The Black Keys
with The Hentchmen
Common Grounds, Gainesville, FL • May 10, 2005
It was a double bill of white boys blues rock that was so damn tasty that I filled up the gas tank and took a two-hour drive north to Gainesville to catch the show. The Black Keys were an enticing prospect, but I must say the main attraction was Detroit’s ten-year veterans, The Hentchmen. Anyone who knows me understands my weakness for bands from Detroit. The dirty little city has become my Seattle, and producer Jim Diamond (who has worked with everyone: White Stripes, The Paybacks, The Dirtbombs, The Gore Gore Girls, and The Hentchmen, the list goes on) my SubPop Records. I may live in Central Florida, but my heart lies with the Detroit sound.
My evening arrival in the college town was a happy one, with a little pizza and beer before door time. Once inside the coffee shop/bar/venue, Common Grounds, I immediately fell in love with the setup of the place. A small hallway lined with concert posters (a few of which I couldn’t resist taking with me) led into a large room with a corner bar, airport seats lined the walls, and a decent-sized stage was placed straight back. Even the lighting looked to be promising, which is incredibly rare in small venues like this (note: bad lighting is a pain in this photographer’s ass; I hate using a flash!). Members of both bands drank and mingled alongside fans before the festivities were to begin.
When The Hentchmen took the stage I found myself standing next to Black Keys’ singer/guitarist, Dan Auerbach, who came forward to watch their set (always a good sign when the headliners actually watch the opening band). I am blown away at how much better the trio sound live than on record — which is saying a lot because their records kick ass. Guitarist Tim Purrier is a spectacle to take in as he not only flails his thin frame around the stage, but goes from playing flat on his back to jumping up in less time than it takes for me to focus my lens and get the shot. Singer/keyboardist John Szymanski actually pushes his keyboard on wheels as he plays, as if he couldn’t bear to be static behind his instrument. The crowd absorbed their performance, which featured mostly songs off of their latest relase, Form Follows Function.
By the end of their set I am feeling satisfied, but settled in for one more set of dirt-soaked blues rock from Ohio’s The Black Keys. Patrick Carney set up his drumset inches from my face, teetering on the edge of the stage — which should let you know how initmate of a performance this band planned to give. Dan Auerbach, who with his beard looks like actor Jared Leto, quietly took his place to the right of Carney and led the duo into the first of a long line of John Lee Hooker-inspired rock. Auerbach’s voice sounds way more aged and authentic than it should, and his guitar work proves that he could hold his own with some of the best. Sneaking a peek over my shoulder I see that the room has filled up for the band’s set, and there seems to not be an uncaptivated pair of eyes in the bunch.
The Black Keys, a couple of college dropouts, have stolen the hearts of this college town. As fantastic as they were though, in my mind, the night belonged to The Hentchmen.