Words & Images by: Aaron Lafont
Eric Lindell & Outformation :: 09.22.07 :: Chelsea's Café :: Baton Rouge, LA
Festivals may provide a broad range of potentially majestic happenings, stadiums deliver earth shattering spectacles, theatres render stunning displays of showmanship but is there really any better opportunity to completely capture the true essence of a live performance than within the confines of a small club? Well, the recent double bill of Outformation and Eric Lindell at Chelsea's Café certainly swayed this contentious debate towards this conclusion.
| Outformation :: 09.22 :: Baton Rouge|
For nearly four hours the walls of the cozy tavern vibrated as the foundation shook in time to some of the best down home southern melodies of recent years. With a stage only slightly raised above a dance floor fit roughly for about a 100 people – though more than double were in attendance – the virtually undistinguishable boundary allowed the artists to fully interact with their enthused onlookers.
At 10:00 p.m., Outformation, led by Sam Holt, riled up the crowd for more than 90 minutes, rarely pausing between their hard stomping jams before diving into the next. Amidst all of the hooting, hollering, wiggling and shaking, Outformation ripped through tracks from 2005's Tennessee Before Daylight and the recently released Traveler's Rest, as well as a few choice covers. Apart from their enrapturing improvisational skills, perhaps OF's greatest appeal lies in their ability to thematically weave together songs, which, lyrically and musically, unite aspects of both the raw and the impassioned.
The five piece kicked things off swapping solos and teasing the country anthem "Will the Circle be Unbroken" on the instrumental "Chickin Pickin'," which unfolded initially into the earthy, Holt-led "90" and later into the ardent, Lee Schwartz (drums) led "Into My Arms." New instrumental "Edgewater" was a clear set standout, with Holt's winding Telecaster locked into the hearty pocket of keyboardist CR Gruver's mesmerizing Chuck Leavell-like solos. Gruver's keys also sparked the evening's most psychedelic moment, a cover of Traffic's "Glad," which set the perfect tone for the dirty, polyrhythmic bliss of "'Bout My Money." With the crowd on the brink of eruption, Outformation sent the Louisianans faithful off with a double dose of classic southern rock, burning up covers of the Charlie Daniels Band's "Sweet Louisiana" and the Marshall Tucker Band's "Long Hard Ride."
With the buzz still swirling from Outformation's set, Eric Lindell had his work cut out for him if he intended to seize upon the momentum in the room. Luckily, the New Orleans-based bluesman had no problem stepping up to the mic and steering the audience with the warm soul of his voice and the howling wail of his SG guitar. For some time now, Lindell has embodied the ideal of the wayward guitarist on the blues circuit, showing up here and there, jamming with locals until the wee hours of the morning, charming those fortunate enough to have stuck around for another round and leaving just as unassumingly as he came – same twinkle in his eye, same grin on his chin.
| Eric Lindell :: 09.22 :: Baton Rouge|
This night, with only a drummer and a harmonica player on hand, Lindell enlisted the aid of three of Baton Rouge's finest to fill out his band - Righteous Buddha's John Smart (Hammond B3) and the Blacksound Parade's Myles Weeks (string bass) and Chris DeJohn (percussion). The unlikely quintet took no time falling into the tight grooves and boogie-woogie rhythms of their native state. Drawing mostly from Lindell's excellent debut, Change in the Weather, the fresh musical alliance also threw in an assortment of covers between bouts of jovial banter with the crowd, who, at various times throughout the evening jumped onto the stage, shook tambourines and other percussion knickknacks, sang choruses and danced to the sounds of their roots.
Lindell's stellar musicianship appeared not only in his guitar and songwriting chops but also in his ability to rework covers. Two superb examples at Chelsea's were the Lindell penned "Two Bit Town," where Smart's funky keys met Sean Carey's sweet harp to channel mid-'70s Stevie Wonder, and on a cover of Buck Owens's "I Don't Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)," where the traditional country spirit was transformed into Creole zydeco. Other highlights included Lindell's uplifting "Give it Time," the '50s R&B styled "All Alone" and a cathartic cover of Louis Armstrong's "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?"
There exists a rare dynamic within small clubs that affords fans and musicians an opportunity to connect on a visceral and cerebral level, thus collectively forging a purely unique, wholly authentic live musical experience. And, as long as guys like Outformation and Eric Lindell continue to make their rounds, the splendor of these transactional occurrences will continue to remain unmatched.
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