It was almost like being back in Houston: Sunday was sticky and steamy as Rocks Off arrived at Zilker Park around noon, and the only way we knew we could make it through was with a stiff straight shot of Southern soul. Luckily, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears were first up on the AMD stage.
Complete with coordinated choreography, Lewis and the Honeybears came out with guitars and horns blazing, updating Clifton Chenier by way of Sonny Boy Williamson on "Big Booty Baby," and slipping into the darkness of War-style funk on a new song and "Baby I'm Broke," complete with Houston's own Ian Varley giving his organ a workout; he's studied his Jimmy Smith well.
Besides being a powerhouse vocalist and dirty-fingernails chicken-scratch guitarist, Lewis is a bit of a demon on harmonica too, as he proved - when he wasn't introducing the band - on a slow Hound Dog Taylor instrumental. "She's So Scandalous," from this year's lights-out Lost Highway debut Tell 'Em What Your Name Is, was suffused with sweet fatback hornplay, and "Big Black Snake" and "Get Yo Shit" checked out entire volumes from the Stax library, from Lewis eerily Otis Redding-like vocals to Varley's simmering Booker T keyboards to the horn intro to "Shit," lifted straight from Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour."
"I gotta quit smoking," Lewis told the appreciative, contorting hometown crowd before "Shit." "I don't see how people can play two hours - we're only doing 45 minutes."
Be that as it may, Rocks Off doubts Lewis or the Honeybears will quit smoking anytime soon. They are, as they say around the way, the real deal.
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More photos of the set are on the next page.