Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hollis Brown with Scott Lucas and the Married Men

The Red and the Black
Washington DC
February 13th, 2010

My intention this week was to go see metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage lay waste to Sonar in Baltimore, Maryland, but due to my pitiful procrastination in buying advanced tickets, I found out the day before the show that it had in fact sold out. Luckily, I had a plan B, which was to check out Scottish indie rock outfit We Were Promised Jetpacks at the Rock n Roll Hotel, but much to my chagrin, they too sold out, on the day of the show no less! Sooo it was back to the drawing board for the Music Binge, and after some careful perusing through the local listings, I happened upon a third promising option. So it was that I found myself in the tiny, upstairs room at The Red and the Black on Saturday night, a room literally smaller than my own living room, for an interesting double bill featuring two distinctly different styles of rock n roll.

Scott Lucas and the Married Men
What initially caught my eye about tonight’s show at The Red and the Black was the tagline on the venue’s website that read “featuring Scott Lucas of Local H”. Having been a fan of Local H’s brand of indie-grunge back in the mid to late 90’s, I figured it might be fun to see what Mr. Lucas was up to these days. As it turns out, his new outfit, the interestingly dubbed “Married Men”, is a far cry from his “High Fiving MF” days in Local H.

Gone are the crunchy guitars and long hair of the old days (Scott’s still rocking the flannel though), as they’ve given way to a violin, a slicked back, 50’s style greaser do and of all things, the honky-tonk sounds of an accordion. The band packed the tiny stage and opened with a very mellow number called "Cut a Hole" which features only Scott’s vocals and guitarist Pete Muschong’s gentle plucking. When the rest of the Married Men (Tom Szidon on bass, Randy Payne on drums, Rebecca Manthe on violin and Aaron Duggins on accordion) entered the fold for their second song, the result was a well orchestrated, lush sound that completely filled the room. Scott Lucas and the Married Men practice a folksy sort of countrified rock with a little bit of twang and a whole lot of harmonizing, particularly between Lucas and Szidon (who has an amazing voice in his own right). The band played through a handful of originals from their forthcoming album "George Lassos the Moon", as well as a very cool cover of David Bowie’s "Absolute Beginners".

I had an opportunity to talk with Duggins after the show and learned that he met Lucas when the bass player from his other band, The Tossers, was unable to accompany them on a recent European tour. By chance, The Tossers happened to share the same producer as Local H, who recommended Scott Lucas as a potential fill-in bassist. Apparently everything worked out well enough to complete a six week European tour, during which the seeds were sown for both Duggins and Manthe, who also plays in The Tossers, to join Lucas in the Married Men.

Hailing from Chicago, Scott felt entitled to throw a few digs at our fair city’s ability to handle a snow storm, saying "we were worried about you DC…what did you get, a foot of snow?" Ha ha Scott…try something more along the lines of four feet…I think my arms are still tired from all the shoveling! That may be small potatoes over in Chi-town, but around here we’re talking an all time record snowfall. But enough about the weather…tonight marked only the second date on Scott Lucas and the Married Men’s tour in support of their debut album. By my account, they’re off to a good start and Scott has himself a side project worthy of putting both Local H and The Tossers on hold until the snow melts.

Hollis Brown
Having no idea what to expect from tonight’s headliner, I was eager to document my findings for the Music Binge. To my surprise, when the four guys in Hollis Brown (Mick Monti - vocals/guitar, Jon Bonilla - guitar, Michael Wosczyk - bass and Mike Graves - drums) took the stage, my ears were treated to what has to be the finest southern rock being made north of the Mason Dixon line. Sounding like a dead ringer for Chris Robinson and the Black Crowes, the band (who takes their name from the Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Hollis Brown") proved to everyone in attendance that you don’t have to be from the south to play this style of music.

Watching Hollis Brown at The Red and the Black on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think I was catching a band on the ground floor, before the rise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys playing a much larger venue in front of quite a few more than the thirty or forty in attendance tonight, the next time they come to DC. Despite the somewhat shy demeanor of their vocalist, Hollis Brown played like seasoned veterans and sounded as though they’d been together for decades. Imagine my surprise then when I learned that this was in fact their first tour and first time ever playing in DC.

The band played a number of songs off their self-titled, debut album, which is completely worthy of checking out, if I do say so myself (they gave me a copy at the show…how cool is that?). In addition they covered "Trouble No More" by the Allman Brothers and "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash…both excellent examples of where this band comes from musically. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that Hollis Brown is the most original act to come out of New York City, but I can honestly say that if you want some good, old fashioned rock n’ roll played with a healthy dose of swagger, then look no further…Hollis has it in spades.

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