Honkytonk Homeslice | 12.01 | London

Words by: Karl-Erik Stromsta | Images by: Lisa Brown

Honkytonk Homeslice :: 12.01.07 :: Green Note :: London, UK

Honkytonk Homeslice :: 12.01 :: London
Generally speaking, it's a bad thing when a band's sound system pops loudly and then dies during the first song of the evening. In the case of Honkytonk Homeslice in London, the nasty speaker malfunction forced them to take their microphones down, move to the front of the stage and play acoustically all night long. In other words, it couldn't have worked more perfectly had it been a pre-planned ruse. Which it wasn't, right?

This was the last show of the European tour for the band, which includes former String Cheese Incident guitarist Bill Nershi, his vocalist-wife Jillian and their bespectacled bon vivant of a mandolin player, Scott Law. Even before the sound system blew out, the setup was almost impossibly intimate. There are plenty of living rooms larger than the Green Note, a warmly lit, snug-as-Christmas venue in the heart of trendiest Camden Town.

The pre-show scene in the bar was like something from a promotional postcard, a picture-perfect example of why seeing artists overseas is so special: There was Billy, cozying up to his guitar in the corner, eyeing the crowd behind his mountainous silver beard; Law working intently on a pint of the organic house ale; and Jillian, sitting coquettishly near a stack of CDs for sale.

Played on a stage the size of a small rowboat, the show was a well-shaken bag of Homeslice originals, bluegrass standards and SCI covers - a difficult balance for a band to strike, particularly when it has a member whose musical past is as florid and prolific as Nershi's. They were careful, however, to ensure that the crowd-pleasing Cheese covers - among them "Weary Homesick Blues," "Barstool" and a magnificent mandolin-driven "Black Clouds" – never threatened to dominate the setlist. The band's quiver of original material was well played and well received, too.

Honkytonk Homeslice :: 12.01 :: London
It would seem, at first, as if Jillian Nershi were a bit out of her league onstage, book-ended by the instrumental powerhouses that are Nershi and Law. But once her voice has grown familiar, and she's had a few songs to warm up to the crowd, it's clear that Jillian's voice is perhaps the defining sound of Honkytonk Homeslice. Graceful on stage in low-rise jeans and a snug white cowgirl vest, her voice is sensual and emotionally complex, mirroring the music she so clearly loves.

Of course, any review would be remiss in not mentioning Bill Nershi's amazing prowess on the guitar, predictable as it may be. Law shines just as brightly as Nershi, with his goofy, engaging stage presence, spot-on mandolin licks and wonderfully rich voice. Two instruments are all that's needed when they are this well handled. The onstage interaction between the two men is charming and genuine, with their sly smiles and games of follow-my-lead eyebrow tag.

Homeslice thrust an exclamation point at the end of the show with a rollicking cover of the Rolling Stones' "Factory Girl," followed sharply by "Big River" of Johnny Cash and Grateful Dead fame. And then it was over. The band stepped off the stage and spent the next half an hour chatting with stragglers and packing their gear. They were flying back to the United States at dawn the next morning but they played like they weren't quite ready to go home.

JamBase | England
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[Published on: 12/20/07]

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willydog Thu 12/20/2007 02:24PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Oh Billy!!!!!!Nershi rules.

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/20/2007 03:46PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Sick!!!! These guys are great. To all Cheese fans: dont you get a weird feeling the String Cheese boys will be back soon. Anyone going to Keller and Emmitt/Nershi band show in Febuary??? That;'s going to be off the hook!!

VERNIXX Fri 12/21/2007 05:30AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I do have that feeling they're be back soon enough. The sum of their parts solo is not near as brilliant and diverse as the Whole package. I consider this a hiatus. Maybe they will all regroup....maybe they'll play without Billy as something else....it will happen.

bgojdics Fri 12/21/2007 08:45AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Would have been nice to hear more about Scott Law. Not to down play Nershi in any way because he's got the chops but Scott Law is a true bad motha that can rip it up......

willydog Fri 12/21/2007 07:30PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Vernixx...I hear you. If they play without Billy it would have to be something else. Not saying it wouldn't be worthy, but there is no Cheese "proper" without the master of the group hoot! AWWWWWWWWWWWOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

crescentvale Sat 12/22/2007 05:03PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Check out my profile, add me

bobertjohnson starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/22/2007 05:55PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I can guarantee that we'll be seeing Cheese again, at the last night of Red Rocks a dude (not really sure who he was) came out at the end of the show and made that clear, in his own words. But it won't be without Billy, apparently Billy encouraged the rest of the band to continue without him but they refused. The bummer thing about it is that Billy supposedly tried to quit years before, but the rest of the band/friends convinced him to stay, so although we will see them again, I'm not entirely sure how soon it'll be, let's keep our fingers crossed!

acomma Sun 12/23/2007 06:40PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Has anyone listened to the recordings of the Emmitt Nershi Band on the archive? If so, don't you find it eerie how Drew sings the lines that Kang normally did? Specifically 'Restless Wind'. I hope when Cheese gets back together they return to the basics. I fucking miss that band.

ghilliesblunt starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/24/2007 05:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


was billy on time at this show? a month or 2 ago i saw em (emmitt/nershi band)at the abbey pub in chicago, but they took the stage more than 2 hrs late! oh well, youre worth it billy!

Marcsmall Wed 12/26/2007 09:46AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I respect Billy Nershi as a player, but this has to be one of the most boring acts I have ever seen. Talk about a snoozefest. Everytime I go to see these guys, I end up wanting to take a nap.

leftovercheese4u Wed 12/26/2007 04:29PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I miss the cheese. :*( Honkeytonk is fun and all but it does always feel like something is missing.

happydestiny Sat 12/29/2007 11:36AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I'm gonna have to agree with marcsmall, I have seen Honkytonk Homeslice 3 times and the act was always a little stale; but on the other hand they were touring with railroad earth who could make any other string band seem a bit flat.

Bottomline- worth seein once but don't go out of your way

lilithclosson starstarstarstarstar Sun 12/30/2007 01:52PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This is my first time to post, but I signed up because these comments surprise me so much. The Honkytonk Homeslice concert I saw in The Hague in November was wonderfully fresh and interesting. The two guitar players especially seem to have a magical chemistry between them, and it was very exciting to watch them fluidly exploring their intricate songs. I also especially loved the sweetness of the ringing vocal harmonies, it was as if we were all in a bell jar together. I bought their CD and enjoy it very much. On second thought I can maybe understand how people who only love loud rock or psychedelic music that makes them dance wildly could feel this band is boring, since that is not what these musicians are creating. For an acoustic music lover like me this was purely heaven. It was wonderful to be able to closely watch their masterful instrumental interplay from my comfortable seat. My friends and I hope they come back to Europe again soon. If you in the US don't like them, we'll gladly welcome them here!

petemora starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/31/2007 06:22AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

A new genre is born: Yokograss. She makes Linda McCartney look like Joni Mitchell.

Luthur starstarstarstar Wed 1/2/2008 07:54AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Of course SCI will be back. Once they realize they aren't making any money with their side projects, they will be back.

moejoerisin Thu 1/3/2008 07:55AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i'm not dissing the band or the players, but 'honkeytonk homeslice' is a brutally weak band name.

sci.forever starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/20/2008 07:33PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

how old is billy?