"A Residency Review" Battlehooch pt.1 (Awaken Cafe, Oak) April 2014
To play the same venue four weeks in a row is a challenge. One that personally, I don't know I'd tackle. In order to keep an audiences' attention (and attendance) for that extended amount of time is no easy feat to accomplish. Enter Battlehooch...
This fearless group of six chose not only to play every Friday this April at Awaken Cafe, BUT WITH A DIFFERENT THEME EACH FRIDAY....(a "regular set", acoustic set, cover set of Bay Area bands, and finally and all electronic set)
(Full disclosure folks, I know AJ in Battlehooch from Balanced Breakfast. This is how I found out about the monumental task of a residency and was turned on to see the task at hand, in person, to get a feel for the variety of performances in person.)
Now, since the first show was on the first Friday of the month, I had to miss the "normal" Battlehooch set. Hoodslam will always win when it comes to first friday of the month.
( I cannot think of much that will make me NOT go to Hoodslam, even to do this "job".)
This being the first time I was set to see Battlehooch play, I'm basing this report off of never having seen a "normal" Battlehooch set. Instead of letting this fact detract, I used this to my advantage. I could now see what traits Battlehooch has on stage, no matter what the style was, and what a treat it turned out to be.
I have a theory that bands should be able to perform no matter what the surroundings are. If you are punk band and the audience is a more relaxed group of people, you should be able to tweak your sound WITHOUT compromising your overall idea of the song, in order to get through to the audience. I know, some "artists" will argue and say they don't need to change. "If people don't get what we are doing, then they don't get it. Why should I compromise MY ART for simpletons?"
Yeah yeah yeah I get that, and if that's how you feel, go record your vision and be a recording artist. You can do exactly what you want, the way you want, and the people who "get it" will go download it for free or maybe throw a pittance your way. However, if you are performing for an audience, it is YOUR JOB to get the audience involved in your act. If what you're selling on stage ain't being bought, tweak the product to get the shit over, its really quite simple.
(Aaaaannnnnd if you are indeed the artist you claim to be, its a fun challenge to see how versatile you really are in order to accomplish that feat. If, as a punk band, you can get a group of 55+ into your sound because you turned down the distortion a bit, aren't you really a more rounded artist? Granted I don't know why you'd book a gig where that would be your demographic, but that's neither here or there)
This is all to say Battlehooch are indeed ARTISTS in rare form. A band who can pull a Bruce Lee and "be like water my friend" without compromising their H2O make up. Acoustic guitars? Its still Battlehooch. Trade those softer guitars for full on electric or get rid of guitars all together and play with synths and drum pads, still Battlehooch. Sometimes they crash like waves, sometimes its smooth like a fountain, and sometimes its hot and steamy like a salt bath laden with candle light and rose pedals for atmosphere, but its all the same elements.
Originally I was going to map out each show, however since I tend to already be a bit wordy, covering 9 acts in one review is far too much even for me. I will say this, There is going to be a dedicated performance review for the band Steep Ravine who opened the acoustic evening's show. These four gentlemen did something I thought was impossible, they caught my attention with bluegrass music and ONLY blue grass music. No antics or frills were needed, just good old fashioned MUSIC. Go see these guys live for sure. Another honorable mention is Kendra McKinley who is a throwback to an era gone by in entertainment... but again more details to follow in the upcoming week(s)
Even a "toned down" acoustic Battlehooch show is a fun and lively experience. The 3 things standing out that made me REALLY curious to see a "regular set" *
1) The multi talented horn/flute/sax/think of any damn object you can make sound with by woodwind player Tombo! I've often heard of a mythical saxophonist named Rahsaan Roland Kirk who could play 3 saxophone's AT ONCE. My co-worker has put him on at the coffee shop and I didn't believe it was possible. Well folks, not only is it possible but Tombo DOES THIS SHIT LIVE, AND IN PERSON. No magic tricks, no mirrors or back track being played, he just does it. If nothing else, go see a Battlehooch show watch this supreme talent in person, because lordy lordy it is a sweet treat!
2) Pat, the by default "front man"! I say by default because he's the singer, commands attention though his performance and will "conduct" the other members of the band (though I'm sure its for show as EVERYONE in this band is incredibly talented in what they do and I'm sure no conducting is needed.) Pat's presence is a persistence present for peculiar patrons. (aaahhh thank you alliteration) His exuberance will make you want to join along in the fun the band is having. He's a gem to watch
(well they all are, but due to the crowed stage at Awaken Cafe, you really couldn't NOT notice Pat. I actually feel a lil bad for the drummer/bassist/keyboardist only for the fact that due to cramped quarters, their excellence was hidden from view.)
3) AJ McKinley. It must be in the blood line of the family, for every McKinley I know is such a talented being. Out of the 9 sets I saw over the course of the 3 weeks I went, AJ ended up playing in 5 of those sets. He played acoustic, he played bass, he played guitar in a sonic youth cover set and can get loud with feedback, he can play keys, and to top it off he has a one of a kind, what I'm calling an "AJ's in the Zone Face". You've gotta be there to see it. It's a gift to see a person so in tune with the instrument they are playing that it becomes an extension of themselves. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out words to do justice to the talent this man possesses but seeing it in person is really the only way to go about it.
Since I was not familiar with the "original" sound I wasn't totally sure what I was in for. What I got was a ride. Battlehooch is not a simple band. They are complex and I love that. Songs will start on one level and take you to a place you never dreamt was possible of going to in the beginning of the song. Yet somehow they get you there and pull it off. I'm then left mouth agape, wondering how the hell do you craft something like that? To a fan of pop music I can see where this might be challenging, but, that to me is the beauty of Battlehooch. They challenge you to take the ride with them, and as one of my personal heroes the late, great, Dr Hunter S. Thompson was so fond of saying "buy the ticket, take the ride" If you go to see Battlehooch,prepare to go along with them.
After seeing the acoustic set, I made up my mind then and there I'd be coming back to see what else these guys can do given different rules to their sets. I hope that YOU will come back as part 2 of this residency review will be up shortly and cover a cover set, an electronic set, and even more proof why you should see Battlehooch for yourself...
*(The next regular set is being held at The Chapel on May 30th and will be a Battlehooch Orchestra performance, so even a regular set is an event HUZZAH!)