When a band has a song entitled “Got To Have Rock and Roll,” you can get a pretty good idea of what they’re all about. After all, the song’s not called “Would Kind Of Like To Have Rock and Roll” or “Can Take Or Leave Rock and Roll.” No, they’ve got to have it. Heartless Bastards do indeed have such a song and are undoubtedly all about the rock and roll. Bandleader Erika Wennerstrom definitely seems to have a rock and roll heart, projecting a sort of tough/cool image onstage. While she didn’t seem to have a whole lot to say, she did seem rather appreciative of the crowd, who in turn, were appreciative of the band (I saw a few dancers and revellers up front). But she and the band basically let the power of the riff speak for them. Most tunes found them locking into a bluesy groove that brings up obvious comparisons to fellow Ohioans The Black Keys, but also at times had me thinking of Band Of Skulls. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Wennerstrom’s voice, which definitely helps to drive their songs.
Also impressing while reminding me of other bands was opener Futurebirds, whose sound seems to fall somewhere between My Morning Jacket and The Drive By Truckers. Except maybe with even more facial hair. Their sound has been described as “laid-back country-rock with an atmospheric, psychedelic twist.” Extended guitar jams and sweet harmonies abounded. I regret missing out on the first part of their set, but was glad I got to see some of it.
Overall, while each band takes obvious influence from various sources such as blues, garage rock, country rock, psychedelia, they were both definitely very good at what they do and put on entertaining sets. And if that means they weren’t always wholly unique, originality’s overrated anyways. Nobody ever claimed that rock and roll was about being original. Being good, though? That’s a good idea. And as I said, both Heartless Bastards and Futurebirds made a good impression on me on this night.