April 4, 2019

Concert #868 - Tim Bluhm at McCabe's Guitar Shop (March 31, 2019)

Neither Tim Bluhm, the evening's headliner, nor the Coffis Brothers, the opening act, are household names, but - as it once again turned out - a household name is not a prerequisite to great entertainment and top-notch musicianship.

I went to last Sunday's show rather unprepared, in the sense that I could not name a single song of either of the two acts that were scheduled to appear. When the Santa Cruz-based Coffis Brothers took the stage, I remember thinking "Go ahead guys, surprise me". And surprise they did, and then some. With catchy uptempo songs such as "Bad Luck", "You And Me" and "Better Days", they made instant fans out of me. Without sounding derivative, their music brought to mind the radio-friendly folk-rock of the seventies and maybe there was a touch of Tom Petty there as well. I found their country-tinged rock & roll tremendously enjoyable even at first blush and, by the way, Jamie and Kellen Coffis, the unmistakable leaders of the band, co-wrote all those great songs.

The Coffis Brothers at McCabe's

Band line-up
Jamie Coffis - Lead vocals, keyboards
Kellen Coffis - Lead vocals, guitar (acoustic)
Kyle Poppen - Lead guitar (electric)
Aidan Collins - Bass, backup vocals
Sam Kellerman - Drums

The band sounded great as they rocked the place - listening to them was pure joy. I particularly enjoyed Kyle Poppen's guitar playing and also Sam Kellerman's understated drumming. Sadly, they were allotted a playing time of only thirty minutes. The brevity of their set left me wanting for a lot more and I do hope to see them again at McCabe's, preferably in a headlining role.

Kellen Coffis, Aidan Collins & Jamie Coffis at McCabe's
After a short intermission, Tim Bluhm came out with an acoustic guitar, sang "Do It Easy", then brought out his band. Proving that he is a class act, Tim proceeded to introduce his musical cohorts before anyone played a single note.

Band line-up
James DePrato - Electric guitars
Josh Yenne - Pedal steel guitar
Dom Billet - Drums
Nick Bearden - Bass guitar

What followed was an outstanding set that consisted of songs from "Sorta Surviving", Tim's just-released new album, and a few of his older numbers. The three cover songs that he sang for us - Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone", Merle Haggard's "Kern River" and "Del Rio Dan", a somewhat obscure song from the repertoire of the Everly Brothers - also appear on "Sorta Surviving". Other than the covers, Tim wrote all the songs that he sang for us and there weren't any duds among them.

Tim Bluhm at McCabe's
With a voice and phrasing that are perfectly suited for the Americana genre, Tim kept the show rolling along with mostly up-tempo songs and minimal talk. Some of the songs I liked the best were "No Way To Steer", "Jimmy West" and "Squeaky Wheels", all culled from "Sorta Surviving", and "Clean Me Up", an older Mother Hips number.

Individually and collectively, James, Josh, Dom and Nick deserve a lot of credit for the success of the evening. Playing like a true band, they provided outstanding support to Tim Bluhm. I was particularly impressed with the band's epic crescendo on "The Only Solution", the third and final song of the encore. Dom Billet deserves special kudos for keeping the decibel level of his drumming in line with the intimate size of the concert room.

Tim Bluhm & James DePrato at McCabe's
Sticking with his printed set list, Tim and his band played for about ninety minutes and we all went home as satisfied customers. Overall, I rate this show as one of the best ones I have ever attended at McCabe's, and that's quite a compliment.
The set list
The end of the show - Tim Bluhm thanks the crowd
The end of the show - Dom Billet (left) & Josh Yenne
At the end of the show, I walked straight to the merch table and bought Tim Bluhm's "Sorta Surviving" and also "Roll With It", the most recent offering of the Coffis Brothers - it always feels good buying music directly from the artist.

The stage

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