Originally published on KDHX.org
The Devil’s voice is sweet to hear. And it could only be heard in the Grove last night in the form of California-based act the Devil Makes Three.
It was another home run for rookie venue the Ready Room, as the band took the stage and knocked it out of the park, packing in a nearly sold-out show of 600 people from all different walks of life. I counted white rastas, Mother Earth mammas, and more flannel and trucker hats than aisle 17 at a Walmart supercenter.
Since their last sold out show in St. Louis at the Duck Room, it’s good to keep in mind that a band who can accumulate this many fans so quickly should be considered a serious threat on the Americana music scene.
Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons were an exceptional opener. With so many fans already staking prime real estate, one would’ve assumed that Fletcher was the main act. His country and blues-based group were a sight to behold; especially his guitar player, Damien Puerini, who played Telecaster-fast twang along the likes of Joe Maphis. Fletcher’s lyrically-driven songs, matched only by his sandpaper singing, electrified the fans, while the backing band galloped behind him at a steady pace. It was Fletcher’s mission to get the crowd moving. “If you string people along long enough, you can get them dancing,” a fan told me, before he began clapping wildly and disappeared into the crowd.
The DM3 took the stage shortly thereafter and brought its specialized, old-timey street swing, with upright bass, guitar and banjo. Redefining the raw sound of vintage front-porch pickers in a West-Coast style, the band’s simple and heartwarming backwoods harmonies made me want to reach for the moonshine. If only they sold that at the bar (hint, hint).
You might assume DM3 is a band that set-up shop rather quickly in order to jump on the Americana bandwagon, but DM3 have been working audiences since 2002, having released several albums independently, by the sweat of their brow, before moving to New West records for their 2013 release “I’m a Stranger Here.” Indeed, this seems to be the album that’s making its career, as countless fans demonstrated their knowledge of the band’s lyrics, singing and dancing along in bounding circles, as though it were Woodstock.
However, there were a few things lacking. I think this may have been one of those rare occurrences where I actually enjoy listening to a group’s recorded music more than seeing their performance. The band stays true to form by holding fast to the trio, but their records feature a lot more instrumentation and collaboration: violins, clarinet, New Orleans-style brass band. One of the band’s techs joined them onstage for a few songs with a bit of superb fiddle playing, which helped to round out the sound, but there are definitely more than three devils on this band’s records.
Additionally, though I enjoyed the group immensely, I can’t say that there was anything particularly unique about them that came through in their live act. They’re a tight-knit group, both musically and organically, who pay strict attention to their musicality and chops, but there was little camaraderie or stage presence to be had. A band like this is so street-oriented that audience proximity becomes a necessary part of the magic. You want to stumble upon this group busking under lamplight in the French Quarter in the wee hours of the night. It’s an intimacy that they’re trying to convey, as opposed to a frenetic energy, which they seem to lose sight of being in front of so many fans. In other words, if you’re not right there next to the fire, you’re missing out on some of the luster.
The musicians buzzed through song after song, dipping into five albums worth of material in a little over an hour, while their adoring fans never skipped a beat. It was surprising to see that many people out on a Wednesday night for a bluegrass-influenced group. But show after show, the Ready Room is proving it is definitely ready to handle whatever the devil can throw at it.