Day #50: Hacienda – “Little Girl”
Ali, Danish, and I were out in Baltimore last night to see the Heartless Bastards at Ottobar. Despite living in DC about 8 years now, I’m only just starting to discover Baltimore because Ali and Mark are calling it home for a while. The more I get out there, the more I’d rather be there than in DC. A lot of places in DC that my friends and I used to go to have been razed and replaced with these generic posh joints. We just read the other day how Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring closed to become a “corporate lunch hot spot.” Ugh. Just what we needed. Another joint selling overpriced salads NOT being served by pirates. I’m sure that in a matter of time, a lot more of Baltimore will undergo the same treatment, but for now, it’s comfortably worn.
So, of course, Ottobar is just the kind of dingy venue I like. The place has been around almost 15 years, although it started out at a location smaller than the building it’s in now in Lower Charles Village. Not that the present location is all that big. There’s a tiny lobby attached to a narrow bar and a few steps down is the stage. But, that it’s charm; the intimacy and accessibility of it. The chance that maybe you’ll be sitting at the bar and one of the musicians will plop down next to you and maybe you’ll even have a conversation. You can’t do that at the 9:30 Club. And while a lot of short-lived, small-time bands that pass through Ottobar, there are just as many notable ones, too.
Heartless Bastards is one of them. The Cincinnati-based 4-piece is currently on tour to promote their fourth album, Arrows (and their first on a new label). They were just on Letterman (again) last week. And about this time next week, they’ll be playing South by Southwest in the Austin along with San Antonio’s Hacienda, who opened last night’s show (and were surprisingly very good). The Heartless Bastards have been around a couple of years now, and I pretty much fell in love with them on the spot. Perhaps it was good timing. They were something fresh to come along at a time when indie rock was kind of stuck in a creative rut and searching for direction. Bearded boys and softly weeping guitars were getting really boring. The Heartless Bastards are a little bit older than the typical indie rock outfit. I guess you could rightly call them “seasoned” where they’re old enough to back up those songs about not just heartache, but revival. When vocalist Erika Wennerstrom sings about pulling herself up out of the shit in a song like “New Resolution,” well you can goddamn believe it’s sung from the heart. But they’re still a rock band. And, a Midwestern rock band at that. So, while the though the songs may be thought-provoking, they’re still laden with delicious blues and country rock-styled hooks. (I especially loved seeing Mark Nathan on guitar; he makes everything look so effortless).
I wasn’t all that keen on Arrows when I first heard the album on NPR a couple weeks back, but man, they certainly kicked ass playing it all live. Austin: you guys are in for a treat.
*I know what you’re thinking – this post is all about Heartless Bastards, why not post their video? For this project, I’ve got one rule: a band can’t be picked more than once during the 365 days. Heartless Bastards made the list a few days ago. Now you may stop asking questions and enjoy Hacienda.