Ed Roland's Sweet Tea Project rolled into town Tuesday, October 15, not to steep, not to brew, not to percolate, but to rock the joint like a diesel-powered Dixie-fied deep fryer. The man's music is instantly recognizable, thanks to seven No. 1 hits and more than 10 million albums sold worldwide with his band, Collective Soul -- and so is his voice. What's new and not something you would necessarily pin on Roland is the instrumentation behind Sweet Tea Project's sound. It's pure Americana; not too honky, not too tonky, with just the right amount of dirt, dust, and twang. You can thank the exquisite application of lap steel and the banjo, an instrument which admittedly isn't often known for its exquisite application.
The band filled the newly revamped Richmond's to the walls on Tuesday. It was hot and sticky, sweet and sweaty as the steam heat from the eager bodies shoe-horned in to dig the scene, mingled with that of the fry cook cranking out those hot wings. The band plowed through material off its debut "Devils 'n' Darlins" with a Man in Black detour and a Collective Soul encore. The five-piece band seemed right at home playing authentic barroom rock 'n' roll in an actual beer joint, with the crowd piled in almost nose to nose with the band. We'll be talking about this one for a while. What a great show.
Is it adios to Audio Influx? With the exit of key members Chris "Hollywood" English and MDot Coop, you've got to wonder. But everyone in the band's camp says no. A new drummer has already been rehearsing with the remaining players. Now I'm not saying the band should hang it up, but those are some big shoes to fill. Anyhow, it was a farewell gig of sorts at a packed Dinosaur Friday night, where the band jammed its hip-hop-soul for the kids. The band was incredibly tight with a soulful vocal tag team attack over its thick groove 'n' grind.
Slid over to Richmond's once again for North Carolina hard-rockers Blanco Diablo. This band is loud with a borderline ferocity that threatened to blow the lid off the joint. Digging this band in this size joint was like watching a Panzer park in a phone booth. I'd seen the trio once before and it seems like it has moved in a slightly more metal direction, at least in its guitar attack. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.