It feels as though about once a month the Crescent Ballroom puts on a free show that could make you think, "Are you sure we weren't supposed to pay for this?" And January 7 was definitely one of those nights. The evening kicked off at 8 with D.G. Scherrer backed up by The Haymarket Squares, which was followed by The SunPunchers before the Shivereens and Sister Lip came on to close out the night.
"I take a little bit of personal pride in this evening because I booked it," said Square bassist and Shivereens lead singer Marc Oxborrow, but honestly it seemed like his favorite accomplishment of the night was playing in the backup band for D.G. Scherrer. "This was a fucking amazing night for me because I really admire Daryl's songwriting and singing. so the opportunity to like be in his band was amazing," he said.
The rest of the Squares were equally excited to back up Scherrer who is usually a solo artist, and the infusion of talent to his one man show definitely made for a more lively set. Their rendition of "Love Is Never Enough," was just out of this world.
"Daryl is hands down a national act, and one of the best singers and songwriters in Arizona," said John Luther, lead guitar for The Squares and Shivereens, while his bandmate in both acts Mark Allred added, "His songs are freaking awesome; it's a pleasure to play with him."
The musical lovefest was not a one way street however; Scherrer seemed as impressed with his backing band as they were with him. "I'd like to say something really pretentious and impressive right now, but I don't have that thing," said Scherrer.
Scherrer and the Squares opened the night with their old-school country tunes before The SunPunchers took the stage, creating a more New Wave bluegrass feel. The band features more traditional bluegrass instruments such as acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar, banjo and mandolin, but it also brings in the bass clarinet, an instrument not often heard while creating that particular genre.
Shivereens got their boogie on next, and with four out of five Haymarket Squares in the band it was easy to have preconceived notions about how the Shivereens would sound. But then, it was equally easy for the Shivereens to break all of those notions and sound completely different from Haymarket.
The Shivereens call their genre "murder mystery rockabilly," and all of the songs come from the sick, demented, murder obsessed mind of Oxborrow. But man, does he make murder sound funky. They certainly have that teetering-on-the-edge-of-country rockabilly feel, but with clear jazz influences in Sunman's piano playing. Stand-up bass player Jesse Pruitt brings something extra to the table with fancy dance moves.
"The Shivereens, you know--I'm always convinced that every Shivereens show is going to be the last one, and then we get to play an awesome show like this tonight and that gets me all excited about the band again," said Oxborrow.
Every Shivereens song comes with a story about murder and intrigue, and one is even about infanticide. But Oxborrow and the band make those gruesome stories sound . . . fun.
Last up was Sister Lip, and the feisty four-piece was sporting a new bass player playing in what they all agreed was her first "official" show with the band. Emily Schalick took the place of Cheri French, and in her first show outside the friendly confines of Sister Lip's "home field" at Long Wong's Tempe had a seamless transition into one of the hottest bands in Phoenix.
"I have some work to do. Their last bass player was really awesome, and so I'm trying to learn her bad-ass bass lines," said Schalick following their set. Perhaps Schalick and the band are picking up on the more subtle nuances of their bassist, because the crowd did not seem to notice the difference.
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In the easily packed partitioned room everyone was dancing to Sister Lip's jazzy rock 'n' roll sounds, and in the venue known to have the best sound system in town they sounded spectacular. Even with the addition of a new bass player the other three members have been getting so strong playing together they pick up the slack.