The names of the three bands that performed Saturday at the Record Bar are atrocious. Their music, however, was sometimes transcendent. Mangy monikers aside, Heartless Bastards, Bleach Bloodz and Sons of Great Dane thrilled a near-capacity crowd of about 250.
Headliners Heartless Bastards resemble a blues act. Their version of the blues, however, has little in common with the Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired boogie that's dominated the blues circuit in recent years. Heartless Bastards forsake conventional guitar solos. Instead, the Ohio-based band are part of the mystical blues tradition that includes practitioners ranging from Robert Johnson to Patti Smith. The piercing drawl of Erika Wennerstrom enhances the bluesy effect. Her voice slices through her band's high-volume din like a punk version of Lucinda Williams.
While the band boasts a catalog of stellar songs- the furious pop of "Out At Sea" and the introspective "Hold Your Head High" stood out Saturday- the emphasis of Heartless Bastards' live shows is an aggressive pursuit of ecstatically liberating moments. The hypnotically repetitive blues of R.L. Burnside and the heavy drone of Neil Young and Crazy Horse were evoked during their ninety-minute performance. Heartless Bastards didn't achieve a perfect groove every time they reached for one, but the effect was transportive when they succeeded.
Where Heartless Bastards aim for the intellect, Bleach Bloodz go straight for the jugular. The Kansas City-area band's gloriously primitive garage rock could hardly have been more fun. They sometimes resemble a Midwestern version of the New York Dolls, but they're at they're best during frenzied anthems reminiscent of the Standells and the Strangeloves. The only element missing from the Bleach Bloodz' otherwise terrific time machine was go-go dancers.
Sons of Great Dane, another of the area's most promising new acts, is also refreshingly unfashionable. The use of cowbell in their opening set, for instance, was entirely free of irony. They look remarkably like 1970-era Creedence Clearwater Revival, but their sound alternates between power pop and alternative country. Even as they continue to improve at a remarkable rate, Sons of Great Dane seem like a band in transition. It's as if they can't decide if they want to be Big Star or Son Volt when they grow up. Sons of Great Dane could be extraordinary if they find a way to be both.
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star