Get kicked in the ears by Blackberry Wood–in a good way

Blackberry Wood
Logan’s Pub, Victoria
June 6, 2013

Reviewed by Blake Morneau

I remember being 11 or 12 years old and seeing the video for Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” and having the image of Waits dressed in his ridiculous devil costume, riding a tricycle and holding a magnifying glass burn itself into my mind. For years that image has represented everything that is good and pure and fun, a treasured frame to remind me of the absurd silliness that enveloped all things. As Blackberry Wood front-man and mustache enthusiast Kris Wood took the stage dressed in an outfit wholly inspired the one worn by Waits in that video, that soul-freeing feeling that image has always brought up was front and center. Really, that’s the best way to see Vancouver alt-country-gypsy-circus outfit Blackberry Wood–with a childlike enthusiasm and boundless imagination.

Blackberry Wood’s energy is unflinchingly infectious, spreading through the room like an amoeba on speed. Drummer Amrit Basi’s rhythms could be considered a sort of aural warfare, forcing people to shake their bodies with reckless abandon. The recently added bass sound really gives the band the bottom-end groove that benefits the danceability aspect of their gypsy swing music. It acts as a sort of musical bouncy-castle for the rest of the group to jump off of. Hearing all these elements come together for an incredible reading of the haunting jazz standard “Saint James Infirmary” is a real wonder. Infecting such a legendarily song with their trademark joy and energy without taking away any of the song’s inherent eeriness is a feat of musical agility and precision.

There were people on the dance floor much quicker than I usually see at shows. At nearly every show I’ve been to, even those in smaller venues, the trickle to the area in front of the stage is slow, with nobody wanting to be first to initiate the festivities. I don’t know if it was the crowd this night or the magically contagious spirit of Blackberry Wood (I’d like to believe it was the latter), but by the end of the opening song more than half the people in the house were shaking their groove-things wildly. Admittedly, I was one of the first people out there, finding myself quickly surrounded by fellow body-shakers.

It was all of a bit of whirlwind–a mass of sweaty, smiling bodies jumping and flailing to the sounds of a band oozing psychotic energy. If you don’t like dancing and prefer your music subdued with space for quiet clapping and reflection, you may want to skip Blackberry Wood. But if you’re like me, and apparently the patrons of Logan’s, and you like to get kicked in the ears, get yourself to a Blackberry Wood show as soon as you can. Your musical soul will thank you.

Blake Morneau is a lover of aural pleasure who has been writing about his passion for nearly two years. Follow him on Twitter @MusicRags