Back in December, I had the opportunity to interview Bastard Winos. Recently, I caught up with the band and saw its performance at Fitzgerald's in Huntington Beach.
The band (well, three-fourths of it) kicked off its performance with a lowdown blues tune called "Orange Blossom." I don't know if it was the band's intention to begin with this song or if they chose to start with this one because the lead singer had not yet arrived. In any case, it was a tremendous way to begin the show, particularly with Harlis's guitar solo.
The band performed the first few tunes without Chile, and even though it was already pretty energetic, he kicked it into another gear. If I had to describe the performance of the Bastard Winos in a minimalist fashion, I would describe it as high-energy. Chris (who played both electric and upright bass) and Chile moved around a lot on the stage while Greg kept the beat and Harlis wailed on the guitar. On a few occasions, Chile jumped down and sang amidst the members of the audience that had gathered near the stage.
The gritty rock and roll of Bastard Winos would have been entertaining enough, but on this evening, the band was opening for a reunion of the legendary OC soul band Barrelhouse.
After a brief intermission, Barrelhouse took the stage and Harlis Sweetwater proved himself to be the hardest-working man in Orange County that evening. After providing guitar and backing vocals for Bastard Winos, he took the stage as the frontman of Barrelhouse. The crowd near the stage grew and people stood shoulder to shoulder as Barrelhouse performed.
The audience members clearly knew the band from way back as they sang along and danced to every tune Barrelhouse. I'll say this, too. Harlis, doing double-duty that night, outlasted me. He was still going strong when I left. I'll say one other thing. It was a tremendous night with two great bands, and I walked out of there with a CD of each one.
For more information about these bands, visit http://www.myspace.com/bastardwinos and http://www.myspace.com/barrelhouse.