So Too Much Rock is going to look different for the next few weeks – I'm out on tour with Josh Berwanger Band and, while I still intend to shoot every show I go to, there will certainly be no time for long write-ups, nor any point in writing paragraphs about each Berwanger set. And because I wont be in charge of my own schedule, I may even miss a band here or there. I apologise in advance, and we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming in a few weeks.
The Tree Bar is a hidden shack of a club at the intersections of two alleys. If you're not looking for the club you'll never find it. Even if you are looking for the club, you'll miss it the first time around – at least we did. Once inside you'll find four separate areas – a cute little bar, an adjoining room with a pool table, a marvellous wooden outdoor deck with hanging lights, and the rec room where shows happen. That final dingy windowless room is uninteresting aside from the large tree stump that dominates that room. The stump was once a mighty tree that shot up through the club's roof, but today it serves as a table, a seat, and a conversation piece for the dozen or so fans that wandered into and out of the room.
Opening act T.K. Webb began a short solo set of Americana at 10:30. Webb is a local troubadour who pairs a strummed acoustic guitar with his worn voice to create something more primal and rough than folk, but more complex than the blues – despite his predilection for "down and out" lyrical themes. While the start of his set was rife with ringing chords and lonesome harmonica wails, as the room filled in his intensity picked up, revealing hints of a more powerful rock core. The two blended during his finale – a dark and desperate cover of the Ronette's "Be My Baby" that had me wishing the set would continue.
After only a short break between sets, the Josh Berwanger Band's soundcheck brought everyone in the bar back to the stump. The band's (appropriate) billing as "ex-Anniversary members" drew a few far-flung fans of old, but the most enthusiastic attendees were those that had memorised the band's new album (Strange Stains, Good Land Records, 2013). One fan in particular sung along to each song in the band's short set, appropriately adding the handclaps as if he had seen the band a dozen times before. Backing vocalists Margo May and Zach Shoffner (guitar) helped fill the room, though the anxious guitar and vocals of Berwanger certainly took centre stage. Despite the rumbly bass of Brian Klein, neither he nor drummer Michael Hutcherson were able to come out of the shadows that hid them at the back of the stage.
Even though the band ended its set before Midnight, it was still 2am before the band loaded out. I filled the hours between reminiscing about the late '80s and early '90s Midwest hardcore scene with the very friendly patrons of the bar. It was a good crowd, and a familiar crowd, and because of that, I think it was the most social I'd been in a decade. The party continued at a new-found friend's condo with a screening of B-movie extraordinaire "Miami Connection," though as its credits rolled, I slipped downstairs claiming a comfortable futon and gasping when my iPhone revealed it was 4am. Am I too old for this? Stay tuned to find out.