The Hype: Though he probably gets a bit more stage time as the tall, mustachioed guitar player in Santa Ana alt rock band Echo Echo, we were excited to see Jameson Burt step up and deliver a full-band performance with his self-titled side project for the first time in a year.
And though the night's main support and our featured Local's Only band Voxhaul Broadcast were forced to cancel due to health problems of bassist Phil Munsey, the crowd got a welcome surprise when seasoned singer-songwriter Billy Kernkamp put on his best plaid shirt and stepped up to fill the line-up gap. Add that to a solid set from openers Big Bad Wolf and there was plenty of reasons to shuffle into Lake Forest's best (and only?) place to catch aspiring local talent.
The Show: It's always a nice thrill to see a local rocker who's attitude, tattoos and tousled hair are backed up by some actual talent. Thankfully, Burt's soulful, throat-shredding wails offered both style and substance as he fulfilled the archetype for all things rock-n-roll. That includes skin-tight pants, Indian jewelry and a gold, animal tooth dangling from a chain around his neck. Yeah, this guy is all about the details.
Churning on the fuel of his solid, four-piece backing band, Jameson's quivering vocal lines and soaring folk rock presence were a shot of life to a late-night crowd that stayed until about midnight to hear songs like “Dirty Stream” and “Forget the Cold.” Though a few of his songs seemed to run together in a wash of soft strumming and understated folk arrangements, Burt's songs of tortured love and personal journeys shrouded in metaphor were suitable for the cozy crowd, who seemed to eat up every Counting Crows-sounding ballad he threw into the darkness.
Fortunately, things picked up quite a bit towards the end, as Burt tossed a guitar slide on his finger and fired up some wicked blues guitar playing on “Gun Full of Bullets.” Smoldering vocals gave way to agonizing howls and stomping rhythms that intermingled with the wide-eyed, “oh shit!” expressions from front-row crowd members who couldn't believe the passion they were seeing on stage. It also left us with a couple questions: Why the hell hasn't this band done more shows? And why didn't they hit us with more tracks like this sooner?
Pulling a clutch, last-minute maneuver to fill in for Voxhaul Broadcast, OC Music Award Winner Billy Kernkamp got the crowd ready for Jameson with some sneering, Boss-like Americana. Big flourishing choruses on “Ounce of Hope” and “What Good Am I” were served on a bed of lilting country guitar lines and pocket rhythms. As always, Kernkamp's sarcastic, slightly perverted stage banter with Honeypie vocalist Trisha Smith was a funny distraction in between “Song, Whiskey and Your Memory.” He closed the set with some help from Justin Suitor of Railroad to Alaska with his hand-clapping crowd pleaser “Black Blood.” Honeypie and Big Bad Wolf opened the show.
The Verdict: Though it got a little sleepy during the slow songs–of which there were many–the band's in Friday's line-up delivered their sets with plenty of great surprises and some peak moments of raw soul that really made us stand up and take notice. And then go back to the bar for another beer.