The Dutchess & the Duke, Greg Ashley, and El Olio Wolof
Bottom of the Hill
Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009
Better than: Getting drunk at your own campfire singalong.
Seattle duo The Dutchess & the Duke are into the rougher side of campfire songs. Their latest album, Sunset/Sunrise, is a rusty country blues blade aimed at the nerves of terminal loneliness. On record, Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison concentrate on the painful emotional bruises dysfunctional lovers can cause one another, Lortz singing often of being a ghost to a women he once cared for. It's heartbreaking music with a tough punk posture, a rawness to the lyrics complimented by a rawness in the recording. Last night, the band added the rawness of alcohol to the mix, offering a little levity--and plenty of humorous banter--to its material, as the mood shifted from tear-in-my-beer to have-another-round.
The inebriated tone was set by Greg Ashely, the Oakland songwriter/producer who helped The Dutchess and the Duke record their latest album. He took the stage second, and three songs in told the crowd, "I'm really fucked up," his way of apologizing in advance if he happened to screw up a song he'd never played live before. The booze didn't make his playing sloppy as much as it turned his between-song banter into a comedy act, while helping him push the volume levels in his favor.
Ashley is the bandleader for Gris Gris and a solo performer, and in both outlets he makes great fractured psych folk. Last night it was just him and his acoustic and electric guitars on stage. It's a setup that can make regular bar chatter seem overwhelming, as the performer competes with the noise of drunken conversations around him. Ashley put up a good fight, though. "I'm gonna play something so fucking loud loud that I can't hear you fuckers talking over me," he announced gleefully. "I'm gonna making it impossible for anyone to have a fucking conversation."
And together with the soundman, Ashley made good on that promise, for a couple songs at least. Switching between beautiful (and loud) instrumental compositions on his electric guitar and softer, sung tunes, he pulled his fans closer to the stage and weeded out (or banished to the back patio) many of the ruder talkers. Between songs he good-naturedly told people to "Shut the fuck up" and slurred his introductions a little, making the tail end of his offer to play either "another song with words about pussy," or a song about heroin, or a song about pussy and heroin, tough to decipher.