Hip HB's Rule 14th Street

I have a big music-crush on the Heartless Bastards. I'm making up the term music-crush, so I'll define it as the kind of infatuation of the live music of a band. I connect to the music when I hear it live more than other bands I really enjoy. I've had a lot of experience with crushes, so as far as one sided emotional attachments go, I am safe to say I won't get burned on this one. When I first read about last Friday's show, I was excited. The location was inspired and the timing fit this day well.

The Heartless Bastard's block party show in front of the Lightborne Studios was the hippest place in the world for about and hour and a half Friday night. With an interesting hybrid mix of the Northside and Main Street crowds, the show/audience was laid back, fashion filled, and a brilliant musical firestorm all wrapped into a solid little package.

The mix of artists, music fans, and local musicians created a social vibe that was cliquish, yet open. The music broke down the walls. The Heartless Bastards have captured the best of blues/indie rock out there, with a sound that appeals to fans across ages as well as social group.

Being a Cincinnati band they had to wait 45 minutes after their announced start time of 7:30 to start the show. That was annoying, but the opening song, “The Will Song” , made up for the delay. I found myself closing my eyes and just listening, remembering, willing myself to a different place, a different choice.
Next came “Brazen” which worked well in comparison to some of the outfits. I’m no fashion guru, but what is with the open back shirt and bra combination thing?

“Done Got Old” was next and I felt her voice on the back of my neck, lifting each hair one by one. The hard blues song from there first album rips deep into your chest with every thumping bass note. With Erika Wennerstrom’s soulfully wailing through lyrics like:

“I don't look like I used to
I don't walk like I used to
I don't love like I used to, oh
but I feel old”

I laugh intellectually because she’s about 7 or 8 years younger than I, but with her voice you feel the angst, the loss, the age, and the blues of the song. Feeling that from a female perspective gives it more depth, when everyone with a past can look back on their life and remember the changes they've lived though, or survived. Those memories are of the bitter-sweet flavor. The audience was filled with the older and younger folks (older being us in our mid 30’s to mid 40’s). Those not overly socializing had more than ample opportunity to look back on their journey in life to date and long to go back and change. At this point I just lost track of the set list. The music, the conversations I was having, and ones I wasn't having, all swept me up in the moment, even though I stood in the back most of the show with my notepad out.

"New Resolution" had a clean sound that was tight with the lead in bass from Mike Lamping. This cut from their first album exhibited the Bastards as a trio, with Kevin Vaughn's drums ripping through the entire song. Erika's voice completes the trio with a quick cadence to match the bass and drums.

I find myself torn between the two albums. Stairs and Elevators just plain out rocks. The songs are hot, heavy, bluesy, and push the edge of indie rock out a few feet. Friday's concert set-list mostly came from the first album. It was a festive night and band was in-front of their hometown crowd, and really their select crowd of friends and big fans. The set was right for this crowd, who were there for a summer evening's relaxed joy.

All This Time as an album, and the title track, taps into a much deep set of emotions. It shows the band growing with experience, which the show exemplified with their near professional attitude. They played with the audience a little, but they were there to play. They played the title track for which the Lightborne Studios created the music video.

Presiding over the event, like a benevolent Robert the Bruce was Tom Schiff, owner of Lightborne and CityBeat who stood out in the crowd not only with his gentlemanly white hair but also with his towering camera on a stick, which presumably was his 360 degree panoramic camera. The opposite book end to Tom was the appearance of "Crazy Dave" who's not crazy, just really kind of out there. He asked me with a rye smile as he walked by "Hey, are there strippers around?" I just laughed and he continued on to ask someone else the same question. This is Main Street on Final Friday, after all, so you have to expect some oddities.