Concert Review

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears Knockout Pittsburgh

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Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears hit the Club Stage at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE just before 9PM. If Joe Lewis was in the title fight with the crowd he put on one hell of a show, but he knocked everyone out with round one. Drawing on songs from their 2009 debut “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!”, their latest release “Scandalous”, and some brand new never-heard material; the band pushed it to the limits for nearly two hours. It was an amazing performance that had Joe and his Honeybears jamming into the crowd and rocking up close and personal with an intimate setting that felt like a once in a lifetime experience. Considering BJL has been on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, Late Show with David Letterman, Austin City Limits, and Later… with Jools Holland as well as been featured in such festivals as Bonnaroo, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Bumbershoot, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Sasquatch! Music Festival, Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, Musikfest, Latitude Festival, and Splendour in the Grass; it truly was an experience that all in the crowd will not be privy to soon again. Black Joe Lewis will blow up big time because a talent like his has no choice but to rise to the top.
Alan and Rob of PMM got to sit down with Joe backstage of Stage AE for an intimate conversation that had Joe pondering where the crazy ride of the music biz would take time next. Recently BJL lost his guitar player (Zach Ernst), as well as his drummer, and has parted ways with producer Jim Eno of Spoon fame. To say the least he is going through a transition period that has not slowed him down or turned him cynical. He seems to merely take these setbacks as ways to create new material and bring new lifeblood into the band. Considering that Joe felt the last few records as “a bit too polished” and is looking to find that happy medium of ‘raw without sounding like it was done in a garage’, the look for some new musicians and new producer should be the direction the career GPS ordered.
Black Joe described some of the new material he has been tooling with as eclectic and diverse. He even referenced one of the songs as, “sludge rock in the Black Sabbath” vein. Now that he is free of his record contract by amiable circumstances, Joe should be able to flourish either by putting the record out on his own or by being courted by various labels. His future is in his hands and that seems to be exactly where Joe has wanted to be all along.
According to his website, “Growing up in Austin and Round Rock, Joe took it all in—Delta and Chicago blues, Memphis soul, Detroit garage punk—and what came out the other end was, and is, unlike anything else out there. “I don’t know, man—I just kinda dove into it,” Lewis continues. “These neighbors of mine were in this country band and they got to go on tour all the time, and I had to go to work in this stupid factory. I was like, ‘Man, I gotta get in on that.’ So I pulled a guitar down off the wall of a pawn shop where I was workin’ at the time and learned stuff as I went along. The people I was playing with wanted to practice all the time, and I was like, ‘No, man, let’s get out there—I wanna try to do this shit.’ I pretty much learned on stage.” The skill with which Joe wails on guitar is astounding for being a self-taught musician.
Their name comes from “a crusted container of honey they found on the floor of their “disgusting” rehearsal room” and Lewis writes, “from direct, often bitter experience with unflinching veracity. The songs of Scandalous are littered with the debris of age-old issues: hard times and one-night stands, lying and cheating, redemption and revenge. Gritty, raunchy and real, his music is not for the squeamish, but experiencing it fully can be genuinely cathartic” (BJL website).
If you have never seen Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears they are still hitting up Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and California within the next few months (http://www.blackjoelewis.com/tour/). Joe plans to take a little time to work on new material and plan his next steps with some downtime in Montreal where he has resided for the past three years.

A. Welding & R. Eldridge

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