Concert Review: Wagons / Dirt Daubers / Heelsplitter – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH – 09/11/2011

Well Cleveland, I hate to say it, but you all missed out Sunday night on one hell of a show.  I am not one to usually say things like that, but Sunday night was an amazing night of music and chances are, you were not there.  For those of you who were though, I am sure you can all agree that Wagons, The Dirt Daubers, and Heelsplitter all put on a memorable show.

Sunday night was all about Americana, folk, and outlaw country inside the Beachland Tavern.  Making a triumphant return to the best little venue in Cleveland, Henry Wagons and his band Wagons traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia making sure that Cleveland was one of their stops.  About a year ago, Henry Wagons came to the states without his band and played a solo set at the Beachland Tavern.  Later that night Wagons told me that he would bring the rest of his band back soon and play Cleveland again.  The man kept his word.

Local openers Heelsplitter wowed me instantly with their “Frankenbass”, a homemade upright bass with the body being a drum and one string bolted to neck of the instrument.  The two bearded males and cute female act played some awesome songs and had me actually question myself at one time, “are these guys really from Cleveland?”  The band reminded me of Split Lip Rayfield, a band I really adore, but did not completely rip them off.  Frankenbass, banjos, washboard, and no drums provided for a great start to the night.   I loved it when the trio all switched up their instruments and played more tunes.  I witnessed various Frankenbass playing styles  from plucking to beating the hell out of and must say, marveled at its creation.

Up next was the husband / wife act The Dirt Daubers.  Featuring JD Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers, the duo, normally a threesome, admitted that they were missing their bass player and Jess would be filling in on the kick drum.  Their set was full of rockabilly, blues, country goodness and it was just two people on the stage playing the music.  Never mind the fact that Jess was dressed in quite the adorable dress, she kicked that drum all through their set in high heels as if she had done it many times prior.  Laughs were shared by the duo and crowd she Jess admitted a couple songs in that “this is fucking hard” and soon said that if she kept playing the kick drum she was going to have one Popeye leg.

JD looked like Buddy Holly in a way with his banjo and harmonicas strapped to him.  Throughout their set, they played songs from their upcoming new album titled Wake Up Sinners. I could not help but be amazed when JD would rip a harmonica out of one of the holsters attached to him and would play it.  I was more impressed when JD grabbed his washboard and showed the crowd his secret to not using a strap to secure the washboard – he stuck the legs in his front pockets.

The duo played a few more songs and covered Elvis as well as Gene Autry.  Towards the end of their set played a fast paced jam featuring a kazoo.  It was the best kazoo playing I have ever heard.

I wanted to hear more from the couple, and I think they wanted to play more, but had to kindly exit the stage and make way for the headliners.

It turned out a lot of people came to see The Dirt Daubers over Wagons and I thought for a moment some people might pick up and leave before the main act, but Jess told the crowd how amazing and fun they were the other night.  She even stated that Henry dedicated each of the seven songs on his set to each of the seven people that were in the bar the night before.  I would estimate that there were about 20 people in the tavern by the time Wagons took stage.

Opening with “Shake & Tumble” off the bands brand new release, Wagons turned the heads of anyone who was not looking at the stage.  It was not all business for the band as Henry talked to the crowd throughout songs confessing he knows “what a big deal primetime television is” and admitted that he has been powered by buttered vegetables for the last couple of days.

Henry mentioned Cracker Barrel quite a few times.  The man loves his American cuisine.  He even took a moment to ask the crowd where he could get some bacon ice cream and seemed disappointed when someone screamed back IHOP.

While playing “Save Me”, Henry left his band behind and jumped into the crowd headband and all.  Masking the best of his surroundings, he joked with the crowd how the band was probably sick of him and soon returned to his brethren and played “Never Been To Spain”.  I heard Henry play this song last year at his solo performance, but when the band backed him up this time, I was just floored with how awesome it sounded.  The band then moved into Wagons’ version of “The Gambler”, where Henry told the crowd that he wanted to be the next Kenny Rogers.

Before the band broke into “Driving Home” Henry asked for tips on getting to Chicago.  Someone mentioned toll booths and, of course, Henry found humor and asked “tall boobs?”

The rest of the band was included in discussions as well and props were given to This Way Out, the sweet shop that lies below the Beachland.  Once of the band members actually bought a shirt there prior to the show.  They did not say why, but after the show I found out he did that because he was wearing a Cincinnati Bangles shirt.  He was not trying to be crude, he seriously had no idea.  Apparently someone yelled at him before the show started.

Hoping to hear more songs by Wagons, they played more personal “Moon Into The Sun” and then closed the night with “Willie Nelson”, a track about, you guessed it…  The soon crowd was all singing along “he likes some salt and pepper with his evening meal” with the band and soon after the set came to an end.

There could have been two people or two hundred in the tavern Sunday night.  The band did not care one bit and played their hearts out to all those who attended.  The people that were lucky enough to witness that which is Wagons showed their approval throughout the entire set.  Ironically one of the guitarists told everyone that he had played a ton of shows and Cleveland was one of the best shows he ever played.  He was dead serious too.  After everything was said and done I was chatting with the band and it was either Mark or Chad that told me he was dead serious about what he said.  He loved the tavern that he just played in and was glad to have been able to do so.  They all told me they would be back again one day to rock out.  I know that is not a lie either.  I see big things coming from this Aussie outlaw county band.

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