The Devil Makes Three at the Commodore Ballroom, 11/12/17
The Commodore Ballroom on Sunday (Nov. 12) was wild. Just wild. This is what you get every single time with Santa Cruz bluegrass, everything-goes group The Devil Makes Three. Quite simply, ragtime bands bring out the rowdiest fans, digging up punk and metal-heads that inexplicably have a deep-seeded love for old-time country, whisky-soaked lyrics about lying face-down in a ditch. The Devil Makes Three is one of those bands you can just see again and again and always be impressed—and make no mistake, any music-lover can find something to love about their music.
The group kicked off the night with “The Bullet” and “Pray for Rain” respectively, offering up a completely flawless sound while seeming ever-so calm. “Gracefully Facedown” kind of summed up how the room was feeling that night, as fans flailed around and foot-stomped, sloshing beer onto their neighbours. On more than one occasion a big plaid arm of musical justice would reach out from the crowd—fed up with a particularly drunk mosher—pull him out of the pack by the scruff of his neck with a “you’re outta here!” and a dead-serious “I better not see you back here again!” All that concertgoer inner justice mixed with the efforts of the actual bouncers near the stage, plenty busy unloading crowd-surfers and stomping out joints mid-pass-around. It was quite the scene.
Well I’ve been having a hard time
Walking a straight line
Seeing two of every single neon sign
Well now you’ll find me downtown
Gracefully face down
Just wishing I could feel alright
Meanwhile, The Devil Makes Three ripped through their set with barely a word to the audience—upright bassist Lucia Turino, ever cool as she gazed off nonchalantly to the left of her bass, looked very much like a modern-day tattooed Clara Bow. Lead singer and guitarist Pete Bernhard led the raving crowd through “Hallelu,” “Dragging Chains,” the beloved “Old Number 7” and “I Am the Man” like an old pro. Guitarist and banjo-player Cooper McBean gave the group the trucker element, beard and all—and while the band never got as out of control as their fans, their obvious commitment to tight instrumentals was admirable enough on its own. Besides, the crowd didn’t need banter with the group, all they needed were those ragtime riffs, a little violin action and lyrics about drunken mistakes.
The Devil Makes Three closed out with “Bangor Mash” after a deafening encore call. By this point the toilet bowls in the bathroom held more than their fair share of joint butts and the floor of the Commodore was characteristically sticky. The set did not offer up anything new for the die-hard fans, but The Devil Makes Three could never be boring. Bluegrass is a genre largely lacking in Vancouver, and given audience reception this needs to change.