John Egan at Rudyard’s September 6, 2007
Better Than: Winning.
Download: Some nerve, then get to a live show and buy whatever Egan is selling. In the meantime, go to www.myspace.com/thejohnegan.
“Little girl is leavin’ me.”
I’ve seen John Egan three times, and he’s never been introduced to the audience. He’s never introduced his songs or said flowery things about what inspired him to write them. Egan is a seasoned student of the Walk Softly and Carry A Big Stick school of live performance, lending boatloads of legitimacy to his ultra-funky, hardcore blues. After all, a bluesman doesn’t put you on his knee and coddle you, e wanders out of the ether with the Devil on his back and does some shamanistic stuff that makes you want to burn down your own house.
Egan played between Matt Harlin and Jimmy Pizzitola on Thursday night, and while I have nothing against those fellas, the lineup made Egan’s set seem a lot like being kicked in the face during church.
“How you like your brand new cage?”
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Egan’s keen sense of dynamics pervaded the set; the stompers (“100 Proof” chief among them) were more brooding than usual and muscled along beneath slide guitar fireworks that made it seem as though the man was standing on the edge of the apocalypse. Whether Egan is fighting Armageddon or just trying to provide us with a palatable end-times soundtrack is debatable. Either way, he’s the first person to mention John the Revelator in the context of the 21st century and make it seem like you ought to pay attention. When he pulled back, it was for equally intense atmospheric guitar work-outs and thick, soul-ridden vocals (“Soul music that could raise the dead,” he might say.)
“The same mistake can be your lucky break, over and over again.”
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This isn’t the White Stripes’ bombast. This isn’t Scott H. Biram’s abject anger. This is blues even when it sounds like folk, pure hair-ablaze Americana-tinged, stolen car, dead drunk in a muddy ditch with no way home . . . wait, what ‘home’? When Egan launches into the stratosphere – which takes about 50 seconds, in my experience, and much less Thursday night – there’s nothing to keep you from going along. When you’ve been wronged by your parents, your girl, God, the police, yourself and a whole lot of people you’ve never even met, Egan will be in the background slapping his resonator like it did something wrong.
“You can wait around for the man I’ll never be.”
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Egan has seen the underbelly of his own soul and lived to tell about it. Whether he went searching for it or found it accidentally, looking up one night laying next to an empty bottle of McCormick’s, is of no consequence.
The handful of shushers in the room did what they could to stymie the excessive rambling coming from stage left; I couldn’t be bothered. If you can sit near a stage on which John Egan is playing and fail to take notice, you have much larger issues than not knowing when to shut the hell up.
Personal Bias: Immeasurable amounts. Egan is the kind of musician that made me quit playing music. If there’s ever a John Egan Fan Club, I’ll be the president. Random Detail: This was my first trip to a non-smoking Rudyard’s. It was disorienting, but welcome.
By the Way: Anyone interested in starting a John Egan Fan Club? -- Chris Henderson