Concert review: Rock & roll tornadoes hit Off Broadway with Ha Ha Tonka and Spring Standards, Friday, April 22
On Friday night, amid tornado sirens and bouts of torrential down pour, college frat boys, rained-out Cardinal fans and music revelers alike made it to Off Broadway for a whiskey-filled tribute to Missouri roots and southern rock.
Opening for Ha Ha Tonka, the Spring Standards give new meaning to the term “hair band.” With the band members’ locks suggesting a ginger-haired Grace Potter to early ’90s grunge and a white-man afro that could stand up against Dylan’s famous curly mop, the Spring Standards are a small indie band out of New York that creates a sound much bigger than their three-person lineup. They really showcased their talents when they brought out their eclectic mix of interchanging instruments like the melodica and harmonica. My initial apprehension of their song about sharks, aptly named “Sharks” was eased after the song played out much like their others — a storybook song accompanied by diverse instruments and high energy.
The mood of the night was that of camaraderie and jovial enjoyment: Taking shots of whiskey to toasts of the Cardinals, stormy weather and their entry into Billboard’s Top 200, Ha Ha Tonka seemed happy to be back in their home state and playing to familiar faces.
These West Plains, Mo. natives seemed to be enjoying their stop in St. Louis, just as much as the crowd was, maybe even more so. Settling into Off Broadway’s intimate setting, the boys of Ha Ha Tonka were in their element and enjoying every second of it. The band engaged the audience, enticing them to join in on the fun; it is no wonder these small-town Missouri boys have created such a family-like following.
Ha Ha Tonka opened with “The Usual Suspects” off the new album, Death of a Decade. This latest album is a testament to the band’s growing maturity and entry into refined music adulthood. With music that encompasses the sounds of traditional and modern Americana, these southern boys stay true to their roots, while also evolving into a band comfortable with their sound and not afraid to go off into rock-filled tangents or acoustic harmonies.
The band’s Ozark roots really show when Brett Anderson displays his finger picking skills on the mandolin during folksier tunes. “Westward Bound,” a celebratory gospel-sounding tune talking about wasted youth, drips with the excitement of a band finding themselves. The group closed the show with a rambunctious cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” — ending the night on an incredible high note, with lead singer Brian Roberts letting go on his vocals and the band as a whole just letting loose.