In your head: Sounds like old friends

Published September 23, 2004, in issue 0338 of the Hook

The Damnwells with Justin Jones and Small Town Workers
Starr Hill
September 18


The shushing was in full force Friday night at Starr Hill during the performance of singer/songwriter Justin Jones. An alt country crooner of sorts, Jones was the opening act for Brooklyn's The Damnwells, a group about as awash in the hooks as you can get. Jones performed his set of original alt country tunes seated before an audience that was still building as he went on.

Speaking to the crowd after his first song, Jones explained that he had the flu, though nothing in his set stood out particularly as evidence of his sickness. Except for the occasional female scream from the audience along the lines of, "I want your babies" (met by "I don't know if you want his babies– he has the flu" from my friend Ray), the crowd seemed fairly subdued, content to sway to and fro, gazing into each other's eyes with overwhelming emotion. Or at least that's how it looked.

The Damnwells were the group I had come to see, and I enjoyed my time, even if the group revealed themselves to be a bit more "Musical Guest on Dawson's Creek" than I would like (or care to admit that I liked). A hair band without the awkward '80s baggage (a catchy way of saying they looked like Urge Overkill, or– for you non-rock types– they simply had a lot of hair).

Their tune "Assho**s," started off their set. As the first track on their latest album, Bastard of the Beat, the song is a slow moving alt country tune, but live, it was an up-tempo rocker, with serious pop undertones.

"Everybody grew up and turned into assho**s" sang guitarist Alex Dezen, as the group put on their best rock star show moves for the appreciative crowd. A one-second break at the song's end led into the second number, "Kiss Catastrophe," a slower tune, where the group's pop leanings ratcheted up even higher.

"I will keep the bad things from you" began a song of the same title which most listeners of modern rock radio probably know (or will soon). Splashed with slide guitar throughout the tune, Dezen's slurred and purring vocals seemed more like a sleepy lullaby than a rock song, though when it was time for the ever-present guitar solo, things got a lot more crunchy.

The most amazing thing about The Damnwells was that, despite the fact that I had spun their CD to completion only a few times before last Friday, at least half of their set was composed of songs that already felt like old friends. This suggested to me that these friends were ones I want to know well, for a long time.

The Damnwells