A different breed of bluegrass crawled out of the Santa Cruz mountains in 2002, and with it, The Devil Makes Three dragged the genre into the 21st century. The three piece string-band made its return to the Bay Area on Friday night after a phenomenal 2015 and turned in a real barnburner at The Fox.
A TDM3 show is a bona fide social experiment. You’ve got your shaggy, millennial hippies stomping alongside wasted, shirtless, teenage boys who are locking arms with, well, hipsters (it is Oakland in the year 2016 after all). It’s a a real family affair. You’re going to find yourself dancing in a lot of circles, spilling a ton of beer, and drinking even more. I even braved the mosh pit before being chased by a sweaty, rogue dreadlock.
As for the music, the good folks at the Fox didn’t book them back to back nights just for the hell of it. Their pace is furious. But this threesome knows how to work a crowd so in between fierce anaerobic stomping, I had ample time to imbibe as the crowd slowed from sheer chaos to a gentle sway. With tracks like “Shades,” I had my arm around my buddies like it was a goddamn Garth Brooks Karaoke hour and the next thing I know, they basically had me running in place like a maniac to “Statesboro Blues” (a cover of the americana, blues standard).
And speaking of covers, for a band that, as guitarist Pete Bernhard put it, “doesn’t like the idea of becoming a historical re-enactment,” they sure did raise a few ghosts on Friday. with “Drunken Hearted Man” (Robert Johnson), “Walk on Boy” (Doc Watson), and “Statesboro Blues” (Blind Willie McTell). They even channeled a few living legends with “Chase That Feeling” (Kris Kristofferson), and ” I am the Man” (Ralph Stanley). The bottom line is, when TDM3 wants to take a step back in time, they do a damn good job of it.
But the real genius is in their original stuff. For me, it doesn’t get any better than ” Johnson Family” – a track that sounds like it could be the theme for the new season of True Detective. Have a taste below:
At times they will take you down to the river and wash you with numbers like “A Moments Rest,” only to plunge you into the depths, where only whiskey and sorrow can reach. If you’re ready for a good cry, have a listen to “Graveyard” below.
This is a band that loves to tour, so count on them being back in town sooner rather than later (Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, fingers crossed) and they are not to be missed. Just make sure to bring a good pair of shoes and a Gatorade for after.