Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hoots & Hellmouth @ Jammin' Java

At the last minute I decided to head to Jammin' Java to see a band that I've seen get a lot of hits on Hoots and Hellmouth. This Philly based band was just starting a 7 week tour and I wanted to see why the excitement. And what did I see? A jam band?, a little; a bluegrass band?, some; a folk band, a little; a gospel - blues band, sometimes. In other words this band defies categorization. What they are are four guys playing two acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and a bass - with intense energy that you'd normally see with a jam band, a semi-bluegrass or folk sound, with hints of gospel, jazz, and blues melodies. Also, their sound is not for the casual listener; I saw Jammin' Java transform from a sit down concert hall to a dance hall - with the band constantly asking the crowd to surge closer to the stage.

The band's energy was amazing. Ninety percent of their songs were played at full speed, with each player trying to out-pick the other. This was probably a result of spending the previous month locked in the studio cutting their second CD. Their first CD, is the self-titled, Hoots & Hellmouth. For the remaining ten percent they would slow down and do a jazz or blues rift, where you could fully appreciate their vocals (which sometimes were drowned out by the instruments). I wish they would have slowed it down for a few more songs because their vocals and harmonies are outstanding.

As I previously stated, the band will be traveling the next two months, playing primarily in the Northeast and Southeast, with a few Midwest shows mixed in. Their full schedule can be found at and for those traveling to Florida and Austin, they will be playing at the Langerado Music Festival and SXSW Showcase.

Before Hoots and Hellmouth took stage, I was able to see a few songs from Old Springs Pike, a trio from New York City. The band had a large following of enthusiastic supporters - that even followed the band backstage after their performance. I wish I had arrived earlier, because I really enjoyed what I heard. The three members have tight and complimentary harmonies that shine during their slower songs; but then the band can burst into a hard rock n' roll tune that gets even the Jammin' Java staff dancing. I was also impressed by the strong country-ish vocals of the piano - percussion playing Heather. This is a band worth following - you can say you saw them before they became headliners. They have a few shows scheduled in the Northeast - but I'm looking forward to downloading a few songs from I-Tunes and for their future EP.

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