Readers, we have failed you—in a small way, that I will try to compensate for now. This past Sunday, a group came through town unheralded by press from either us at the Merc or that other weekly that writes about music sometimes. I now know that this is a damn shame that should not be repeated, because Brimstone Howl are a very good time.
I ended up at Slabtown on a friend's recommendation, knowing nothing about the band but their name, which I will admit had given me the unshakable sense that actual howling and/or overabundant use of fiery terms like "brimstone" were in store—neither of which were very enticing.
Thankfully, these elements were largely absent from the music itself. Well, maybe there was a little howling, but the good, subtle kind. Despite the fact that it was a Sunday night and the crowd was middle-sized at best, the band busted out a relentless set of rock 'n' roll in the original rhythm-meets-blues sense of the term. Plucking basslines, blissed-out guitars, and the pounds and clash of percussion inspired significant shimmying, and prominent vocal stylings combined the jaunt and tremble of Elvis Costello with the confidence and urgency of Bruce Springsteen—fitting, since the Brimstone Howl boys hail from Nebraska, which we all know the Boss loves.
After such a fine-tuned performance, I was not surprised to learn that the band is well established in the Midwest, with several releases under their collective belt, and production from some major players in blues-rock (including Jay Reatard and Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys). I was, however, still baffled as to how they managed to swing through Portland virtually unnoticed by press. The band members admitted that the show was a late addition to their brief West Coast tour, and I'm glad to say that they didn't seem too fazed by it. The ensuing hours we spent at Billy Ray's led me to confirm that a good time was had, and the next night they even jumped on the bill for a Dekum Manor show. Way to make the most of it, boys. We'll be sure to let the people know next time you pass through.
Brimstone Howl - "Shangri La"