It's rare to see a fight at a Phoenix show. When that fight is between two girls standing outside a Scottsdale art gallery where they just witnessed a brilliant performance by a banjo-playing bluesman from Iowa? Well, that's just weird.
Yes, William Elliot Whitmore's show at Chyro Arts was quite a weird one, but also an amazing evening for what the bearded ex-hardcore kid turned deep-voiced horse farmer called "a broad cross-section of society" as he surveyed the close-to-capacity crowd, made up of equal parts hipster, matured punk rocker, and middle-aged blues aficionado. Whitmore, who had more than a few swigs from a bottle of Jameson throughout his 90-minute-plus set was charming with his jokes and talkative throughout his simple show, which featured him playing banjo and guitar, a steady stomping of his foot making up the "rhythm section."
Whitmore's press materials mention his "live performances of a caliber to leave one completely stunned in silence" but Phoenix didn't see that exactly. Sure, most folks were stunned and in silence, but one girl at the front of the stage, cheered loudly and screeched in delight throughout, to the point she eventually was asked to leave. Then, in the parking lot, she initiated a fight with another girl, much to the horror of the show's organizers.
You couldn't blame her for being a little overly excited about Whitmore, though. From "Lift my Jug to the Sky," introduced as an ode to a free-spirited hobo who lived near Whitmore's home in Lee County, Iowa, through a brilliant version of "Old Devils," he was achingly soulful and brutally efficient, commanding rapt attention as he worked his way through most of his new record, Animals in the Dark. He popped into the crowd several times to talk and frequently went off-mic to have private conversations with the rabid fans in front of the stage. After the particularly moving "Pine Box," a kid in the crowd hopped onstage and hugged Whitmore.
Whitmore apparently wasn't the only one who needed a hug.
Last Night: William Elliott Whitmore at Chyro Arts.
Better Than: Bonnie "Prince" Billy at Modified. Actually, I was at Springsteen that night, but so I heard.
Personal Bias: I'm pretty sure half the people I know in Arizona are from Iowa.
Random Detail: Rumor is the girl who started the fight, and had been causing all the compotion, is a porn star. I dunno, but that's the rumor.
Further Listening: "From The Cell Door To The Gallows."
By The Way: "It's always these shows that have no liquor where I get the drunkest."
One More Thing: British Open Pub appears to have done bang-up business, as a heavily-tatted and hard-drinking crowd made themselves comfy between sets and after the show.