Blue Mountain / Nadine – Hi-Pointe (St. Louis, MO)
You can glimpse it when the set is done, that stray, spent feeling. The drummer leans against the wall, drifting away; the band quietly accepts compliments, avoiding eyes, and then quickly sets to hauling amps and dismantling drums. Rock ‘n’ roll is a catharsis that doesn’t always reach the performers who pour themselves into the audience. And a fan can’t return the intense engagement of their music. Their fingers and throats burn, their heads ring, and their spirit gets offered up. When the show’s over, no matter how good, something blank and unfulfilled lingers over them.
The narrow, shotgun bar was packed well before Nadine (making their debut) tuned up. The St. Louis band is composed of former members of Sourpatch and multi-instrumentalist Steve Rauner. They seemed nervous as the first day of school; lead singer Adam Reichman dodged his mike and Rauner clenched his Telecaster, his whole body a grimace, as though physically connected to the electricity. The band endured spikes of feedback and the lights going black, until that cliched but essential concept “chemistry” took hold. Something serious and genuine, something more than just twangy rock, was happening: The melodies flowed towards thrilling peaks in the stop-time shifts, and when Reichman cried, “That old black hole wants to be a sun again,” it sounded more than just smart.
It’s hard to say where Blue Mountain is heading. Their set offered some new numbers, and, save a gentle ballad, none struck as forcefully as the songs from Dog Days, with their long-drawn syllables and space. Their sound remains loud and remarkably layered. Frank Coutch isn’t a versatile drummer, but his relentless splash centers everything. Laurie Stirratt flat-picks her bass, often strumming chords for extra rhythm, and when her voice joins Cary Hudson’s, the effect is almost choral. Hudson, his dungarees packed with harmonicas, put his Les Paul through different open tunings all night, adding fresh chords and slide to his Burton-esque picking patterns.
This evening they drew from their most country of melodies, starting with their electrocution of “Shady Grove”, then “Mountain Girl”, “Wink”, “Eyes of a Child” and “Jimmy Carter”. After some 15 songs, they closed with the Stones’s “Torn and Frayed” and a Hilltops tune, “Dead End Street.”
For an encore, Hudson toasted “love and the Replacements” before crashing into “Unsatisfied” (though he changed the key word to “Satisfied” when he sang it). But the final song, an ancient blues called “Go Away Devil”, merged the trio’s get-the-hell-out desperation and fragile harmony as well as anything. By the end, Coutch drummed in a shaking seizure, Hudson fell to his knees and back, raking his slide further and further up the neck, and Stirratt stood to the side, eyes closed, body rocking, as if lost in another world.