Words: Ryan Mannix | Photos & Video: Wyatt Brake
The road-warrior Steepwater guys keep the gravel and grit in their instruments as much as their appearance. Friday night at Schubas brought energy, boogie, and several dual-guitar shred fests throughout the balls-to-the-wall two hour set, drawn heavily from their latest release Shake Your Faith.
With Bubbles Brown as the opener, the entire bill featured a throwback sound, drawing an older, but very attentive crowd. A glance around, and you might thing you were about to see Led Zeppelin, whose aggressive, progressive, and blues based material shares plenty of similarities with the headliners.
But shadows of all sorts of classic rock -- hints of The Rolling Stones and Neil Young sit beside tinges of Americana and crunched out guitars -- were cast all over this set like the corners of a dusty roadside bar.
My favorite tune on the new album is “Be As It May”. Forty years ago, this beautiful song would have been celebrated as an instant classic.. Not as overtly rockin’ as other tunes, it possessed a unique energy nonetheless. It was really a treat to see the crowd quiet down for moments like this and let the songs live.
The funky, wah-ed out, “Gone Goodbye”, really drove the Zeppelin influence home, followed by the jammed out “Last Second Chance” , that featured a mellow groove that eventually devolves into a distorted , chaotic peak, that really showcased the guitarists feedback heavy tones.
By the time they called for the last tune, the liquor had certainly loosened up the crowd, and everyone let out what energy they had for the encore. Closing the night with “Midnight Rambler”, a rockin’ homage to their heroes, was a fitting close to a night of music that had plenty of shades of nostalgia.
Walk in the Light, All the Way to Nowhere, Silver Lining, Be as It May, Mama Got to Ramble, I Will Never Know, Shake Your Faith, Remember the Taker, Love in Vain [Robert Johnson], Jealous of Your Way, Last Second Chance, High and Humble, Dance, Come On Down, Waiting to Be Offended, Gone Goodbye, Ain't Got Love, Midnight Rambler [The Rolling Stones]
But both groups put their mark on the roots sound, and delivered for the capacity Schubas crowd.
Up-and-comers Bubbles Brown opened the evening with a stripped down that was still able to get the crowd moving. The duo of guitar/vocals and percussion rocked as hard as any full band.
A suitcase bass drum boomed through the small venue as strong as Bubbles unmistakable voice. Fresh off an EP release of traditional covers, the guys flawlessly executed tunes like Hank Williams “Lovesick Blues”, in their own gritty folk-rock style.
The group also put their witty banter front and center, and even took a few requests (including this writer’s), which helped build an open and inviting feeling between the band and the crowd.
Bubbles Brown can knock you down with rockers like “Touch Me, Don’t Love Me”, make you want to stay there, broken, with “Highway Time”, and then lift you up with their old-time, feel good music, like “Chicken on the Bone Rag”. They deliver with an earnestness that is completely unpretentious and their musicianship just keeps improving.