Near the end of The BossHoss' show Wednesday night, Aftermath asked an Irish woman standing next to him in the crowd what she thought of seven-piece German alt-country ensemble.
"That man in dungarees is handsome and mannerly," was her quick reply.
We had no idea what to expect, not sure if it was a band of players or just some guys who'd been told to wear this hat, put on those boots, and stand like this. But we were completely taken aback by the throng that had already filled the bar well before the band took the stage.
A four-person video crew and all their bric-a-brac lent an air of urgency to the proceedings as The BossHoss, with a new album in the hopper waiting to drop, went into Day 2 of a quick Texas tour following a night onstage with Alejandro Esccovedo at Austin's Continental Club Tuesday.
When the band finally took up their positions, a buzz went through the crowd. Waiting for last minute sound adjustments, the drummer sat with a bemused grin on his face and thousand-yard-stare that looked like the eyes of a submariner about to push that little button that fires a torpedo into the midsection of a fat tanker.
And that was about what it seemed like as the band exploded into "Rodeo Radio."
With the harp player making all sorts of nasty Junior Wells sounds, The BossHoss actually hit a groove that took those of us who've been around here long enough back to the days of Jesse Dayton's Road Kings. It was nothing that anyone hasn't heard before, but this crowd hadn't come to hear anything revolutionary anyway.
The Berliners did seem somewhat taken aback that the Houston crowd didn't immediately fill in the floor in front of the band with dancers, and kept egging the crowd to come forward and be seen in the video. And after four or five songs, the crowd indeed obliged.
Two highlights of the evening were a rockabilly boogie take on Hendrix chestnut "Hey Joe" that, for a brief moment, caused us to imagine some ancient connection between rockabilly and German beer-hall anthems, and a hip-hoppy lark on Cameo's "Word Up," which finally sent the dancers into a frenzy.
The band found its deepest groove on a blistering version of "Shake Your Hips" that had the harp player standing on his chair, his head almost bumping the low wooden ceiling. Yes, it was a calculated schtick, but no one seemed to mind.
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When it was all over after a one-song encore, Rocks Off wasn't really sure whether we had witnessed some Johnny Cash Americana cliches gone way, way wrong or some kind of brutally ironic Berlin-intellectual post-industrialist art statement that we are too much of a hick to properly understand. But what did know was that The BossHoss delivered the fun.
Afterwards, the band and its extended entourage hung around on the front deck, smoking, drinking, mingling easily with a boisterous gaggle of characters, and talking about how wonderful Houston's weather is. No, really.