Eric McFadden Trio | 02.07.04 | Eastside Tavern | Olympia, WA

The Eric McFadden Trio rocks. They rock hard. I mean they rock for real. Unfortunately, every time some emerging band steps on stage and proves they can really make it happen like that, reviewers whose creative writing skills have long since left them begin making earth shattering claims such as "OMFG, bow before the new saviors of rock 'n' roll!" Or maybe something along the lines of "this is the second coming of ROCK, so get your asses to church!" Eric McFadden ain't Jesus but I have seen him and his two disciples perform heretofore untold miracles. On the night of February 7, 2004, EMT turned water to whiskey (using what many suspect to be some unholy form of acoustical enchantment) and bade the crowd quaff deeply from their outstretched goblet of rock.

Eric McFadden Trio by Elizabeth Burns
The Eastside Tavern in Olympia, Washington has no stage. It's an old-timey sort of place that harkens back to Clint Eastwood beating the living shit out of some fools in the ever-poignant film Bronco Billy. Wood paneling on the walls, ancient Oly beer signs, at least a half a dozen pool tables, the heads of animals felled in brave combat with hunters, and several busted-ass videogames--as far as this reviewer is concerned, that has got to be the picture-perfect atmosphere in which to really rock people's heads off. Not having a stage sort of sets everyone equal and the exchange of energy ("We'll trade you our rockin' and asskickin' for your dancin' and screamin'") becomes much more direct. And the setting provided by the Eastside made for a perfect backdrop for the hardass blue-collar blues/rock that these fiends known as the EMT lay down from Seattle to Santa Fe.

And let's talk about the rock, shall we? Or first perhaps I'll address the rockers themselves. Eric McFadden plays the guitar and handles the lead vocals. His friend and fellow New Mexico alumnus James Whiton is on the lead acoustic bass and backs up the vocals. They've recently landed themselves a new drummer in the form of Paulo Baldi. Due to the fact that these gentleman have played in such a various and sundry list of serious bands I'll just list a few names and not bother mentioning who done what. Here goes: Taarka, Cake, George Clinton's P-Funk Allstars, The Big Fuzz, Angry Babies, and Les Claypool's Frog Brigade. I didn't feel that listing who played what for whom in the past would actually reflect on the band I'm writing about but I realize that some people respect a quality namedropping so I balanced it out. I'm a Libra.

Eric McFadden Trio by Elizabeth Burns
On the night in question we had James, Paulo, and one very sick Eric setting up their gear on a quaint, duct-taped-to-the-floor oriental rug. It was red and I gotta say that it really tied the room together. At the other end of the spectrum was McFadden's skin coloration. The battle scarred rock 'n' roll soldier had crossed swords some days earlier with a nasty case of the flu and was still struggling to maintain. The band started in classic fashion by rocking the house down with the aforementioned hyper-solid blues-oriented rock. The thing is, these guys are schooled to the friggin' hilt and wield more chops than Jackie Chan whippin' up a batch of fried cabbage and onions. The unsuspecting patrons had no idea what was taking place. Most folks who haven't seen the band show up because they liked one of the band members' other bands. These people are never quite prepared for the sheer ROCK that this new alliance is capable of. This night was no exception.

Another number began and it became apparent that the audience, unsuspecting as they were, liked what they were hearing. Rock-starved throngs of stool-holder-downers got the fuck up and advanced toward the stage less front with the clear intent of seeing for themselves what kind of men--if indeed they were men at all--could create such melodies of measureless might. They may not have believed it when they saw that Mr. McFadden uses a quiver of acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and the mystifying banjitar. All while his cohort, the inscrutable Mr. Whiton, plucks furiously at a great big acoustic double bass (or "upward bass" as one affectionate fan calls it). The fact that the guys with the strings are playing acoustic instruments is really the secret weapon here. With a few very simple effects applied, these lads sound as electric as you like but are able to "acoustify" it a little here and there. And with Paulo Baldi, who plays like he was the bastard child of Louie Bellson and Animal from The Muppet Show beating down the drums, we get The Band From Another World.

Eric McFadden by Elizabeth Burns
Returning to the scene of the crime, by about the end of the second song the crowd was on the same page as the Trio and were rocking right along, beat for beat. The inexperienced onlooker might have thought that this was everything that EMT had to give. Granted, they had already rocked harder than all but a handful could ever hope to, but I've seen these guys do their thing on many occasions and I could tell that their beleaguered front man was not quite himself. Luckily for all of us some sorry sap smothered his stogie in Eric's water. That pretty well snapped him out of it and after admonishing the crowd on the subject of the uncouthness in putting cigarettes in another human's drinking water he and the band went straight to eleven and let loose. Eric was back in form and took the helm with his rockin' warlords flanking him to unleash a blast of rock 'n' roll that left everybody in front lightly charred around the edges. This caused a temporary orange alert to be issued by the Office of Homeland Security and no doubt had many neighbors contemplating a 911 call. The pace stayed at this level for two hours solid and the rock never stopped arollin' except to play a new song.

When the obligatory two hours or so had passed, bar time was running out so the band attempted to pack it in. Drunk from the flowing rock 'n' roll as much as the alcohol, the steadfast new fans would have nothing to do with this. Twas an encore they demanded and an encore they got! Three more tunes crafted of hellish black magic descended on the crowd like a house on fire, and still they were insatiable. Sadly, at this point it was over. The clock had struck two and it was time for heroes and hearers alike to press on in the journey of life.

Darren Chase
JamBase | Washington
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[Published on: 3/3/04]

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