What is SeMi Bluegrass? It's a meeting place where live music fans in Southeast Michigan gather to exchange information about the live music scene: show reviews, cool venues, band profiles, product reviews and more.
Articles, news, reviews and band profiles welcome.
Email to: SeMiBluegrass@gmail.com

If you're looking for the South East Michigan Bluegrass Music Association (A fine group of Bluegrass fans in South East Michigan) you can find them at http://smbluegrass.org/

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do Wrong Right: The Devil Makes Three at St. Andrews

The Devil Makes Three in All Their Glory
     Yes.  I love bluegrass music.  But I'm by no means a bluegrass purist or traditionalist.  The very things that I like about the genre, lyrics with great stories, killer harmonies, acoustic grooves and driving beats can be found in may forms of music with their roots in, or paying homage to, these roots music origins.  Perhaps no band exemplifies this "semibluegrass" ethos better than The Devil Makes Three.  I've seen them play a handful of time, including their last stellar performance at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit, so I knew this would be a great live show and bought tickets as soon as they were available.  I knew from experience that this is one of those bands that is light-years better live than on their recordings.  Whether it's their hard-to-classify musical sound,  their legions of devoted fans, or their effortless ability to both build and draw energy from a crowd,  a Devil Makes Three show is a true multi-sensory event that simply has to be experienced to truly comprehend. 
Gettin' Down with TDM3
     So, how do you begin to describe the TDM3 sound?  With a fairly traditional mix of acoustic stringed instruments--archtop guitar, 5- and 4-string banjo, dobro and upright bass--they definitely land comfortably in the bluegrass, old-time, folk arena.  Add in fiddle, twin fiddle, or even cello on a few tunes and they are much more than that--dabbling with blues, jazz, country and swing with a hint of mid-70s punk rock thrown in to sweeten the mixture.  Their songs all feature strong lyrical hooks and often intense vocal harmonies.  Their songwriting blends entertaining storytelling with fun, playful and ofttimes dark undertones--songs of love, addiction and rebellion blending effortlessly with semi-autobiographical tales of post-modern reality.  Never doubt that their message resonates with the audience, who seem to sing along with every verse and chorus as they sing, sway and cheer with arms and voices stretched out to the band.  This crowd draws their energy from the musicians on stage, who reciprocate in a positive feedback loop of energy, enthusiasm and emotion.  You can not help but be swept up by a Devil Makes Three show and carried along by the groove.  It's not bluegrass, or folk, or blues or rock played the same way anyone else does it.  But, as their own song says, "if you're gonna do wrong buddy, do wrong right", and this band totally does.
Pete Bernhard and Lucia Turino
     Lacking a traditional rhythm section, any type of drum, the steady chop of a mandolin or the driving rhythm of a Scruggs-style banjo, the band none-the-less manages to set up one of the deepest pocket grooves you will find in an acoustic band.  Their sou8nd
 begins with bassist Lucia Turino.  Belying her dance training, Turino employs a somewhat unique "whole body" approach to her instrument; wiggling, shaking and swaying in time to the music as she aggressively slaps and plucks booming bass notes and melodic runs with equal enthusiasm.  From the tips of her toes to the top of her pony-tailed head, she is 100% invested in every note--and obviously enjoying what she does equally as much as the audience enjoys her doing it.  With girly-girl bright red lipstick and oh-so-punk-rock steer skull tattoo on her chest, Mr. Turino is a unique as the band and one terrific bass player.
Bernhard on the Dobro
     If Turino is the heart of the band, lead singer and songwriter, the always dapper Pete Bernhard is their soul.  Able to take his fairly soft tenor voice and infuse it with incredible amounts of soul, pain and anguish as easily as joy, wisdom and puckish humor his vocals give life to the songs and make everyone want to sing along.  With a boyish grin on his face betraying the salt-n-pepper locks at his temples, Bernhard sings from his heart.  I'm convinced he would never make it as a cover-band singer; so obvious is his love for the songs he's written and enthusiasm for performing them.  His heartfelt "thank you" to the venue and audience seemed out of place--as if he was finishing up a 2am set in some cheap, dark bar instead of capping a sold-out night.  If you watch closely as he finishes a verse in his song, you can see him subtly tip his head to the side, as if waiting for the crowd to come in on the chorus...and a smile on his face when they inevitably do.
Cooper McBean on Banjo
     Multi-instrumentalist Cooper McBean rounds out this power-trio of Americana.  With tattoo sleeves and guaged ear-rings that would envy any punk band front man, McBean fiercely defies stereotypes with his killer guitar riffs, incredible banjo work and surprisingly mellow vocals.  That is not to say that he doesn't have a hard edge to his playing--from machine-gun fast strums on the banjo, to animated antics on stage between breaks he is less Lester Flatt and more Iggy Pop.  Like all banjo players, he lives to drive the band forward with rich melodic runs on the 5-string to some incredibly complex clawhammer work on the tenor.  In a nod to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seger before him, his banjo head loudly proclaims "This Machine Annoys Fascists" but definitely thrills and entertains fans of the band.
Thank You and Good Night!
     I usually think of St. Andrew's as more of a indy-rock, metal, hip-hop type of venue.  I am glad to see that they are open to semibluegrass bands like the Devil Makes Three and other Americana acts.  With the impending loss of the Magic Stick at the Majestic Theater, there are fewer and fewer places where you can get intimate with this type of music.  A comfortable walk from Greektown, this bare-bones concert venue (standing room only, bathroom in the basement) makes up for it's shortcomings with an very good sound system, great stage lighting and plentiful (and surprisingly helpful) staff willing to assist you in keeping the party going, but keeping you from getting in too much trouble.  Catching a show here should be something on every semibluegrasser's "bucket list".

More Random Images from the Show Below (Please feel free to share, but link back to this page)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your source for information about the Southeast Michigan (SeMi) Live Music Scene. News, Venues, Reviews...a community about us, for us and by us. Please consider contributing an article: semibluegrass@gmail.com