Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears played Walter's Friday night, fresh off half a dozen gigs at SXSW last month, including a high-profile show with soul father Smokey Robinson. The Houston gig was smoky in its own way, with Lewis and band debuting a few new songs and openers Grandfather Child playing the last of their shows before their 7" release party at Mangos this weekend.
Friday felt like the first real taste of summer we've had in Houston, and the inside of Walter's, which was sold out, was as hot as it gets as Lucas Gorham wailed on lap steel during Grandfather Child's set. The band's fucked-up blues had the crowd swaying and sweating before Black Joe Lewis took the stage. Houston musician Ian Varley, who plays keyboards in the Honeybears' video for "Sugarfoot" wasn't onstage Friday night, but the band was joined by Little Joe Washington, who gave Lewis a break from the guitar a few songs in. When he returned to the stage, Lewis announced that guitarist Zach Ernst was newly single, before launching into a Howlin' Wolf song.
As the band warmed up, Lewis started to play tricks on his horn section - keeping them on their toes with extra-long pauses during songs and James Brown-style call-outs. The fact that they can keep up, and that every single member of the six-piece Honeybears keeps their eyes glued to Lewis onstage shows his skill and a front man and bandleader.
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The band played a few new songs - "Big Black Snake" and "Booty City," remniscent of Edwin Starr's "25 Miles." As Little Joe Washington was playing Lewis' guitar with his teeth, he flipped it over to reveal magazine pictures of well-endowed nekkid ladies taped to the back of the Fender. Listen to his new songs along with older hits like "Big Booty Woman" and one thing becomes clear - Black Joe Lewis is an ass man. It's actually very charming, enough to have the ladies in the front constantly wooing over the singer for the band's hour-plus set. The guys, covered in sweat, took refuge in Walter's back room before returning for a funky encore of a few songs, closing with "Bitch, I Love You." Black Joe Lewis brings a bit of an older crowd to Walter's, but an energetic one nonetheless. Next time the Honeybears play in Houston they'll definitely need a bigger venue.
After the show, no doubt many members of the audience went home to make a little heat of their own.