Juxtapoz parties and usually its an artist who joins the band onstage for a one-off special occasion. This is the exact opposite. While I was talking with Josh outside he was describing how Jesse is an integral part of the group, not some gimmick.

As the night roared to a close, I couldn’t help but feel fulfilled. After Noise Pop I needed something like this – grimy blues and heartfelt rock to remind me of where the current wave of indie rock has its roots. All I can say is thank you guys – I’m looking forward to the next show.