By Spike Brendle
The trek from Phoenix to Tucson can be brutal. I have done this many times as tours tend to push artists down south due to venues being booked up here in Phoenix. Its about an hour-and-a-half drive, and other than an abandoned amusement park and an ostrich ranch, there isn't much to look at. (Don't get too excited about the abandoned amusement park, it's just a few strange posts sticking out of the ground.) You have to really like the band you are making the three-hour turn around trip for, and when I heard Widowspeak was opening for Lord Huron on their way back through Arizona, my destiny had been chosen.
When we arrived downtown, the streets were closed for some sort of fair or festival. There were food trucks, artist booths, street performers, and even live bands sprinkled here and there in bars on the way to Rialto Theatre. (Kind of reminded me of Austin…tear) Widowspeak was on first, and we were able to walk right in and get nice and cozy about three rows back from the stage. When this happens, I (myself) am super excited because this means I get to experience an intimate performance from whomever it is I am watching, but I also feel sad because the artist is up there on stage and sees a large venue with just a few people inside. I can imagine this can be a little discouraging at times. (Don’t worry, it filled up quite nicely by about half way through their set.)
Widowspeak took the stage quietly, with incense burning in the background on Robert Earl Thomas’ amp. Their nine song set featured a good selection from their past three albums, as well as a few new tracks we were the “guinea pigs” for. After advising us of this, Molly Hamilton picked up a sparkly black Gretsch while Thomas holstered his harmonica and they introduced us to one of their upcoming singles (which I never confirmed, but I believe it was “Girls”.) “Gun Shy” came up next, which is a very fitting song for this historic, southern Arizona theatre. Like I mentioned earlier the crowd had finally shuffled their way into the theater, but with this they brought lots of talking. This got somewhat annoying since Widowspeak is a quieter, more mellow band. Their second to last song, “Harsh Realm” (a favorite of mine) broke through the chatter with Hamilton’s soft, fluffy cotton-esque vocals and Thomas’ twangy, desert guitar tone.
This was my third time seeing Widowspeak live, and again they did not disappoint. Although Thomas was wearing a Chris Isaak shirt, they did not play their cover of “Wicked Game,” which I did really want to hear, but I probably would have died, so maybe that was a good thing. Being a bassist, I was also once again jealous of their bassist's guitar. The first time I saw them (Sail Inn, 2012...which Thomas also described as “The hottest show ever”) they had a female bassist who donned a white Gibson Thunderbird. At Austin City Limits 2013 and tonight, the bass was played through a white Eastwood Airline replica, which I couldn’t stop staring at.
All Yours, due out in September, strays away from the first three albums as far as themes go. “We wanted it to be more real life. Again, it’s still nostalgic, and a little sad” Hamilton said. They returned to Jarvis Taveniere (produced their self-titled debut album) at Rear House in Brooklyn, NY for their upcoming release, which is gearing up to be one of my top albums of 2015 already.