Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cowgirls and power chords

It’s a bit hard to picture a band such as The Dixie Chicks on the same bill with an outfit like AC/DC. That is unless you live in Gainesville, of course. When local bands of such styles play the same venue on a Friday night, for example, it simply means that folks from all walks of life – fans of music of all types – will be under one roof, all in the name of quality music.

Last Friday was such an evening in Gainesville. It was a night of country and rock witnessed by a wide spectrum of fans as the Rockhill Sessions Band and The Ones to Blame brought what they had downtown to The Atlantic. Country was the theme throughout most of the night as The Ones to Blame began things with hard livin’, heavy drinkin’ songs much in the style of Hank Williams or George Jones.

After a sound check followed by a “shot break,” the four ladies in The Ones to Blame hit the stage with a plethora of crowd-pleasers. Besides playing The Fest late last year, The Ones to Blame were also recently on the bill here with Whiskey & Co. last month. This accumulated experience showed this evening as these four gals were clearly having a good time. Drummer Lezli Johnson came front and center, doing her best Mick Jagger impression, complete with strutting and hip-shaking, for “$3.99 Wine,” their ode to discounted bacchanalia. These cowgirls may have the blues at times, but with songs rhyming Budweiser with Jagermeister, they also know how to cut loose and party. Mandolin player-vocalist Sue Mendez put her usual best smile forward throughout as families, singles, and couples alike scooted boots on the dancefloor.

Once the ladies cleared the stage, it was time for some old-fashioned three-chord rock by the Rockhill Sessions Band. The quintet’s namesake, guitarist Todd Rockhill, is well known for his nights working at Common Grounds in addition to his lead guitar in the band The Enablers along with ace drummer Addison Burns, who also shared the stage with him here.

Rockhill’s band also seemed determined to have fun. Complete with a new vocalist who just joined this past week, they came strong with their musical attack of large riffs that at times channeled those of rockers such as The Cult or Thin Lizzy. Rob, the rhythm guitarist, sported a Van Halen t-shirt, which often accurately described his playing. While Rockhill was often the focal point, the rhythm guitar played a vital role in much the same way that Malcolm Young anchors brother Angus’s guitar squalls in AC/DC.

With such a green vocalist, it was no surprise that the band’s primary weakness was in front of the mic. The singer tried to deflect his blown vocal cords with amusing between-song banter, including the introduction of “Stripper Pole” as a song that “would make his mom proud.” This was cold comfort, however, considering how punishingly raw the vocals were throughout the set. Rockhill took over singing duties on occasion, with his gruff tenor providing a welcome diversion from the status quo.

The night’s closing song, “Rocker,” brought Rockhill to the fore once again, saving his best guitar heroics for the night’s final song. Those wanting more, especially from Burns and Rockhill, will get their chance this Friday as The Enablers bring their slightly new lineup to 1982 for an acoustic set. Stay tuned!

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