As they arrive onstage, Connor O’Neal, the Banjo-playing joint lead singer in Tejon Street Corner Thieves, reasons: “Most of our songs are about Whiskey”. By the end, it is clear that it’s the stuff made by some moonshiner, probably at the end of Copperhead Road.
“All We Need” rather makes good on the promise at the start and “No Good” finds something so primal in its blues that Robert Johnson might want his soul back.
Mention of Steve Earle at the start was deliberate, though, given that not since his album with the Del McCrory Band has bluegrass sounded this alive, and filthy. Let’s be honest, check out the cover of “Minnie The Moocher for proof.
On that one Shawn D’Amario had played the Kazoo, he does again in the charming “(I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You” and “44” is anchored down by the wonderful bass of Julie Frost.
“Lay Low” is turned into a singalong – and it’s clear the band are amongst friends – before “Whiskey” brings us back full circle.
This kind of night, hot, sweaty, raucous, is perfect for Tejon Street Corner Thieves, but, my how they made the most of it.
On the 10th February 2020, I went to see Amigo The Devil. The world was about six weeks from ending, basically. I’m not blaming Danny Kiranos for the two years we underwent, I’m just saying be careful in July, yeah?
But that night, in a room above a trendy pub a couple of miles away, he’d played to a decent gathering, and done so as the acoustic troubadour I’d imagined he was. Tonight, the room he’s in is packed, and without even being asked, his people are merrily screaming that “there’s only one kind of people in the world, people who die!” And it sounds anthemic, it’s cathartic, and ATD is kind of a rock star.
And he’s got a rock band. My goodness, they are loud, they are raw, and playing as a five piece. It makes this show one with a totally different vibe.
The thing about our friend Amigo (and I know I’ve said this in every review I’ve ever written about him) is that he isn’t like anyone else. You can point to Tom Waits if you want, Hammel On Trial maybe? But no. No one does it like the man from Florida.
No one uses words like he does on “Dahmer In Hollywood” or a touching “Different Anymore” about a friend that took his own life, or intersperses a song called “I Hope Your Husband Dies” with a story about how the chap in the song actually did (“I bet it feels different now, huh?” He asks with typical deadpan understatement), but then encourages a singalong of Smash Mouth before riffing to Slayer.
Kiranos, and I’ve considered this line for about half an hour, is a genius. A twisted one, but a genius all the same. How else do you explain “Crying At The Orgy”? Or “Drop For Every Hour”? And as for the title song of 2021’s “Born Against”: it’s just unhinged.
Nothing better explains the tightrope this gig walked than the fact that a fight had broken out during “Hungover In Jonestown” (broken up by ATD himself) and the very next song, a lament to his beloved dog sees him given a painting of the animal by a person in the crowd.
The songs too, have that fragile, raw beauty. “Liars Club”, the stunning “Cocaine And Abel” and the sorrow-filled “Another Man’s Grave” all have that feel.
The Banjo comes out for “Edmund Tempur” and a man that needs no more bonus points gets a shed load for hating encores (any right-minded person should, unless you’re Bruce Springsteen, I suppose) and instead doing “Hell And You” and a kind of quasi thrash metal version of “Murder At The Bingo Hall” before disappearing.
He’ll be back. He belongs on stage. Amigo The Devil’s songs are great on record but live, they crackle with palpable electricity, there’s a kind of danger too, but above all, there’s empathy.
The best have that – and he’s one of them I knew that – but playing here, tonight, the whole of Amigo The Devil found levels I was unaware that they had.