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Hold the Beer, Bring on the Bras

Everclear 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

By Paul Rapp

Duwayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia

Club 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 than Duwayne.

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.

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