Pete Droge & The Sinners – La Luna (Portland, OR)
Word was that Pete Droge wanted to record his new album, Find A Door, with the same musicians he would tour with, so as to discourage the impression that he’s some sort of singer-songwriter type backed by a bunch of studio musicians. So after the record’s release in June, the Sinners joined the HORDE tour for a series of dates, a somewhat ironic choice given Droge’s penchant for well-crafted songs rather than endless jams. Upon returning home to the Northwest in September, the band lined up a series of weekly gigs in Portland and Seattle in preparation for opening slots on fall tours with Sheryl Crow and Neil Young. These shows gave the hometown fans a chance to see the direction the Sinners have taken Droge’s songs.
Droge’s music has been dismissed by some as being too derivative of Tom Petty’s work. And though Peter Stroud’s lead guitar parts on songs like “Wolfgang” and “It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way” definitely give a nod towards Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, the rhythm section of drummer Rob Brill and bassist David Hull give a swift kick in the ass to the Petty comparisons.
Early on in the show, lazy renditions of “I’m Over You” and “Dear Diane” did little to distinguish themselves, but a version of “Northernbound Train” established a groove. As Stroud reeled off solo after solo, the rest of the band leaned into their instruments and exchanged knowing grins, and their four-part harmonies on the song’s chorus were a surprising bonus.
A late-set break in the pace played to Droge’s strong suit: melancholy songs full of tasty playing. The version of “Straylin Street” off Droge’s debut album Necktie Second was particularly strong. A show-closing cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” did little to suggest the HORDE tour was a beneficial experience for the band, as the song fell apart in the middle of a long jam with the musicians struggling to find the original song. With a lot of shows ahead of the in the coming year, the Sinners are bound to have moments where everything falls apart — but there also will be moments when the extended jams will make sense and serve Droge’s songs.