Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Thursday, 09 February 2012 14:28

Concert review: Heartless Bastards and Hacienda bring new songs and sounds to the Firebird, Wednesday, February 8

Concert review: Heartless Bastards and Hacienda bring new songs and sounds to the Firebird, Wednesday, February 8 Kate McDaniel
Written by Erin Frank
Rate this item
(3 votes)

Hacienda, an impressively-bearded four-piece family band from San Antonio, opened for Heartless Bastards last night at the Firebird. While the bands aren't labelmates, their styles are somewhat similar and make for a well-paired touring team.

Hacienda is comprised of brothers Abraham (piano), Rene (bass) and Jaime Villanueva (drums), with cousin Dante Schwebel (guitar). Officially, all members contribute to vocals, although Rene Villanueva and Schwebel shared much of the spotlight last night. Rene mentioned that the current tour was the second time the band had accompanied Heartless Bastards on the road.

Most of Hacienda's set featured tracks from their new album, an as-yet-untitled project recorded in Nashville (a single from the album, "Savage" is already on iTunes). The newer songs sounded polished and produced with a pop sensibility, but a few standouts like "Natural Life" and the "Honaloochie Boogie"-like "Let Me Go" retained the grittier, funkier feel of Hacienda's previous albums, 2010's "Big Red & Barbacoa" and 2008's "Loud Is the Night." I preferred these selections, the thrown-together feel of the compositions enhanced by dirty keyboards and echoey vocals. It's a throwback sound popularized by the Black Keys, a band for whom Hacienda opened after Dan Auerbach heard their demos. According to Hacienda's MySpace page, Auerbach also recorded them at his home studio in Ohio.

Veteran pros from Austin, Heartless Bastards opened their headlining set with "Marathon," a subdued track from their upcoming album "Arrow," to be released February 14. It's a hushed sort of strummer pulled from folkishness by ethereal cymbals and Erika Wennerstrom's gorgeously raw voice. I hereby nominate "Marathon" to be the next Best Road Ballad, as it far surpasses "Home Sweet Home" in both creativity and not-having-anything-to-do-with-Vince Neil.

Wennerstrom is a soul singer with the veneer of Grace Slick, a tiny powerhouse who can take an audience down a rabbit hole of bluesy psych pop. Wennerstrom looks like Kim Gordon but that's where the similarity ends; like peers the Duke Spirit and the Black Angels, the Heartless Bastards' style is rooted in the bedrock of '70s-era rock 'n' roll made surreal by dizzying instrumentals and, last night at the Firebird, a Chinese language-subtitled Bluray disc of "Roadhouse" playing behind the bar.

While Wennerstrom is the band's founder, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist and therefore commands most of the attention, she never steals focus from her bandmates. Heartless Bastards is a tightly knit group of performers whose skill at playing together is glossed by a sense of comfort and familiarity. And they stick to playing together. There was some subdued stage banter, but chatting wasn't the point.

The point was Dave Colvin's marching band drums of "Witchy Poo," Mark Nathan's high lonesome guitar on the American gothic ballad "The Arrow and the Beast" and a subtle heartbeat rhythm from bassist Jesse Ebaugh, who was recently tapped to play on Craig Finn's solo album, "Clear Eyes Full Heart." And, yes, the tender, smoky, from-the-belt vocals of Wennerstrom on nearly every song, even "Blue Day," which was drenched in Zeppelin-like feedback without overwhelming the crowd or any individual musician.

The promotion of "Arrow" was the order of the evening, with many of the new tracks enthusiastically cheered by the audience although many of them haven't been released yet. Seldom is a new album performed with such confidence, but with Wennerstrom in the lead -- can you tell I'm a little bit in love with her? -- even the more experimental songs featuring maracas, trilling tambourine and one fuzzy tune described as "doom metal" came out straight and true. I sincerely hope the Heartless Bastards' knack for direction leads them back to St. Louis soon.

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…

88.1 KDHX Shows

m-crowd.jpg

KDHX Recommends

January
Saturday
17

Recording Clinic with Patrick Crecelius

KDHX is proud to host a DIY mixing workshop for musicians at The Stage at KDHX. The clinic will be taught by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, his credits include such local artists as Ryan...


January
Sunday
18

88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes The Boogers

The Boogers are the brainchild of Dr. Paul Crowe. Fatherhood, a PhD in Developmental Psychology, and 20 years of sloggin' it in wretched clubs as a punk rocker - even opening for Dee Dee Ramone and Marky Ramone - formed Paul's...


February
Sunday
01

Discovery Series

The Discovery Series, a 10-event series spanning February to June, 2015, will not only bring you new music, but also music-focused interactive sessions that take a look at how music plays a role in our society. Each month the...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

3 users and 10416 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook