Instead, we chose an easier show to watch, but one much more challenging to write up: Friday night's Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears appearance at Mercy Lounge, with openers The Preservation. Fresh talent and fun-loving, hard-working bands in vans aren’t as easy — or deserving — a target for our good-natured ribbing.
Our first impression of The Preservation was impressed via a cover of Donovan’s “Colours” — a stellar jam, the original version of which could scarcely be topped by anyone. But The Preservation's efforts were admittedly noble. From then on, these Austin natives rocked an array of bluesy Texas flavors filtered through vintage Frisco free love and sugared with a tinge of post-Brian Wilson Beach Boys sweetness. Jams favored on the lengthy side — we imagine this quintet must kill it on any given college campus — but for our purposes, we'll say we’ve ordered beers to far more offensive soundtracks.
In the tradition of Austin’s classic guitar-slinging bluesmen, headliners Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears were almost literally sweating out soul from intro to encore, dipping their dirty toes in elements of Motown, Chicago blues and Muscle Shoals soul amongst others along the way — and it was all injected with a heavy dose of fuzzy overdrive and delivered with a spine-shivering screaming howl. Essentially a power trio accompanied by a blasting brass three-piece, Lewis wailed about the woes of women, jail time, more women and all the other requisite working-class shit that makes this stuff worth listening to.
Blessed with not only a set of invigorating pipes, Lewis is also an impressively expressive guitarist, shredding his custom all-red-everything Telecaster like Chuck Berry rings a bell. In fact, for a moment we closed our eyes and imagined Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix ripping through Muddy Waters covers on a combo of cheap beer and quality speed.
For the sake of stamina, the band saved their faster tunes for a mid-set second wind, but despite their consideration for dynamics, they seemed to lose almost half a crowd by slipping into a slow jam “for the ladies.” Regardless, tempo changes and amplitude dips were mostly negligible. What one gets with a Black Joe Lewis set is a lightly wavering, hour-long onslaught of mud, sweat and beers that, if it could be bottled, would be called something like “Juke Joint Juice” or simply Scandalous — which also happens to be the name of the band’s latest long player.