Beer bottles and glasses of half-melted spirits were held high during The White Buffalo's performance at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Friday night. Jacob Smith, the band's stoic-faced frontman, began his set with mellow tunes from his sunburst acoustic guitar and as he slowly brought the rest of his band on stage, palpable energy and the smell of illegal substances weaved through the crowd. From the beginning of the performance, Smith's sage presence seemed fit for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers."
"I was 19 when I got my first guitar," said Smith. "There were no intentions of being a singer/songwriter. It was just something that came very natural to me."
The band's rugged sound, rooted in folk rock with the a dash of slide guitar, teeters on a country twang that plenty of Texans would tip their cowboy hats to. Each band member donned some variation of flannel and pearl snaps, a fashion choice that pulls at this southern girl's heartstrings. The audience, equally enamored by Smith's rustic looks, didn't hesitate to sing along to the single "Pilot" from his latest album, Once Upon a Time in the West.
Smith's vocals harbor a strong, earthy tone-- think Eddie Vedder-gone-country. His dry lyrics, often in story-telling form, rustle up smiles in the crowd as most of them tell of drinking, women, love mishaps and personal triumphs.
"One of my things is not to have an agenda," Smith said on stage. "I like to take people on journeys through the stories in my song. There's a dying breed of people who are actually storytellers."
In the song "B.B. Guns and Dirt Bikes," Smith's lyrics talk about growing up in the suburbs of SoCal, echoing a very American feel of prepubescent adventures.
With each song, the house's energy increased (or maybe it was the alcohol). Half way through his set, when Smith's broken guitar string created a pause in the action, the front man used the moment to flash a smile as sweat dripped from his face. Shortly after the hour and a half set, The White Buffalo
jumped back on stage to pump out three more encores that finally put the crowd to bed.
Critic's Bias: I'm from Georgia and I play guitar.
The Crowd: It was apparent that The White Buffalo has created a loyal following as almost everyone in the crowd knew his lyrics and gave personal one name shout-outs that frontman Jake Smith seemed to know.
Overheard in the crowd: "You can't come to his show unless you know the lyrics! What! You don't know the lyrics to this song?!"
Random Notebook Dump: I stood by a couple who recently got married and had the The White Buffalo's "Love Song 1" as their wedding song.