Standing at an awkward angle to the crowd in a vain attempt to curb the buzz emanating from his amp, Jervanen promised to celebrate the last night the tour by “gently rocking” us. He took his time, and with no drummer, timing seemed more like a formality than a rule of thumb; the three sauntered through the set, like performing ad hoc for a few buddies late night at a party. The sound, however, was powerful. At times, when all three held a note, it could be felt in one’s stomach. Most times, however, the band’s sound was stripped down to soft vocals and bloated, treble-less guitar, with backup vocals ranging from breathing to monosyllabic harmonies to full blown chorus lines sung at full tilt. The album could be divided into songs with strong, concrete construction to ones with the more casual rhythm inherent in solo ballads. The show, however, was a mixed bag. “I Got You Baby,” arguably the most well written song on the album, was played with less gusto, but more soul. Songs that were less constructed or rich in sound on the album often possessed more energy than expected, such as “Never Again,” a standout of the set. “Hockey Teeth,” a song charmingly written about a kiss gone awry, stylistically hinted at blues and Motown, played with salsa-like timing.
Meanwhile, Jervanen was endearing. He frequently interacted with the audience, which supported him steadfastly through “technical difficulties” with his aging equipment, and laughed as Jervanen boasted about his “Garth Brooks shirt,” which he apparently “took it off him last week.” His humor and self-deprecation is as much a part of his stage act as it his song writing. The lyrics are genuine and clever, the music effortless-sounding. Live, it possessed much more soul, depth, and energy than the album work, which makes this act a must-see if you like even one tune on “Barchords.” Going back over the album now, I think there is more here than I first noticed. The drums add needed structure, given that you don’t get to watch them meander from song to song. The product is reminiscent of The Black Keys, if they listened to a ton of Otis Redding and spent more time writing songs to play for friends and would-be first dates. Moreover, their stage presence got the audience in on some kind if inside joke. Their comfort on stage and lack of urgency even in the middle of a song made the experience seem much less like witnessing their full-time job, and more like hanging out with three good friends who happen to be super talented. They packed a much bigger punch than expected, and the act was a treat.
Photo Credit: Melanie Rieders