The Heartless Bastards opened the show, but they're so good, I prefer to think of them as co-headliners (Metacritic shows both bands' new albums at solid 75s), despite an abbreviated eight-song set (in no particular order) including "The Mountain," "Out at Sea," "You Could Be So Happy," "Hold Your Head High," "Early in the Morning," "Swamp Song," and "Sway." I compared Erika Wennerstrom's voice elsewhere to Grace Slick's, and I've read others compare her to Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey, even Robert Plant. Let's say she possesses the emotional urgency of the latter group and the vocal fog-piercing clarity of Grace. Erika's a blue-collar angel belling over the crunchy, deeply felt blues-rock she and her band lay down. It's a different band than the three-piece that toured with Lucinda Williams a couple of years ago. Erika moved to Austin after breaking up with Mike, the former bass player, and made The Mountain with studio musicians and, for the first time, a producer (Mike McCarthy), but because her vox and writing have always been the focus of the Heartless Bastards' sound, The Mountain sounds like an HB record. For the tour she added old friends Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin, who played on the original HB demo, and capable Knife in the Water guitarist Mark Nathan. The addition of Nathan frees Erika from having to carry so much of the sonic burden, and she seemed more relaxed at this show than she did in Tallahassee with Lucinda, less working the music and more loving it. I mentioned this to Erika after the show and she agreed that she felt more relaxed and that she enjoyed the added elements that a four-piece allows, including at one point a nice extended dual guitar jam. On the other hand, part of the relaxed mood may be because, as Jesse explains, "Touring with Jenny Lewis has been fun. They're so funny and we've been laughing the whole tour."
All photos by Rebecca Lynn. Pictured Kat and Laura (front) and Stuart, me, and Rebecca.