We'd like to think that the Wayfarer was just waiting for a band like Ted Z and the Wranglers to offer up some more legitimacy to the bar's name this weekend. A wayfarer, by definition, is an old-timey, rambling traveler who likes to go everywhere on foot. It's exactly the kind of vibe you imagine while stomping along in the crowd as the Costa Mesa quintet bestow their backwoods Americana charm from the stage. But that wasn't the only thing they had to unleash on Saturday night at the Costa Mesa club formerly known as Detroit Bar. The band came to celebrate the release of their Like a King EP with a packed house of family, fans and friends (many of them heavily bearded).
The band's mustachioed frontman Ted Zakka wasn't shy about getting the audience nice and loose as they commenced some tightly spun rock-tinged country tunes. Before diving into their song "Rollin,'" which required shouting "Hey" every few seconds, Zakka took the opportunity to get some crowd participation going."Every time we yell 'Hey!' you gotta take a drink," Zakka yelled. It definitely seemed like the type of crowd to take him up on his offer. The cowboy/cowgirl mentality shown through in just about everyone close enough to get truly swept up in the fervor on stage.
Bassist Daniel Mages, guitarists Jacksone Leverone and Mike Layton and drummer Mike Myers bounced their skills off of each other, retaining a good amount of raw energy in the loping rhythms and slide-driven riffs while Zakka barked and crooned lyrics about unlucky drifters ("Heaven's Rent"), winning back the girl ("Virginia") and then kicking her ass out the door ("Ball and Chain"). Though this wasn't really a line dancing crowd, we did see plenty of drunk do-si-doing going on between some ladies in the audience as they tried not to let go of their mason jars full of booze from the bar (not really our favorite vessel for alcohol, but at this show it kinda made sense). With the right balance between rowdy party songs and slow balladry, Ted Z and the Wranglers created a barn burner inside the Wayfarer that seemed well worth the trip.
Thankfully, the opening acts made sure it didn't feel like too long of a road to get to the end of a show once we got inside. We walked in during the opening set from Hank and Her Ponies, who warmed up the audience with moody, reverb-laden melodies from dual female vocalists backed by a full band. They were followed by Ranger, who doled out a mixture of big band bluster and breathy acoustic songs led by vocalist Nicole Vaughn. Main support for the night came from L.A. blues rock band The Record Company who wailed away on some crunchy, hard-pounding riffs mixed with down-home slide guitar and the elastic vocals of frontman Chris Vos who worked the stage pretty well alongside bassist Alex Stiff and Mark Cardoza. His soulful howl often came with a jig or two once they laid into the choruses. By the end of the night, the tightly packed bill managed to make the new Costa Mesa haunt seem a little more worn in, which is a good thing.
Critical Bias: Though I'm not the biggest country fan, after a few shots of whiskey, it's hard not to feel a little bit like a cowboy.
The Crowd: You could kinda tell everybody in the bar listened Wilco.
Overheard: A guy to his friend: "He said 'Hey!' dude, fucking drink that shit!" Friend: "Hey! I'm gonna go throw up now."
Random Notebook Dump: You don't tend to see that much live painting going on at these Americana rock shows, but artist Christiana Lewis seemed to having plenty of fun painting a giant canvas off to the side on the stage. Pretty cool.