Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hacienda and Those Darlins at the Horseshoe
My notepads and camera are packed away until my second-floor renovations are finished this week, so I'm afraid you only get a half-assed account of Tuesday night's show and this failed attempt at creating an arty photograph that I took of Those Darlins last March in Austin, Texas.

I wanted to see Hacienda at South By Southwest last year, too, but didn't fit the San Antonio, Texas quartet into my schedule. I'd liked the couple of songs I'd heard online and brothers Abraham, Jaime and Rene Villanueva and their cousin Dante Schwebel had built some credibility by being championed by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

But Hacienda's visceral mix of psychedelic pop and garage rock with a hint of blues is best experienced live. The group only played five songs on Tuesday, but the bearded young men totally immersed themselves into them. Schwebel didn't seem to be in the best of health, but he still ripped away at his guitar and shared lead vocals with the animated, bass-playing Rene. Abraham played a Farfisa and I'm a sucker for any band that has one. And even if I would have liked a bit more of that vintage compact electronic organ in their sound, I would have liked Hacienda no matter what.

Hacienda's Loud Is The Night debut is out now and its Big Red & Barbacoa follow-up will be released by Alive Records in April. The group will be back in Toronto on March 3 opening for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, and that's a show you should mark down in your date book or program into your iPhone or whatever you kids do these days to keep track of such things.

I liked Those Darlins when they played the BMI party at Stubb's on the Tuesday before the SXSW Music Festival officially started last year, so I was pleased to find out the three-woman and male drummer combo would be making its Toronto debut as part of the Horseshoe's free Tuesday night program.

The Murfreesboro, Tennessee band has toughened up its sound over the past 11 months and added more of a garage rock element to its rockabilly roots. It's kind of like what would have happened if Wanda Jackson would have been brought up listening to punk rock.

All three women write their material and sing lead at various times, and Jessi and Kelley Darlin trade off between guitar and bass and Nikki Darlin plays baritone ukulele. The vocals aren't as strong as I'd prefer and the playing isn't great, but the ladies are still more talented than the more buzzed about Vivian Girls and they know how to have a good time. And like Hacienda, they've also been taken under Auerbach's wing.

Those Darlins' self-titled debut album came out last year. Highlights from it that made the biggest impression on Tuesday were "Wild One," "Cannonball Blues," "DUI Or Die" and an extended closing cover of "Shakin' All Over." 

I don't know if they usually pull that last one out or if they performed The Guess Who's 1965 hit as a nod to being in Canada. Or maybe they didn't even know that The Guess Who are Canadian. Or maybe they only knew the original Johnny Kidd And The Pirates version, which came out in Europe five years earlier. I suppose I should have paid a visit to the merch table after their set to find out.

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