Postcards From The Badlands opened up the show last night at the Sunset Tavern, shepherding steel and slide guitar music that sounds just like their name. Their liquid guitar instrumentals have a modern cinematic feel, like the band in the bar scene of a movie. Or maybe the score of a dusty modern western film like Red Rock West or Paris, Texas.
During their set I ran into Widower’s lead singer and songwriter, Kevin Large. It’s hard to get a word in edgewise with him, the Sunset is practically his home and everyone knows him or wants to tell him something (presumably how much they adore his relatable, perfect lyrics).
The place filled up as Austin’s the Preservation took the stage and proceeded to doo-wop harmonize their way into an interesting country sound. I wrestled with an influence to link them to for a bit before I gave up and decided that they were just plain good. They're a large band, and their parts become a symphony, playing parts southern rock, parts country, parts pop, and doing it extremely well. Guitarist Mario Matteoli was steadily peeling off skydog-like riffs (I’m not exaggerating) that gave the sound a sweet-tea taste, but the duo of Andrew Bianculli and Cayce Matteoli fought back furiously with indie pop riffs and rhythms on the three pianos and glockenspiel between them. I couldn’t help but notice halfway through the set, that the rhythm section had been the crew keeping the whole train on the tracks.Jeff Fielder arrive, but you can imagine everyone’s surprise when one Shelby Earl walked on stage to start the show in place of an out of town Kaylee Cole. This, in combination with the full band, gave the show a larger-than-recorded feel.
Kevin started the show almost solo, with the strummy, sentimental “Love, Or Lack Thereof” and for the first time the whole night all conversations stopped. An eerie quiet came over the crowd, demanded by Kevin’s confessional songwriting, and with everyone’s attention was focused on the stage the band blew up into songs from both albums. “Jumper Cables”, “Monday Morning”, “Thoroughbred”, and “Two Tombstones” flew by.
Jeff Fielder’s slide and fingerpicking technique was loud and mesmerizing. The man plays patiently and perfectly, levitating over his pedal board and pulling gold tones from his Bigsby tremolo with a swaying presence more like an orchestral conductor than a guitar shredder. The band and the crowd fell into a happy shuffle. About halfway through there was a Springsteen cover of "Bobby Jean", which would be easy to sneer at if the crowd didn’t know every word, and a saxophone player didn’t jump out the crowd embodying note-for-note the spirit of Clarence Clemons, and completely melting the crowd into a cuddle puddle of music love and appreciation.