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).
Kevin Large, Shelby Earl, Jeff Fielder
When I caught him at the merch booth during the end of Postcards' set, he sipped tequila and told me this would be his last Seattle show for some time, that he'd be touring down the coast and staying in L.A. a while. I wished him sunshine and assured him that, at the very least, his merch–download cards and v-neck shirts—featuring the atypical antlers of a mule deer grown into the WIDOWER logo—were decidedly the best in the game.
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.
Sexy Sax Man
Through distortion and delay pedal meltdowns and bells solos bassist Ben Burdick did not stop rocking his doo-wop coos that keep the clockwork from springing out of the box. I talked to The Preservation while picking up some vinyl after the show, Andrew Bianculli let me know that they're journey here was long, California is huge, that they always bomb their show in Portland, but that they usually tour just to get to Seattle, which is a highlight for them. By the time WIDOWER took the stage, I began to feel sorry. The Preservation was a loud, intense act who I thought would be hard to follow, but Kevin Large had some magic left up his sleeve. Earlier in the evening I had seen 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.
Jeff Fielder: Guitar God
Kevin switched from Guild acoustic to an Epiphone electric to mesh with Jeff’s molten Les Paul, and Shelby Earl’s pages of lyrics kept peeling off turning into a pile on the floor. To close the show the band broke into a cover of The Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down” which is impossible to feel down about when you hear it live. Kevin’s voice was notably strong through his own material, and even that of Lennon, McCartney and The Boss. Save for being Kevin’s farewell gig, everything about the show was perfect.