Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Some folks, particularly those in and around Austin, caught on to Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears shortly before they signed to Lost Highway in 2008. For many of the rest of us, the Black Joe Lewis revelation came in the form of their eponymous EP or, later in 2009, via their debut full-length, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! Their vintage soul-rock vibe arrived alongside a number of other artists with a similar sound that were starting to get attention outside of various local scenes, blogs and word of mouth. The Black Keys had released their coming out party just a year earlier in Attack & Release, and the Keys’ Dan Auerbach had unveiled his solo debut Keep it Hid in February of ’09. On the smoother (but no less sweaty) side of soul, Sharon Jones had built a respectable following after a few strong releases and an undiscriminating approach to venues she and the Dap Kings were willing to play.

So, it seemed BJL’s unwavering and aggressive tour schedule met with a fortuitous period for their brand of music. For those of us who hadn’t seen them live, but had appreciated their small but stout body of work, they fit neatly in that realm. They were another good band with another good neo-soul record that may have garnered plenty of speaker time in our homes, but little distinction beyond their more critically significant soul brethren at the time. For those of us who had yet to see them live, this approach was a disservice to the band.

It’s pertinent to note that this isn’t a record review of BJL’s March release, Scandalous. Nor is this a live show review of their recent Seattle stopover at The Crocodile. This is what happens when a live show opens your eyes to what a band is, and has you wondering once again–what’s the purpose of music? Is it for a record? Or is it for the live experience?

To put it plainly: After hundreds of live shows at mid-sized venues in numerous cities, I’ve never seen a show like this at a venue of this size, and seldom do I see this type of energy at a venue of any size. Very few bands treat a low-capacity room like a 6,000-seat amphitheater, with a palpable sense of respect toward onlookers, a combustible energy across every stage-romping band member, and a two-encore gift like it was New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden with a crowd screaming for more and not going home until they get it. And if that’s not enough, Joe Lewis even played the guitar with his face.

Only the good shit. Aquarium Drunkard is powered by its patrons. Keep the servers humming and help us continue doing it by pledging your support.

To continue reading, become a member or log in.