By Frank Thaheld
originally published on: www.sandiego.com
I just can’t get enough of this movement that returns us to our americana roots. Whether it is just the honest song writing or the feel of a blues backbeat that gets me swinging, I’ll never truly know. After much pestering by a good friend, I finally went to see Billy Midnight play a show. These boys have ten years of playing and song writing credit in this town, and I am finally catching on? What rock have I been hiding under.
‘Twas a mild spring evening at The Ould Sod on Adams Avenue that I became enchanted. I walked in to find a medium crowd assembled around the band as they were starting their second set which lasted an hour and a half or so. My buddy had saved me a cozy seat near the stage and filled me in on the first set antics. Apparently the first set consisted of mostly alternative tunes, but this was to be the treat. I looked up to see a four piece of casually clad fellows. The basic four-piece consisting of brothers Billy Shaddox on guitar and vocals, and Bobby Shaddox on drums and vocals. They were rounded out by Jason Hee on bass who used to play with Rookie Card and The Buzzkill Romantics. I did not get any info on the other guitar player who seemed to be a newcomer, but had agile fingers.
Billy and Bobby started up the band in 1999 and it has seen several musicians coming and going through the doors, with the brothers always remaining the heartbeat. Through their ten year career, thus far, they have two recordings and been awarded with San Diego Music Awards, coveted, best americana and country music accolade. This coming after a two year hiatus for the band when Billy had a traumatic head injury while on tour in Oregon. Poised and ready to fulfill their conquest, I was seeing pleasure ooze out of every pore from these able musicians.
Someone screamed on the microphone, “Y’all like to honkey tonk!” and the band played a great bluesy number which showcased Jason’s apparent baritone, singing, “Las Vegas ain’t no place for a poor boy like me”. Bobby was chiming in with some great harmonies and keeping the beat tight. The next song brought to mind the band Big Star, of which I have always been a fan. “This is how you blow my mind”, the crowd was into it and there were several couples dancing around the small stage.
Bobby also fronts local act Bobby Fantasy. It seems their is a lot of heritage and love on this stage tonight. The rose lady comes by and pitches us to buy a rose and I decline, as my only friend present is male. Wearing a short skirt, ala The Flintstones, she rambled on to find some cooing lovers. This only made me enjoy the show more as the drummer took the lead on “Ain’t No Foolin’” which resembled a love child between Jamiroquai and Billy Squier. Awesome.
Some girl, named Nicole, asked for “Hungry Heart” by Bruce Springsteen and actually got on a mic to help prime the band on the lyrics. They ably took over and I believe Bobby created his own lyrics on the second verse which was semi charming, but they finished it well and to great applause. I doubt anyone one noticed the missing verse amongst their Guinesses.
The show stopper was a 20 minute revival piece. This featured Seventh Day Buskers front man, Shawn P. Rohlf on Harmonica. He had his own special microphone for the occasion and they were up and running in seconds. The harp playing tickled my cochlea and inspired my soul. They dedicated this number to John The Baptist and played into the night. This song also featured a dueling harmonica solo between Billy and Shawn, priceless. The breakdown of this epic piece included a mantra of “Holy Moses, come down from the mountain”. I thought that if he had heard this rendition he might indeed come striding in at any moment.
Thinking this was not to be bettered, I thought I might leave on a high note. As I was preparing my exodus, there was some talk about animal sacrifice and how there are too many animals on this planet, so we should all reduce our carbon imprint. How could I go? This just started getting weirder. I stuck around for another 3 songs and was happy I did as they broke into a favorite Rolling Stones song, “Dead Flowers”. Singing along only got me wishing I was back on stage and living the dream with these guys.
Make sure to pick up their latest CD, “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”. But I feel the true magic of this group exists in their live show. Don’t wait as long as I did to discover Billy Midnight and maybe I will see you at the next gig. Care to dance?