There’s something decidedly unglamorous–yet delicious–about seeing a band perform in a dive bar thousands of miles from their hometown. Often, the musicians serve as their own roadies. Pull into town, unload the van, set up, play, tear down and hit the road again. As for amenities, if they’re lucky, they may get a bar tab so they can have a beer or two. But in this stark environment, the true nature and fortitude of the band will come through. It’s easy for a band to play before a packed club filled with cheering fans that are familiar with every song. The challenge is putting forth that same energy in a half-empty club where patrons may be more interested in their own drinks than listening to the music.
Cody Beebe and The Crooks were in the midst of a modest tour promoting their new album Out Here when they made a stop in Los Angeles to play Molly Malone’s. Yes, it’s an Irish-themed bar. No, Beebe and band have no Irish-themed songs in their repertoire. (When you’re trying to establish yourselves as a recording artist, you play where you can play). Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the band has a lineup as eclectic as their repertoire. Led by front man/lead vocalist/guitarist Cody Beebe, the Crooks are Joe Catron who plays hand percussion, Aaron Myers on keyboards, bass player Eric Miller and drummer Brian Paxton.
Limited to only 40 minutes by the venue, Beebe and band made the most of their allotted time on stage. Their style is hard to categorize. It’s labeled as “roots rock” by their publicity material, and that’s a fair description for those who insist on labels. The band played a good selection from their latest album, including the title track Out Here, and Hold The Line, the first single/video from the album. In the press materials, Beebe is quoted as saying “We make Southern rock, but we’re from the Northwest.” Hold The Line would not be out-of-place at a Lynryd Skynyrd concert. A song about gun owner’s rights and protecting one’s family, it’s a hard-driving rock anthem. Another standout at the opposite end of the music spectrum was Bitter Run, the title of the song perfectly describing the melancholy music and lyrics. The passion and energy that was put out on stage was anything but melancholy, however. They jammed on with such enthusiasm that it could have lit up a club ten times the size of Molly Malone’s. After each song, Beebe broke into a grin that was as refreshing, not contrived and honest as his songs. He was having the time of his life up there. It didn’t matter to him that the club was a dive, and the audience sparse. It’s all about the music, people! It ain’t about glitz and glamour and the artificial glow of shows such as American Idol and The Voice. It’s about the music, and Beebe honestly, truly gets it.