Words by: Sarah Hagerman | Images by: Manny Moss
The Devil Makes Three :: 06.17.09 :: Stubb's BBQ :: Austin, TX
This ain't acoustic music for noodling and hula-hooping, nor sitting on your ass and clapping politely. This is acoustic music you shimmy, shake, spill drinks, holler and get bruises to. Ah, but you'll hear no complaints from me. Come get some! The Devil Makes Three, the Santa Cruz, California-based trio composed of guitarist/frontman Pete Bernhard, stand-up bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean (McBean and Bernhard also switched up banjer duties for some songs), are inked up (Turino's bull skull tattoo across her chest was giving me serious itching to get more work done), with instruments that are roughed up (McBean's guitar looked like it had been attacked by sandpaper and alley cats, and Bernhard's axe was sporting some serious duct tape), and they got a wicked drive that leaves rubber on the highway. That rhythm is undeniably tenacious, but a back porch storytelling soul winds, true blue, through all of it, and the freaky spikes in their jug swigs remind me of The Violent Femmes' country-fied material at times. DM3 are one of that blessed lot reclaiming "traditional American music" for the people, particularly the downtrodden, broke and down-and-out set, in the spirit of this sound's originators.
Although they've been going for a few years now, I myself am relatively new to the fold. They sold me the first few notes into their set at Lovejoy's, my favorite bar in Austin, during SXSW. Between that roughhousing performance, and their truly superb new album, Do Wrong Right (JamBase review here) - big cheers to them for also releasing it on vinyl - I was looking forward to seeing this repeat performance at Stubb's indoors. They certainly didn't disappoint. The three were blazing, at times literally, as the heat crept in to the intimate indoor bar room at Stubb's BBQ regardless of the signature Austin Arctic AC blast, causing the sweaty band to ask for the ceiling fans to be turned on. For a Wednesday night, they drew a decent-sized and rambunctious crowd that displayed the sort of uncivilized behavior that one might see at a Split Lip Rayfield show (if that's a double bill that hasn't happened yet, it needs to).
Newer material, like springy "Do Wrong Right," kinetic "Aces and Twos" and spunky "Gracefully Facedown" were delivered perfectly with McBean's Hank Williams-infused vocals, and they threw down mighty with cuts like "Ten Feet Tall" ("Get your head out of the clouds/ And your feet back in the dirt my friend" – amen!), the swinging shadows in ode to demon Jack, "Old Number Seven," and the rib-tickling "Uncle Harvey's Plane." They also pulled out stellar, shit-kicking takes on "Statesboro Blues" (which is on Do Wrong Right) and "My Gal" (a well-loved traditional that Yonder fans should be familiar with). An assortment of drunks and ne'er-do-wells charmingly slam dance through their songs, but they're also down with the menacing creep hanging around in the back alley, tapping his nicotine fingernails against a clammy brick wall. When Bernard snarled lines like, "That spirit rushing in my veins," or bit into, "That bullet flies to carry me home," I got me some chills. But with a hefty combination of sardonic humor and dancing steel-toed boots, their darkness only makes you shudder for so long. You won't really have time to get the heebie-jeebies as you hurtle headfirst into the riotous moving mess of bodies.
|The Devil Makes Three :: 06.17.09 :: Austin, TX|
Standing on the patio that leads from the inside bar to the yard after the show, nostalgically inhaling secondhand smoke, I couldn't help but think of the last show I saw outdoors at Stubb's. It was Old Crow Medicine Show, and sonically, there are certainly some similarities between the two bands, particularly reaching back into OCMS's older, rougher sounding work. But DM3 is covered in scratchier rust as they shake the bottom of the ladder. And give me this freakishly enthused crowd over the no-dancing, CMT-watching, talking-through-the-show-while-waiting-on-"Wagon Wheel" types who seemed to infiltrate OCMS (I really dig that band, but I can't help but think that's what happens when you aren't taper-friendly). Talking contrasts, at one point during the DM3 show, a skinny punk rock girl sailed over the crowd, so quick that, from what I saw, security never even caught on that there was crowd surfing afoot. Jumping on someone's shoulders for support, she reached up for the low ceiling, scrambling across the rafters like monkey bars. I was concerned for a second, but as quickly as she did her Spiderman routine she came back down to earth, safely and agilely. DM3 just bring that out in people, gravity be damned.
Continue reading for a more pics of The Devil Makes Three in Austin...