Poor Man’s Whiskey :: 01.31.09 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
Case in point, Poor Man’s Whiskey has been throwing down musky roots music in the S.F. region since the early 2000s but only recently have more folks started to pick up their scent – a heady, good time inducing distillation of slap-fiddle country, funny-as-fuck punk, sincere metal and bloody fingered bluegrass. While their core Bay Area following is strong, 2009 may be the year they bust out of the region and into the national and festival circuits, and the reason I think that is show’s like this one at Great American – a fitting a spot for such freewheelin’ rebels souls, just the sort we need to keep the Tree of Liberty well nourished.
Watching them whip folks into a happy frenzy, offering up increasingly well honed originals and smile bombs like an absolutely primo “China Cat/I Know You Rider,” I found myself very struck by their Wild West spirit, a crazed drive and lawless charm that syncs up with long ago saloon and gunslinger days. It’s a vibe other bands have exuded (think back to Garcia and his gang in dusty leather cowboy jackets in early ’70s or Henley & Frey down on the border) but rarely with such barely-holding-the-reins character. I’m pretty sure they know what they’re doing at all times but it often feels as if we’re riding a unruly nag along a narrow mountain trail and the whole damn beast might drop out from under us at any minute. It’s exciting to be part of, and much like last year’s Dark Side of the Moonshine show (see JamBase’s review HERE), this year’s Pimpin’ Ho Down had a strong sense of overarching entertainment, a full evening of amusements kicked off by well-chosen openers Flowmotion and Huckle.
Huck and his Berries swiftly hopped offstage as Flowmotion took off without a second’s pause. This was indicative of the night’s flow, where a breathless current carried everyone towards a shared horizon. While the ultimate destination wasn’t always clear, every musician at the Ho Down helped paddle us further along. It’s no small thing to bring a mass of people together and actually create a communal experience, and this lineup all did their part. To wit, the BIG energy start to Flowmotion’s set, which played out like a lesser band’s festival encore and carried all the Hendrix-y build-up into their music. This is primo melodic rock grounded in rhythms that draw from Latin rock and juke joint blues to create expansive, dexterous groove music with hair on its chest and a quick step. This Seattle band has garnered a large, fervent following in the Pacific Northwest (including their annual Summer Meltdown Festival), and there’s gleeful rock gusto to what they do, and much like PMW, they seem ripe for wider discovery. On some surface level, I can see Phish lovers falling for Flowmotion, though lead singer-guitarist Josh Clauson is a stronger, more passionate singer than anyone in that famous quartet. This set ebbed and flowed from balls-out chargers to quite tender ballads, different sections showing Southern rock, Pink Floyd and other classic FM radio influences given a morphing, graceful turn of their own. High energy, charismatic performers and excellent, limber musicians, Flowmotion deserve an audience well beyond Washington State.
It’s evenings like this where the music stretches and pushes us with such winning force and honest, empathetic understanding that should remind us to peek in our own yard. Even as the big names take to the road this year, there are small miracles like Huckle, Flowmotion and Poor Man’s Whiskey awaiting us right where we live. Follow the scent and you won’t be sorry.
PMW next performs this Friday, February 20 at the Blue Lamp in Sacramento, CA. Find full Poor Man’s tour dates here. Flowmotion’s next gig is a Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras shindig on February 24 at Nectar Lounge in Seattle. A complete list of Flowmotion dates can be found HERE. Huckle will emerge again when his stash of homebrew runs out…
Continue reading for more pics of the Pimpin’ Ho Down…
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