Photo Gallery: Benjamin Booker / She Keeps Bees at The Bottleneck

Benjamin Booker
Raspy-voiced Louisiana blues rocker Benjamin Booker headlined The Bottleneck on Wednesday night. The crowd of about 50 Lawrencians was warm, but quiet, and more curious than enthusiastic throughout the singer-songwriter's hourlong set. The punchy garage rock power Booker often channeled was received with mostly head nods and foot taps rather than the all-out boogieing that it deserved.

A majority of the performance hit the nail square on the head; the boisterous riffing of "Violent Shiver" finally lit a fire under a few folks' feet late in the set. Smart licks whipped out by Booker and his lead guitarist on this tune and others were tastefully plucked from a bygone era and placed in compositions more fit for modern ears.

The one truly disappointing moment, however, came during what should have been one of the set's finest moments. Jessica Larrabee, guitarist and vocalist of opening act She Keeps Bees, was invited to return to the stage to sing on "Witness," the title track on Booker's new album. Other than Larrabee's vocal performance being generally underwhelming, she was given the duty of singing the chorus of a song reflecting police brutality and structural racism originally handled by gospel legend Mavis Staples.

Larrabee mentioned during She Keeps Bees' opening set that she and her drummer Andy LaPlant were traveling together in a Grand Caravan. That made all the sense in the world. While Booker's style of blues rock could be likened to a classic muscle car with some modern tune-ups, She Keeps Bees' embodied the predictability and vanilla-ness of the minivan they arrived in. Moments ripe for a gritty solo were met with the same chords Larrabee had been strumming for minutes. Songs about reproductive rights and the DAPL protestors won cheers from the crowd, but ultimately failed to redeem a remarkably drab set.

Full photo gallery here.

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