Being more of a fan of music of the heavier persuasion (i.e. anything that ends in the suffix "-core"), I was not initially inclined to give Bloodshot Records’ Ha Ha Tonka a try when a friend first suggested them to me. When I saw them live about a year and a half ago I was surprised to be completely won over by their country-tinged rock and four-part harmonies. Overall they’re reminiscent of Kings of Leon, with a bit more soul. Not long after I picked up their 2007 release Buckle in the Bible Belt, and found it to be one of the best releases of that year (check out the chilling “Hangman” for that four-part harmony I mentioned earlier).
It’s been about a year since I saw them at Lollapalooza last August but it’s clear that even in the space of two years, the band has really developed a confidence and musicianship that could definitely propel them to “big name band” status, should the stars align correctly.
The packed crowd at Subterranean were already content to give the band a main-stage-lineup welcome: singing along to nearly every word of crowd favorite “Caney Mountain”, and at least one individual contributing to the festival show vibe with a cloud of, um, herbal encouragement.
More than just being skilled musicians, the band has an irresistible live energy; they appreciate The Art of The Jam, without sounding like a “jam band.” They’re earnest, but wry – no one would ever accuse this band of coming off ‘twee.’ (which is more than I could say about co-headliner Ben Weaver) Toward the end of the band’s set they delivered foot-stomping covers of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know About Me” and Ram Jam's “Black Betty” that stayed true to the band’s Bible Belt roots. The band did preview some tracks from their upcoming album, which appears to offer more of their usual (not a bad thing), and I'm excited to see more of what the band will have to offer when they return to the city for an album pre-release party this June.