Saturday, June 25, 2011

Show review: Jason Webley, Destroy Nate Allen, The Gunshy at Panchos, 6/22

By Braden Nesin

Jason Webley (photo: Braden Nesin)
I walked through the door at Panchos just as The Gunshy was getting started. Picture, if you can, an acoustic punk Tom Waits, strumming his guitar and belting out ballads in a voice like gravel. He started out a little too rough around the edges for my tastes, but by the end of his set he was really growing on me. Self-referencing his heavy Pogues influences was a nice touch. All alone up there on stage he really gave it his all, and there’s no denying the kid has heart.

Mere moments after The Gunshy left the stage, Destroy Nate Allen took the floor, encouraging everyone to gather around them. They ushered people up on to the stage, along the walls, anywhere there was space for another body, and then proceeded to do their thing.

This adorably married couple from Portland, Oregon represent everything that I love about truly great punk rock. They screamed, they jumped around (a lot) and they had more fun than anyone within a five mile radius. This wasn’t so much them putting on a show as having a blast with a bunch of old friends they just met. They ran around the inside of the circle they had created, singing in peoples' faces and getting the crowd to sing along with them. They sang songs about eating more vegetables, songs about love and songs about which one of them was more punk rock (this tour it was Nate). Despite knowing who was coming next, I was genuinely sad when their set ended. Destroy Nate Allen are definitely a must see if they ever come back to Chicago.

Destroy Nate Allen (photo: Braden Nesin)
The crowd barely had a chance to order another drink before Jason Webley made his way through the crowd and did his sound check. Even that was enough to turn heads, as he played us a little ditty while he worked things out with the sound man. Sound check accomplished, he promised us he would be right back. He turned, walked off the stage, and then turned around and walked right back on again, and even though it was something of a joke it really felt for all the world like a genuine grand entrance, and from that moment on he owned the room.

He sings with such force that you can’t help but feel, on a personal level, every twist to every story he tells. He goes somewhat mad on stage -- not so much in a jumping-around-and-thrashing sort of way, but actually as if he were crazy. Heartfelt smiles turn to sinister smirks turn to screams of rage, and all in a matter of seconds. His head moves so quickly his dilapidated hat becomes a character of it’s own, flying all over the place. He tears through tunes on both guitar and accordion, stomping on a wooden board to add percussion.

Halfway through his set he started playing '80s covers on accordion, calling on hands from the crowd to shout out requests. He ended on "Freebird," as is only fitting, but with a nice sarcastic twist to the original lyrics. Towards the end of the evening, he took a moment to just talk to the crowd, explaining why he was taking a break. It never ceases to amaze me how someone so incredibly forceful while playing a song can become so incredibly shy speaking to a crowd. I may be a fanboy, but I honestly find it to be one of his most endearing traits.

If you ever get the opportunity to see Jason Webley perform live, don’t let anything stop you. He is a force of nature, and his recorded music just does not do him justice. Unfortunately, after 13 years of touring, Jason has decided to take a break. This year marks his last tour for some time, culminating in a massive show in his home town of Seattle on 11/11/11. I am seriously considering buying plane tickets. Still, though he may disappear from our lives for a spell, I have no doubt he’ll be back to blow us away again, as forces of nature tend to do.


Check out more show reviews:
Not in the Face, Moon Furies, Man Your Horse at Memories
The Kent McDaniel Band, Kraig Kenning at Custer's Last Stand fest
Project Film, Exit Ghost and more at Reggies
The 1900s, Gold Motel at Taste of Randolph
Ortolan, Bring Your Ray Gun at Pancho's

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