30db | 05.20 | S.F.

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Words by: Eric Podolsky | Images by: Brian Spady

30db :: 05.20.10 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Austin & Bayliss – 30db :: 05.20
“This is the fifth show we’ve ever played,” mandolinist Jeff Austin told the crowd at Great American Music Hall shortly after his new band 30db finished its second song. Considering this fact, the impressive size of the audience showed that these musicians’ reputations precede them. 30db’s roots stem from a casual musical relationship which formed between Yonder Mountain String Band‘s Austin and Umphrey’s McGee‘s Brendan Bayliss, eventually growing into a supergroup of sorts as their music called to be fleshed out. So, they recruited Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars/Hill Country Revue) to rock the drums, Nick Forster of Hot Rize to bring his professionalism on guitar and lap steel, and bassist Eric Thorin of Open Road to complete a fully-formed, well-oiled rock band.

Taking the stage to a casual, if not curious, audience, 30db introduced their music to our ears for the first time, and let the strength of the well-crafted songs from their debut album One Man Show do the heavy lifting throughout the night. First and foremost, Austin’s good-humored vocal delivery and excellent harmonizing with Bayliss stood out as the backbone of the music. The tunes were delivered in a straightforward rock format, notably punctuated by the hard strumming of Austin, whose mandolin sprinkles were just audible poking over the top of the music. Bayliss and Forster shared some soaring guitar line harmonies, though for much of the set Bayliss played acoustic and Forster shone on slide lap steel. Dickinson’s rock-solid drumming was the driving force in the band as they powered their way though the catchy, almost radio-friendly choruses of songs like “One Man Show,” “Liar,” and “Susannah,” arguably their strongest tune.

Other times, the band brought it down and let the music breathe, evoking almost U2-like wide open spaces with the lap steel and mandolin taking the forefront. A spot-on cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” had Austin and Bayliss nailing the vocal harmonies. When the rock was brought back, the band used the rollicking, Southern-tinged tune “Grave” as their jam vehicle for the night, and everyone got some time in the spotlight, notably Forster, who ripped it on the lap steel.

After a single set, Austin and Bayliss reemerged on their own for an acoustic mini-set “encore,” which was arguably the highlight of the night. Their chemistry was uncanny, and it was very apparent that these guys get off on each other musically, both backstage and onstage. Introducing a gorgeous instrumental as “Psychotic Dive Bombing Hummingbirds of Colorado,” their combined acoustic chops were fluid, rapid, and playful. After a few more well-crafted, smile-inducing tunes and a couple of dueling solos, the rest of the band returned to flesh out the music, with Forster’s lap steel chiming and echoing though the open spaces of the music (think Chris Isaak). This segued into a sped-up, chugging modern rock take on Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which closed the show with abandon as Austin’s yearning tenor yelped out each verse one by one.

This band has only begun to realize its potential. Interestingly enough, its quality brand of catchy melodic rock is probably more accessible to the masses than its members’ full-time bands. Here’s hoping they treat this group as more than just a side-project and give the music the time it needs to mature.

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