Thursday, August 19, 2010

review: Scott H. Biram @ Zanzibar 8/11/10

somewhere around 1991 blues music collapsed into this polished middle aged suburban dance hall music that you couldn't escape. every bar with live music, wedding reception, or summer picnic was cursed with pot bellied white guys playing "mustang Sally".
a few years ago this guy i know said "the blues is what white children dance to at outdoor events". growing up listening to Jimmy Reed, Baby Face Leroy Trio, Lightnin' Hopkins, it is always painful hearing this new Blues, elevator music for divorcee's, and thinking that this is what most people think of when they hear the term "blues Music".
the same argument could be made for Country music. most people i know would rather be subjected to a root canal than contemporary Country music. believe it or not there is some great country music being played out there (see Larry Bagby), and Blues as well.
There is a resurgence of
drunk & Lonely blues and country music throughout the south, with bands like Lucero paving the way and introducing new people to this age old art of self loathing sing a longs. it's helping artists like Scott H. Biram and Chadwick Wilde get a spotlight and perhaps a fighting chance.
unlike the super polished blues rock of The Black Keys, Biram's brand of blues is gritty and honest, like reading the diary of a down and out barfly (just listen to "Wreck My Car"). i've heard many Biram fans say that his music is relatable to their own lives. and then there is something romantic about alcoholism that can be just as addictive.
Scott H. Biram played on August 11th at Zanzibar to a crowd of less than 30. He had the misfortune of playing the same night as The Black Keys, his exact demographic. despite trying my damnedest to convert Black Keys Loyalists, there is something about embracing something that is already established, something we know it's OK to like, and despite Biram's large catalogue of music, he has yet to make that leap.
Jon Ashley started the evening with a very quiet set; a long way away from his explosive alter ego that we saw in nearly a decade ago in the band "the Slow Suicide". he was accompanied by Chadwicke Wilde, and even with twice as many people as Scott Biram, this set had less than half the enthusiasm as Biram's.
Honestly Jon Ashley makes me nervous. he has made a name for himself for being completely unreasonable, irrational and physically and verbally assaulting. on his record label's website his biography even brags about his abrasive personality stating "Jon Ashley was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in January of 1982. He has been irritating people ever since..." and "He apologizes for any annoyance, mental or physical abuse he may have caused any of you over the past ten years..." so i was a little surprised to see him so tamed, and quiet, as if he were nearly asleep, or a million miles away. the last time i saw him play i really enjoyed it. his lyrics and music had hooks that stuck with you. this time he seemed to be annoyed to be playing there and without any enthusiasm he mumbled out lyrics that were a little too on the nose for this type of crowd like "i got drunk, sobered up, and got drunk again". and at the end of his set he asked for his money and walked out the door. anyway, i'd rather not get assaulted the next time i run into him, so i'll move on, but i will say if you catch the right Jon Ashley you could be in for a nice set.

Scott Biram by contrast was explosive from the start with a healthy mix of Texas Gospel & Blues (see Reverend Overstreet), Country, and metal fused blues. singing, playing guitar, harmonica, and stomping out a beat, he got nearly every girl in the place up and dancing. he was fucked up and saucy, saying that he got drunk waiting for the Black Keys to end to see if more people would show up. after his 3rd song he asked the crowd how many times he had played it. even sideways he played passionately and stumblingly great, rambling on in between songs, telling stories and asking ridiculous questions. it would have seemed like he was playing the part of a drunk texas bluesman if it didn't seem so authentic. He played as long as the crowd kept dancing, and mixed in blues standards with some of his best songs such as "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue" and at the end he stood up , hollered "gimmie my money, i'm getting the fuck outta here! oh, i'm just kidding!" and then proceeded to stumble around the room apologizing for being "such a ridiculous person." no need to apologize Scott Biram, your honest and captivating music is saving the Blues name one person at a time.

 "my momma told me, you better fuck around!" 
Alcohol Blues
Live at Zanzabar 8/11/10

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