Review: Heartless Bastards @ Wooly’s – July 27

Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom. Photos in this post by the incredible Anna Jones. That’s right, y’all. I got actual an actual photographer to help me. This will be absent of photos I took from my phone. Aren’t you lucky.

I’m not sure what took me so long to write this. I guess, it is because I felt a little unethical as a reviewer. It is funny to me that I’ve thought that because, hell, I don’t consider myself any sort of journalist or that I have any real credibility. I’m just a guy who wants to write about stuff, so I shelled out the $20 for a domain name. But for some reason I couldn’t just shake the idea that I was letting down people who come to me for insight.

I set out for a review. I was even lucky enough to get help from a gifted photographer (click the pic above and go like her page). However, old age, slight intoxication, fatigue and a desire to be social all kind of came together with me not being at my best. At 32 (although, I guess when I was at the show I was 31. Just so I’m factually accurate) I don’t get out as much as I would like. Factor in my day job that requires me to be in at 6am and a shrinking bank account, and I don’t get out as much as I used to. The other thing is that while I’m in my thirties, so are most of my friends. The people who I could count on to go to a show just aren’t there like they used to thanks to jobs and families and lives and being in the suburbs and such. So, a lot of shows lately, I have been going to by myself and then just talking to the people who are there. I was a little distracted by meeting new people on a rare night out, and well the joy of Heartless Bastards themselves that I sort of missed out on any real insight. My notes just kind of end at “Mike Love”, which is what I dubbed Heartless Bastards’ Jesse Ebaugh (because I thought they kind of looked alike) during their first song.

See, I’m not way off, right?

My night started off not too long after the doors opened. The place was startlingly empty for it being thirty minutes before show time. This is where having someone go with you is beneficial, because the time spent before the shows start are usually agonizing. It is especially so when it is this empty. I suppose if I was so desperate for human contact I could’ve talked to a bartender or something, but instead I just sat down.

I grabbed a Jameson and a chair towards the back and simultaneously watched the Olympics opening ceremonies and putzed around on Facebook. My favorite part about the Opening Ceremonies is the parade of nations. I particularly like it when there is just one dude holding a flag from some country I barely know. Like, where the hell are the Marshall Islands and how did they get an Olympian? Typical American, I know. I had taken a bit of a break from alcohol, so the Jameson was my first in a few weeks. While normally it is my drink of choice, on that night it was a little bit off. Like it was Jameson, but it also had an extra copper taste to it. Like someone had dropped a handful of pennies in the bottle. I assume that I just hadn’t gotten my tastes back. I glanced over at the woman working Heartless Bastards’ merch table occasionally, and it seemed every time I looked, she was bent over in such a way that her cleavage was pointed directly at me. I doubt this was on purpose, but it stopped being titillating after the second or third time and started to become uncomfortable. While most of the time I was just trying to take in my surroundings and see what the shirts and other stuff looked like (and I know a lot of you are just shaking your heads and saying “sure you were”, but it’s the truth), what if I was just the weird guy at a show by himself staring at some poor girls breasts?

At one point they played Bon Iver. Barbados came out. Eventually Burkina Faso. It was a pretty boring fifteen minutes or so.

Eventually, there were people there for me to talk to, and even though it started a bit late, Love Songs For Lonely Monsters were great. I have spoken before about them and how much I enjoy them. I picked up a new thing about them that I like, though. Singer Amy Badger does this little dance move where she kind of sways with her arms out to her side that kind of looks like she is trying to maintain her balance. I don’t know what about that little move drew me in, but I picked up on it every time she did it. They also, unfortunately, had a little technical issue. Guitarist Nicklas Sparks broke a string and I had to watch them fill time. What was probably only five minutes but had to feel like an eternity to the band passed before he finally just borrowed a guitar and finished the set. Besides the mishap though, they were loud and talented and I enjoyed them a lot. Now, if only they could get an album out so I know the damn names of the songs.

What I found most interesting about the night wasn’t so much their set, it was the reactions to the people I ended up with during it. There seemed to be a near unanimous dislike, which caught me a bit off-guard. Their point of contention all seemed to be with Badger’s vocal style as well as a general mis-understanding as to their similarities to Heartless Bastards. I always am a little fascinated when someone disagrees with me on something musically. We all have our own tastes, so I am always curious what people liked/disliked about someone. Though it took some slight cajoling, I had several very interesting and frank discussions about music, which was pretty awesome. I think that discussion sort of set the tone for the rest of the night as I became increasingly fascinated with my new friends tastes and thoughts on the scene in general. (One opinion had to be immediately disqualified because the only answer I could get was essentially “They are a local band, so they suck.” That guy’s opinion was deemed invalid.)

By the time Heartless Bastards took the stage, I had officially switched into a more social mode. I did perk up a few times as they played songs off the album that drew them to me, 2009’s The Mountain. I do wonder how Wennerstrom keeps it up throughout a show, though as her voice is powerful and sometimes sounds really strained and emotional. With the new tracks being very personal and about a lot of heartache, I can’t imagine it is easy to go out every night and just belt out these wrenching lyrics. When they did catch my attention, they were incredible. If I had a do-over, I wish I would’ve just camped by the stage and watched like this guy:

They guy in the background, not the dude in the foreground who, I think, might be on his phone…

They played for around an hour or so, but unfortunately, the five a.m. wake up call finally kicked in and I hit a wall and left just before their last song. Now, while this isn’t exactly the most appropriate review for a band of their talent, and they really are quite incredible, it is a testament to their ability to draw a crowd that was appreciative and intelligent.

Check out the rest of Anna’s pictures by clicking right here


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