Frank Brownstone and Associates are outstanding rockabilly artists. They also are quirky as all get-out. Just swing by their Web site or subscribe to their newsletter. You’ll get treated to some off-the-wall (but nonetheless very effective) marketing. So it should not have surprised me to find something of an incongruous set up onstage at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. There were two guitars on stands, both off-brands. Then, right next to them, Tony Mendoza’s vintage Fender bass that had to be worth the Lord’s own fortune. When the band made its way to the stage, Mendoza was the only one wearing a suit and tie. Everybody else had dressed down. Just goes to show, you can expect the unexpected from these guys.
On a miserably frigid night, FB&A drew a nice-sized crowd that came to have a dancing good time—and weren’t disappointed. The set started off with an uncharacteristically tepid rendition of their killer cut “Bit By a Dog,” but the fellas immediately fixed things with the second song. “Feliz Navidad” jump-started things like someone had touched two hot wires together. What on earth they were doing playing a Christmas song at the end of January is anyone’s guess, but, well, that’s this band for you. Whatever. It worked. So did fine covers of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
Their albums, First Report to Investors and Better Days, showcase solid writing with “Bit By a Dog” and “Don’t Mention Love” easily weighing as two state-of-the-art old-time rock ‘n’ roll gems. They’ve managed to truly outdo themselves, though, with Garth Morrisette’s new winner “Cryin’ In My Beer.” It’s an attention grabber that keeps you right with it, steeped in the same roots that spawned the likes of, say, John Mellencamp and Eddie Money. Word from Mendoza is it’s also headed for the studio, so, look for “Cryin’ In My Beer” on an upcoming disc. They played “Middleman” nasty as a backed-up sewer.
The only real drawback to the night was the waitress, who had all the charming personality of a bear trap and a bartender to whom courteous customer service is an alien concept. Otherwise, take this as a rule of thumb. Anyone who can’t have a great time at a Frank Brownstone and Associates gig may as well order a tombstone, ‘cause the you-know-what-kickin’, let-loose partier in him or her is dead.