the Beer, Bring on the Bras
were this year’s LARKfest headliners, and they rocked out
to an absolutely packed Lark Street. As the show continued,
some festivalgoers near the stage started hurling empty beer
cans at the band members, prompting bandleader Art Alexakis
to stop playing midsong and chastise the drunkards down front,
following it up with a modest demand that the audience start
tossing full beers—or bras and panties—onstage instead of
cans. Some ladies happily filled the underwear request, but
no one seemed to want to give up their beer. Which is OK,
since Alexakis is straight-edge these days, anyway. Everclear
played their hits as well as a number or two from their new
album, Welcome to the Drama Club.
They Got the Funk
Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia
Helsinki, Great Barrington, Mass., Sept. 16
Duwayne Burnside grew up playing electric blues in North Mississippi
juke joints behind his dad, the late, legendary R.L. Burnside
and his dad’s pal, the equally legendary Junior Kimbrough.
After a yearlong stint touring with the North Mississippi
All-Stars a few years ago, Duwayne went back to Mississippi,
opened his own club not far from Highway 61, and now and then
takes a band out on the road. In other words, unless you had
a time machine that put you at the Crossroads with Robert
Johnson in the 1920s, you just don’t get closer to the source
Burnside, who’s in his mid-30s, and his band of impossibly
young-looking dudes simply tore up Club Helsinki with deep,
loud, funky jams. It was ridiculous. It was The Shit.
The band members were dressed in baggy jeans and T-shirts;
Burnside, relaxed, confident, and exuding the kind of cool
one can only be born with, was beaming all night, flashing
some bodacious grillwork on his teefers. He played an Epiphone
Les Paul, with a round, fat, slightly distorted tone, often
using a wah-wah, producing a mildly Hendrixian sound. In fact,
the combination of his guitar, his slightly reedy voice, and
the incredible bottom-heavy rhythm section often recalled
Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies.
Ah, the rhythm section: The bass player looked like he was
about 15 years old, the drummer only slightly older, and they
owned every groove they hit, from shuffles to straight fours,
to jerky funk. The kind of grooves that could go on for days,
and everyone would sit nodding along, hypnotized, oblivious
to any dimension but the beat. Anybody can play the blues,
and 99.9 percent of those who do suck at it. Not these guys.
Duwayne’s little brother Cedric was on second guitar, playing
a Fender Jazzmaster with that slinky, metallic tone that was
a perfect counterpoint to Duwayne’s fat, Gibson-like sound.
Both of the Burnsides played as naturally as you breathe.
It was all extremely loose, but it was also all extremely
right. Highpoints included a screaming version of Robert Johnson’s
“Dust My Broom,” a thumping run through the North Mississippi
All-Stars “Skinny Woman,” and an extended jam based on the
riff from Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” It was this jam, towards
the end of the first set, that caused the little room in the
Berkshires to unravel, and suddenly Great Barrington was somewhere
south of Memphis, and Helsinki was a shack a ways off the
main road, and there was sex and danger and wonder and magnetism
in the air.