There was plaid as far as the eye could see, more than a few cowboy hats and at least one guy dressed like a bumble bee at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night. The trio that makes up The Devil Makes Three originated in Santa Cruz, but they appeared to be right at home in front of the riled up and sold-out Bay Area crowd.
Large banners depicting radiant eyes served as a back drop for the string band consisting of guitar, banjo and double bass. Right from the first notes of the set opener “Stranger,” there was enough stomping and clapping in the crowd to more than compensate for any perceived lack of percussion. One whiskey-soaked Americana anthem after another kept the whole crowd, from the pit to the back of the balcony, whipped into in a frothing hoe down.
For several songs in the set the band was accompanied by fiddle and cello which added a rich wholeness to the sound. The blinding fiddle solo in “Do Wrong Right” and the eerie resonance of the cello in “Graveyard” filled up the venue in a way that felt like scratching an itch you didn’t know was there. It may have been all of the skunky smoke that hung in the air, but I have to say I agreed with guitarist/lead vocalist Pete Bernhard when he said he felt like he was having an “out of body experience.”
Every aspect of the performance hit its mark. The vocal harmonies were simultaneously sharp enough to cut bread and warm enough to melt butter, while the lighting design accentuated each song’s mood and played off the back drops nicely. This band has been on the road for a long time now, and it shows in the best way.
Photos by Nate Chavez