Situated on a wood pallet onstage, Eric Gebhardt gave off the notion that he was without a full band. But even as a one-man performer, Red Mouth had the whole place fooled. His drum kit was his left-legged, leather-heeled boot and a tambourine on the floor when it wasn't in his right hand. Armed with a hollering voice, as muggy as his Alabama beginnings, and a mean old blues guitar, Red Mouth couldn't be more complete.
Red Mouth quickly killed any offstage chatter as he pounded his left boot onto the floor on beat and bellowed out "Heflin Hollis" with a tone so deep and loud, accented moreover by the rattlesnake-like shakes of his tambourine.
But it was when Red Mouth took to to his electric guitar that it really got loud, especially on "What's Who Is Who," off of "Saint Red Mouth," released in 2009. Red Mouth uses simplicity to a sonic advantage by building up on volume with strategic chord repetitions, creating a sizable sound to accompany his deep, howling vocals.
In continuation of the southern half of the bill, Memphis-based Amy LaVere and band made their appearance and opened with "Damn Love Song," the introductory track from her most recent album, "Stranger Me." LaVere has a voice that's breathy and youthful; she never wavers as she takes command of an upright bass that's taller than she is.
But it's when LaVere plucks and slaps her bass with a knowing ferocity on "Red Banks" that her soft vocals are strikingly contrasted with not just the bass but also the dark nature of a man who "made a hole in the river/he didn't make no sound," accompanied by softly-picked guitar melodies and booming drums.
Between Amy LaVere's set ending and Magic City's set beginning, a switch was flipped from Americana and blues to hard rock and noise jams. Magic City put its set in motion with "Poison," a song that starts out at a crawl and eventually takes a shape as sinister as the potion that lead singer Larry Bulawsky describes, complete with gin and dehydrated sin, as well as a low-dribbling bass line and eerie organ keyboards.
Magic City is a mechanically-sound unit, operating as a set of pulleys and gears with a flexibility and simultaneous tightness that's not easily forged. Gravelly vocals, crunchy guitar riffs, squiggly sounding fills and constant drumming were plentiful, but heard prominently on "Animal Hair." The song has a high count of beats per minute, something that Magic City seemed to one-up itself on as they plowed through each song. "Mind Right" showcased J.J. Hamon and Bulawsky as aficionados of guitar distortion.
The order of bands seemed to have a theme of loudness, and Bug Chaser ascended as the loudest and the last to take the stage. Leaving the stage a bit cramped with eight people, Bug Chaser played futuristic, noisy pop music with more than frequent bouts of jams during songs, something that may be inevitable in a band of its size. The vocals were often joyfully inaudible, but that didn't undercut the quality of the songs. Rather, it helped further the cloud of sound being created by Bug Chaser for a crowd that had only slightly slimmed down in size since the beginning of the show.
By the end of the night, no matter which bands or musical styles the audience had come to witness, we all left Off Broadway with a satisfied ringing in our ears.