THE BLACK KEYS: OLD FLAVOR, NEW ENERGY

Words and Images by Jake Krolick

The Black Keys :: 11.11.05 :: Theater of Living Arts Philadelphia, PA


Dan Auerbach :: 11.11.05

Why do you love music? What was it that sent you down the long road of band worship? Was it a parent, a friend, a brother, sister or cousin?


The Black Keys :: 11.11.05
The buried boxes of vinyl treasures called out to me around my tenth birthday. They collected dust in our upstairs attic while the unruly eight-track was strutting its short-lived legs around town. I sat for hours listening to guitars wail and voices cry, daydreaming over those album covers. The records were collected by my parents from before and after college. You know the list: Santana, Cream, Dylan and Hendrix. I'm guessing like me, many of you share the same ex-hippy parents or are at least influenced by someone with a similar musical taste. Flashes of those days crossed my mind as I was sardined three-deep from the rail. We were surrounded in a smoke and cigarette-choked room. The crowd was caught by a coagulation of college students, teens and a notable number of parents. It was the eclectic mix of parents that transported my mind back to those days in the attic. Those mommas, papas and children enthusiastically chatted up the Akron duo known simply as The Black Keys.


Dan Auerbach :: 11.11.05
Pat Carney and Dan Auerbach spent the better part of their lives in northern Ohio, an area that respectfully speaking is void of culture. They grew up in a city with Zippy the Kangaroo (the University of Akron college sports team mascot), the beginning of toy marbles, and a now-defunct rubber industry. Their music pays homage to the Delta Blues, but make no mistake, it's rock laced with power and stone-cold fervor. You might question how these two pull off a sound filled with such anguish and pain. Perhaps you missed where I said they spent most of their lives in Akron, OH.

Carney and Auerbach wasted no time with an entrance to the stage. The mid-twenties duo rendezvoused with their instruments and began to immobilize us with sound. The two brought music inspired straight out of a Captain Beefheart album spliced and diced with Skip James and JB Lenoir. Burning through the past were modern twists and tweaks to the Delta Blues-influenced sound. It's muddied from the reverb of Dan's guitar flowing from his two Marshal amps. One was large and the other small. Each took on a pseudo-life of their own, prying their way - no, grinding their way into our heads.


Dan Auerbach :: 11.11.05
Two things struck me immediately - the first was the prominent amount of bass that had entered their music. The sound has morphed considerably from The Big Come Up to the latest release Rubber Factory, achieving an unconventional fullness of sound from a duo. The second thing that struck me was Patrick - he had become a drum monster holding beats that were complicated, daring and ferocious. We got caught up in his playing; the thumps made our minds stumble along to the time of his devious whacking. He played hunched over his kit like some sort of mad scientist mixing a formula that rattled us out of our monotonous lives. The night was not the normal wall-dripping evening at a sold-out TLA show, but Carney sure worked up a dripping sweat within minutes.

"Girl, shake that shit!" whizzed out over my left shoulder as some shapely coed worked her body free from the grip of the packed dance floor and into a writhing dance. We worked our way through "No Trust" and "Girl is on my mind." We sat deep in the corner of "ThickFreakness." Auerbach anticipated the riffs. He played passionately, throwing his weight around as much as his hair. He constantly cranked the guitar, making the strings bend and moan to his every whim. His voice doesn't waiver. Its dark, scraped-out, throaty song covered tremendous range as he thrust the line "Hold me, love me in your heart, and I'll hold you near and I'll whisper in your ear." He just womped away on the guitar. Their sound continued through the evening as the bad baby of the blues. It cried and pierced our ears with its loud rock flavor. You could hear Auerbach plowing through serious pain and love during "Grown So Ugly," the Robert Pete Williams cover.


The Black Keys :: 11.11.05
There is a story that Auerbach's dad was one of Fat Possum's biggest fans, and not too long ago pulled his son on a field trip down to Junior Kimbrough's place outside Oxford, Mississippi. Whether it was that father/son trip to the hill country or something else in Akron, Ohio, Dan and Pat were touched enough to somehow pull something from themselves that drives audiences mad. Carney and Auerbach have taken a wonderful approach to music by not over-thinking anything and refining the sound down to its simplest roots. They give themselves plenty of room to grow. The two fit perfectly where they are sitting on their third album for Fat Possum and a newly released DVD, yet still recording records in their basement.

We approach the hour mark, and Dan pulls the revolver on us, ripping through the Beatles' "She Said, She Said" cover like it was his own design. His amp and pedal effects have tinges of the sixties and seventies all over them. They have truly tapped into their rock roots. Like many bands of the past, they're influenced by the blues, but they end up with something much different, a thick freaky rock and roll. I can't help but think about mom and dad as I stare at the faces of the parents cheering away with their kids, and I'm thankful that I was brought to this moment because of the past.

The only problem with the evening was that the show ended a bit too early. However, I found solace in coming home and digging out my record player, only to put on one of my folks' old records. Will music such as The Black Keys, music made during our generation, offer a similar influence to the music of our children?


Dan Auerbach :: 11.11.05

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[Published on: 12/2/05]

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