Swingin’ with Crimmins, Bombadil, and Megan Jean

Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, Bombadil, Megan Jean and the KFB
The Pour House, Dec. 9  

We had a ton of hot, jazzy fun last summer when we caught Atlanta-based songwriter, guitarist, and pianist Blair Crimmins and his swingin’ band the Hookers on the same bill with Megan Jean and the KFB at the Tin Roof, so we expected another great night on Sun. Dec. 9 at the Pour House. With the addition of Durham, N.C.-based pop trio Bombadil on board, we got even more joy than we expected.

Megan Jean Glemboski and Byrne Klay opened the show with an early set that kicked up around 9 p.m. They touched on a few classic fan favorites from their macabre indie release Dead Woman Walkin’, but they mostly showcased new material — much of which will be on their forthcoming studio album, The Devil Herself (tentatively due in March). A small crowd on hand swayed and grooved to it all.

With sassy grace and wide-eyed enthusiasm, Glemboski switched between her vintage acoustic guitar and washboard, stepping on a bass drum pedal/tom-tom contraption for the downbeats along the way. Klay, looking as stoic as ever, plucked and bowed a full upright bass and occasional played a five-string banjo. Some of the new tunes, like the rocker about the hometown hero and the waltzy ballad about the Martians, rolled with more soul/R&B style than usual.

Bombadil’s quirky, delicate performance on Sunday was our proper initiation into their sophisticated and dynamic twist on vintage pop. We had assumed they were more of straightforward indie rock combo, perhaps leaning toward a roots/Americana style (they are signed to Ramseur Records, home of the Avett Brothers, after all). Our assumption was way, way off the mark. Clad in customized suits and sharp neckties, drummer James Phillips, bassist Daniel Michalak, and pianist Stuart Robinson resembled a British Invasion act circa 1964 more than a current alt-country/indie group.

Designating each musician with a specific instrument isn’t fair, as they swapped instruments and lead vocal roles from song to song. Robinson started on piano before moving to ukulele and drums. Michalak handled electric bass, but took hold of piano and harmonica as well. Phillips mostly kept time on the drums and trashy/cracked cymbals, but he plucked the bass, too. All three even left the stage at one point and gathered in the middle of the audience for an a cappella song before jumping back on stage.

Bombadil’s poetic lyrics told melancholic tales of loneliness, heartache, awkwardness, puppy love, suicide, and murder-by-drowning. Some verses were witty and sarcastic, while others were genuinely sad and morose. The piano-driven music tended to be sparse and carefully accentuated. A cinematic tone permeated the entire set, and their intense performance captivated the audience.

If Bombadil’s set came across like an offbeat pop/rock recital that put the listeners on edge, Blair Crimmins and his latest lineup of Hookers cranked things up into a full-blown retro/swing dance bash. Animated and full of energy, Crimmins switched between piano, acoustic six-string, and banjo as he skillfully led his combo – comprised of trumpet, woodwinds, upright bass, and drums — through a high-energy set of ragtime, Vaudevillian jazz, brassy blues, and exotic excursions.

From Latin beats to slinky blues rhythms, the thump of the music inspired several couples to hit the dance floor. Stephen Duane of the local Roaring Twenties Hot Jazz Dance Club demonstrated some of the fanciest steps of the night.

Crimmins and the Hookers weren’t dainty about their delivery. They belted out jumpy melodies and peppery solos with conviction and confidence. Crimmins even added a dash of Jerry Lee Lewis-style showmanship and pub-band cheerfulness from song to song.

Photos by Jessica Mickey and Ballard Lesemann.



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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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