Led onstage by compelling front man Tomahawk Brock, Hampton Roads should be proud to call these gritty country punks their own.
Lead photo- Tomahawk Brock of the Wet Boys
Article and photography by Fitz
Before seeing the Wet Boys live I was underwhelmed. I had heard a song or two on band camp, seen a clip or two of them on YouTube and drummer Joshua Woodhouse had sent me a message or two on Facebook. My first impression was that they were sonically worshiping at the country punk alter of Cash that was later championed by the likes of Mike Ness and Cow Punk bands like the Meat Puppets. Sure, there were Psychobilly components as well, but being engaged in music today that is attempting to break with tradition (which one must be if rock music is to remain viable); and almost by necessity, considering the amount of nostalgia worship present locally lately, I didn’t want to embrace a band that was bound to have songs reminiscent of bluegrass tradition, tales of the down on his luck working man. Hell, there are a plethera of present day stories in that vain that need to be told in a new sonic language that speaks to younger generations that are suffering, and have only the likes of Ke$ha to turn to.
This argument that the Wet Boys sound is too rooted in the past, which I honestly think rings true gets thrown to the wayside however behind the captivating presence of both lead singer Tomahawk Brock’s live, body contorting performance and deeply earthy voice once you see the band live. In a totally non-cheese ball 80’s way, I almost want to invoke a Rick Astley metaphor when describing the juxtaposition between Brock’s appearance and his vocal. From deep inside the gut of his lanky tattooed white body, Brock channels Howlin’ Wolf comfortably and then coughs up a bit of Tom Waits for the art rock stumblers’ in when on stage. Though Brock’s lyrics on the track ‘Life on the Mines’ are clearly not reinventing the wheel, it’s easy to see why such a hopeless tale delivered by such a stout voice gets chorused by many a disenfranchised young male at every show I’ve seen the band play.
Seeing The Wet Boys play a semi acoustic set at O’Connor’s Brewery without drums illustrated that the band does not have to rely on being loud and electric to be compelling. Had I turned my back to the stage I would have thought a group of damn angels were singing up there! Well, fallen angels I guess, considering the preoccupation lyrically with Whiskey and the Devil. Brock’s deep, gravel scratched singing was enriched and served as a vocal anchor to the chorused, higher end singing of bassist John Streit and guitarist Bennett Wales. I must say the confused faces of some of the more conservative element of the food industry crowd in attendance at the O’Connors event when hearing these inked punks croon so harmoniously brought a smile to my face. Along with Chris Hindershot on guitar, Joshua Woodhouse is truly the backbone of the band on drums. I personally may not be sold on his flaming cymbal routine, in part probably due to the Vinnie Paul memories it conjures up when I see the Wet Boys play, but Woodhouse beats the drums like a son of a bitch live and is always in time.. And fuck it, Fire, the Devil and Whiskey make sense as a visual calling card for these gritty country punk heathens that Hampton Roads should be proud to call their own.
From their ‘must see’ live shows- which recently they took on the road successfully, to Brocks’ commanding presence and compelling voice, The Wet Boys are one of the strongest bands active currently in the seven cities. Their win at the Veer awards this year for best live band was one of the very few legitimizing moments for the outdated awards show, scarcely attended by any of the modern and progressively creative bands active in Hampton Roads music.
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757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
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