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July 19, 2008

Sonoma County Rambles: Brother Cat at Hop Monk Tavern

Some rambles around Sonoma County.

Brother Cat at Hop Monk Tavern, Sebastopol July 12, 2008

The hard working roadhouse band from Healdsburg/Geyserville, Brother Cat, leaves no stone unturned in letting you know they are around. I’d been impressed with their promo campaign and the volume of emails and press releases.

But I’d never been to see them as this last year’s dedication to getting my son graduated from High School and entered into college, my daughter, and re-starting my law practice used up my time. There were plenty of weekend nights when I didn’t want to go anywhere and my guitars and CDs called to me.

I finally made it to a Brother Cat show when they were a last minute replacement due to a cancellation.

The Hop Monk folks have revamped the music room at the old granite streetcar powerhouse in Sebastopol. They’ve moved the stage to the north wall, built a nice two foot high band riser, and moved the bar to the south wall so that the entrance is right by the bar and the entrance isn’t right into the stage and dancers. It works much better than the old setup. The dance floor is slick finished concrete so you can do spin moves. Nice bar too. The outdoor patio is really nice for sitting in the summer.

Brother Cat is Brewster Todd on guitar, J.B. Davis on bass, Dave Kessner on keyboards, and Scott Charters on drums. These guys among them have years of experience. They play the blues the roadhouse way and they sure can make a bar happy. They played a lot of non-stop driving tunes and I danced a lot.

JB Davis is the bassist and frontman of the group. J.B. is from Virginia and descended from a long line of Virginia Hams. With J.B. dead air between songs is not a problem. J.B. knows all musician jokes and all between songs patter, and could sell a good line of patent medicine in the old blues tradition (Sonny Boy used to sell Hadacol). J.B. has never been diagnosed with shyness. He sings too. His sturdy walking bass lines drive a shuffle like it’s meant to driven --in a Cadillac.

DMV photo and Actual photo

Brewster Todd is a monster guitarist who plays wonderful solos. Somewhat from the blues rock tradition, he doesn’t do the million notes thing, he really makes the notes count. On shuffles he’s really tops and has the full command that driving sound. Very danceable and he gets you right into the tune. He plays a fine rosewood board stratocaster that looks like it must be one of the good ones. He makes it scream, and you scream with it.

actual retouched photo of Brewster Todd

There’s just one problem: this guitar is Ugly. It’s painted a bilious candy apple green and with the stage lights on it the underlying wood grain shows making it look like a seasick zebra. Looking at it made the voice of Bo Diddeley (“Say Man”) whisper in my ear: “Ugleeee!” Brewster went right on making great licks on it. The solos just went on getting better and better.

I kept noticing Dave Kessner on keyboards. Dave is the groove maker of this band and he holds a lot of things together. He seemed have a lot of knowledge and a lot of licks and able to blend them into the band. He’s also the quiet one in the band.

Dave Kessner

Scott Charters is a big presence behind the drums. He held down a lot of space and had a really good time doing it. I look forward to hearing him in a place with less reverberation, in the old powerhouse there was a wall of sound from the old stone walls.

Scott Charters lookin' debonair

Brother Cat has a lot of really good tunes they do. Wilson Pickett’s “99 And A Half (just won’t do)” was a standout. Another was the old swamp blues great “Rooster Blues.” I really appreciate bands that search out lesser known tunes and bring them up front. Brother Cat has that in spades, you won’t get the same old songs from them.

I look forward to seeing these guys more.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at July 19, 2008 09:08 PM

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