Two, not one: A welcome Texas surprise
Published September 30, 2004, in issue 0339 of the Hook
Saturday, September 25
Expecting a singer songwriter by the name of Porter Davis to be performing at Miller's Saturday night, I was pleasantly surprised that instead of more love songs and faux-witty lines about "doing it" from a sensitive soul, there appeared a duo of young ruffians from Austin, whose chosen moniker appears to designate a group identity rather than refer to either of them in particular. ("We're Porter Davis" began the singer.)
The standing acoustic guitarist looked a little too Phishy for my taste when he first took the stage, but the seated percussionist, playing a series of instruments I had never seen before, led me to believe the group had something different, even before they started to perform.
The two played a surprisingly refreshing mix of blues and pop, with the sparseness of the sound setup proving to be one of their definite strengths rather than a limitation. Starting off with a bluesy riff, notable for its scarcity of notes, the guitarist was soon joined by the percussionist playing what I believe was a Bodhran (an Irish pan drum) rather like a tambourine without the miniature cymbals.
Out of this simple setup, the performer was able to get a multitude of sounds, from snare to bass and in between, so that simple rock beats– bass-snare-bass-bass-snare– were easily accessible, and more complicated lines could be produced.
The pair was tight, right off the bat, and the song's blues and beat-heavy sound reminded me of the career of '90s genre mixers G. Love and Special Sauce, with less swank. A harmonica strapped around the guitarist's neck provided the sound for the song's solo, while the body of the song was interspersed with harmonies provided by member #2.
The next tune featured a more droning guitar riff, though the singer sashayed around his range quite nicely, and the melody was anything but repetitious. The next tune was introduced by the guitarist's "Is it all right if Mike plays the spoons?" followed shortly by a generally two-chord Buddy Holly-type swinger. Repeating vocal lines were backed by what I have to call the best spoon playing I've ever heard (I admit the pool of contenders is limited), and though the song was slower, it still held up well.
The set's slowing nature was apparent over the next couple of tunes, including a fine– though more than slightly Pearl Jam-esque– number about the group's hometown. But things just seemed to get bluesier, which made the loss in velocity all right.
I wasn't expecting much on Saturday night, but what I saw was two gentlemen creating a sound that I might hesitate to call "totally new," but is definitely apart from the mainstream.