Saturday, March 10, 2018

3.9.2018, Fort Worth

My wife and I hadn't been out to a show together in over five years, but last night, we trekked over to the Tin Panther -- the former home of tiny-but-storied J&J's Blues Bar (where she once saw John Lee Hooker, and where my friend, the late Hosea Robinson, once got to blow harp behind Hubert Sumlin) -- to see Andy Pickett and Big Heaven (the latter of whom wound up not performing, due to Amanda Hand's illness, for which the always-entertaining Jesse Gage compensated by playing a solo set, with four-piece jam band Chillamundo in between). Tin Panther manager Tyler Stevens learned the ropes slinging drinks at Lola's and booking bands for the Cowtown Bowling Palace (where the li'l Stooge band once played one of our most satisfactory gigs). We wish her many years of success there!

Andy's another Fairmount phenom (like Leon Bridges and Cameron Smith -- 60 percent of whose band War Party also plays in Andy's band) who's been making waves locally for about as long as my wife and I have been off the set, although I heard and dug his 2015 digital debut It Happens Every Night for its dryly humorous observations of the passing scene. As a soulful, piano-playing singer-songwriter, he manages to skirt the obvious comparisons, with a voice that covers a spectrum from phlegmy growl to angelic falsetto, and a self-deprecating wit that, on this night, extended to introducing the members of his ten-piece band by name and astrological sign at the beginning of the set.

The Tin Panther stage is not large, so the band wound up deploying with the riddim section (War Party's Peter Marsh on drums, Christopher Gomez on bass, Cam Smith and my old Wreck Room ally Brock Miller on guitars, and Ray Osborn on synth) occupying the stage, the four horns (War Party's Ricky Williford on trumpet, Ben Marrow and amazing youngster Reid Murphy -- about whom, more in a minute -- on tenor saxes, and first album co-producer/Telegraph Canyon-ite Chuck Brown on trombone), with Andy himself seated facing the band with his back to the audience. I didn't sense any Miles-ian contempt in the gesture, but figure Andy's just a self-effacing cat who also wanted to be able to direct the band, whose sound was impressively on-point and uncluttered (although they could have used some more vocal mics, no knock against sound tech Khalif Dove, son of another old Wreck Room ally).

The set was heavy on tunes from Andy's self-titled newie on Dreamy Life, which was cut in Austin with White Denim's James Petralli and Steve Terebicki, and drops (digitally and on sweet, sweet vinyl) on April 1st -- no fooling. So far, my favorites from thatun are "Paid," which voices a universally understandable sentiment, and for which an intriguing video exists, and the self-explanatory "I Love My Piano," on which the aforementioned Reid Murphy took a blazing, King Curtis-on-steroids-via-late-Coltrane solo that broke the place up. A kid to watch. Reid got another solo turn when the crowd demanded, and Andy granted an encore of his signature tune, "It Happens Every Night," which had folks singing along. Hopefully a lot more of us will get to see this engaging unit, which has upcoming gigs at SXSW, the Fortress Festival, and Friday on the Green.


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