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Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

I’d been hearing about Black Joe Lewis before I hit Austin, and wanted to make sure to see him. Other shows kept getting in the way, though, so this was my last chance: a 1:00 a.m. set on the last night of the festival. What a way to end the week! Lewis (and his seven-strong Honeybears) delivered a show that felt like a classic R&B/soul revue.  Heavy on horns and guitar, it recalled the up-tempo work of the Stax label, although Lewis added his own touch of Texas blues guitar to the sound. Lewis is a charismatic frontman, working the crowd with ease, exuding flawless cool one moment and launching into moanin’ and groanin’ soul shouter mode the next. It was a fun set, one so charged that it made me forget the exhaustion from four straight days of music, and made me want to start again the next morning.


 


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Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

This one was a nice surprise. We’d rolled in to Buffalo Billiards to close out the week with the much-talked about Black Joe Lewis, and ended up getting an opening set from Solange (Beyonce Knowles’ sister). Backed by a funky band and two backup singers, Solange delivered a highly enjoyable R&B/funk show that borrowed heavily from the girl groups of the ‘60s. With her backup singers dancing in unison behind her, Solange cut loose with a dancing style that was part Tina Turner, part Diana Ross, and part vintage Axl Rose. The set slowed down when she performed her MTV-successful modern soul ballad, but for the majority of the set, she was cutting loose (even jumping into the crowd at one point, much to the dismay of her numerous—and large—handlers). Hopefully, Solange won’t be talked into giving up this aspect of her career (although it’s obvious the better money is in slick new-fangled R&B).


 


 


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Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

Former Flat Duo Jets frontman Dexter Romweber has the most played-to-hell guitar I’ve ever seen. The finish is worn off of practically every edge on the instrument, and the paint is bubbling up on the face from presumably countless hours of playing. It’s no surprise, because Romweber is a fiend on the guitar, recalling the glory days of giants like Gene Vincent, Dick Dale, and ‘60s border radio. Backed by his sister Sara Romweber (Let’s Active) flat-out swingin’ on drums, Romweber (in his own guitar-playing world, his back often to the crowd) delivered a solid set of soul-influenced ballads and guitar raveups.


 


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Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

I’ll be honest: I can’t make up my mind about Ha Ha Tonka. Their high-points, such as “St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor”, are catchy, but many of their songs strike me as not quite living up to the band’s potential. Their set during the Bloodshot showcase struck me the same way, although it certainly had a full head of steam by the time things were done, beginning with their standout a cappella rendition of the traditional “Hangman”.  The band’s harmonies, when all four members are participating, are startling enough to make you think that they really underutilize this aspect of their music. It also came in handy on “St. Nick”, which had most of the crowd singing along.


 


 


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Monday, Mar 23, 2009
Photos: James Edward Crittendon

“I brought my PowerPoint presentation”, joked Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza, as two screens displayed random images behind him. Billed as an Earlimart performance, the set was really just Espinoza with his guitar and some drum beats (“I usually have a band. I forgot to pack ‘em on the way out of town”, he explained). In the comfortable confines of the church, it was a well put together, well thought-out show, although it didn’t really connect with me, personally. One undeniable highlight, however, was his rendition of the rarely-played “Heaven Adores You”, which Espinoza wrote about the late Elliott Smith.  Given the setting, Espinoza said, it seemed appropriate.


 


 


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