"I dunno, he's kinda skinny."
"You wouldn't know he was so skinny from his voice!"
- Women assessing hotness of William Elliott Whitmore. At his show, November 4, at 7th St Entry.
I don't know ladies - he's not that skinny. Thar's a cute li'l beer gut I do say I spy. And he is pretty hot. He winked at me and I 'bout died, 'til I realized the Entry was packed full of ladies 'bout ready to die over the dude and I lost interest. Who can stand for such competition?
Oh, but that voice.
William Elliott Whitmore is perhaps best known for his rough but rich deep-blues style of singing, which was what really shone during his stripped-down Entry set, set smack dab between sets by local country/folk-rock act Western Fifth and Philly-based roots band Hoots & Hellmouth. Kicking things off with his a capella rendition of "Cold and Dead" - and the sun will never shine on this cold dead heart of mine - Whitmore immediately set the tone for what could have been a somber performance, his foot stomping percussion, the dark post-daylight saving time night whipping us with its cold wind as we smoked outside. Bah. Naw. Whitmore's totally punk rock. After that depressing ditty he rolled up his sleeves to reveal a mishmash of tattoos, picked up his banjo, and began engaging the audience in his whiskey-infused banter.
And an engaging performer he is for a solo act. Between songs he strutted about the stage, sharing cheers and fist bumps with a packed audience of idolaters, some slack-jawed in awe, others a-hoopin' and a-hollerin', Whitmore taking requests (and the audience shouting them back in spades) and eventually inviting fans on stage, saying he liked performing better that way, "more like my living room."
Whitmore, from a small town in Iowa, has done well for himself, his 2009 album charting well and his Entry visit coming on the heels of a European tour. And the folks in the Twin Cities love him, if not for his national success then definitely for his connections to our li'l burgh - Whitmore proclaimed his love for Minneapolis music, citing P.O.S., Plastic Constellations, Signal to Trust and Superhopper, and he himself has a Minneapolis record connection, showing up on a Modern Radio 12" compilation alongside ft(the shadow government) among others. And there was no love lost for our sister state to the south, a woman up front toasting him with a drunkenly calamitous shout of "Woooooo Iowa!"
Local opening act Western Fifth was an appropriate match for Whitmore, with vocalist Ryan Holweger's low-key and earnestly country-blues, gravelly vocals hearkening back to Townes Van Zandt but with a band that occasionally screams, "Hey, enough of this downer shit - you guys remember that rock band we were all in in high school? Man, wasn't that fun? We wanna rock out like that! Faster faster harder!" After saying on Mischke's show yesterday that I can't think of a ton of local country acts I really dig, I had a palm-to-forehead moment later in the day - forgot about these guys. They're definitely a band to check out. And bass player Josh Christensen draws really excellent penises. Trust me. Ask him to draw you one.
I'd been warned that the packed Entry might become a little less packed for headlining act Hoots & Hellmouth as diehard Whitmore fans, tired from all that, you know, hoopin' and hollerin', went gentle into the good Wedneday night. While I felt a little less like a sardine packed in a tin with guys and gals in cute little hats and boots (so many old-timey hats!) once they took the stage, there was still a good crowd of revelers who stuck around, boppin' around, and that really says somethin' on a Wednesday night. Hoots & Hellmouth were described to me as like Stomp meets bluegrass. Phish meets Bill Monroe. Yikes.
Should I leave?
They are a four-piece with a stomp board of tambourines providing percussion, and my initial reaction was that they were good, tight and fun. Phew! I was thinkin' Stomp... Phish... I'm outta here. I can only think of one Phish song off the top of my head. I dunno who the hell Bill Monroe is (should I? Am I exposing my music critique dilettantism right now? Likely). All I know about Stomp is they wear blueface (wait... wrong Broadway-type percussion act). I'm hearing a little Grateful Dead in Hoots' really refined harmonies and the singer seems to be channeling Garcia in his old-man glasses, bush of hair and big beard (albeit all red)... that's kinda like Phish right? And they are stompy. They seem to have silly lyrics which from my one Phish reference (that bouncin' around the room song) seems about right umm...
Sure! I was too hungover and tired to myself channel the bluegrass fans I've seen at 331 hoop! Hoop! Hoop!ing and stomping and clapping and dancing like I assume people dance at a Phish concert. I can't stand Phish so I haven't seen it with my own eyes but I assume what they do is what my friend calls the white girl dance, kinda moving hips and shoulders and head but not legs or feet, but with more wavy hand movements. Know what I mean? So anyway, I had to ditch out halfway through Hoots & Hellmouth's set and go to bed.
Final note - I showed my diehard bluegrass friend accompanying me to the show my notes on Hoots & Hellmouth to see if what I'd said was legit. "Yep. Nope. Yep. Okay... What?!? Wait, you don't know who Bill Monroe is? What the fuck?!? That's like saying you've never heard of Hank Williams!"
Sorry folks. I don'know shit about shit.