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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  Mostly Cloudy


Black Eyed Snakes hits the High Noon with Furthermore Beer
Decibully and Scag 48 join the Duluth blues rockers for brew release party

Black Eyed Snakes' Bob Olson on the guitar and Brad Nelson on drums bring energy to Furthermore Beer's 2 Ha Ha release party at the High Noon on Saturday.
Credit:Kiki Schueler
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Furthermore Beer apparently wants to prove that not only that its new Makeweight brew tastes good, but it's also a brewery with good taste. Featuring the Black Eyed Snakes, Decibully and Scag 48, their second Brew Ha Ha (dubbed 2 Ha Ha) Saturday night at the High Noon Saloon made a very good case for them.

This Saturday night event celebrated the release of their newest brew, Makeweight, a triple pale ale that boasts an imposing 8.5% ABV, and they couldn't have chosen a better bunch of bands to help welcome it.

Scag 48, a three piece country/blues/rock band from Madison, introduced every song in their opening set as being about drinking even though the group quickly revealed that they might be a little deeper than that. They opened with the dirty blues of "Whippin'" before mixing things up later in the set with a Spanish-flavored tune complete with lyrics in need of subtitles and a cha cha cha ending. They followed that with a Stray Cat-ish "Kitty Come Back" before sneaking in Charlie Feathers song. The band is as much fun to watch as to listen to thanks to the single stringed washtub bass that provides the low end.

Milwaukee's Decibully topped Scag 48's commitment to the theme by changing the names of many of their songs to those of Furthermore beers. "This is a new song for us," lead singer William J. Seidel declared, "It's called Makeweight." Another song was introduced as "Fatty Boombalatty," while the title track to "Sing Out America" became "Drink Up America."

With three guitars on stage, I expected the sextet to rock more, or at least more often. Instead, they tended more toward the quiet introspective stuff they mostly forsook in a torrid opening set for Califone at the High Noon Saloon last year. Even before their unexpected endings, many of the songs never really seemed to gain momentum.

In retrospect it would have been impossible to match the energy of headliners the Black Eyed Snakes. Lead singer Alan Sparhawk, better known for his minimalist pop band Low, was seated for most of the set though I'm not quite sure why he bothered. He was in and out of the chair frequently as he slid it back and forth on stage. His use of a distortion microphone made the vocals gritty and intense, even as it made understanding him between songs difficult.

I did understand him when Sparhawk said, "Hope you weekend is as safe as it is revealing," though I am not sure I understood it.

Sparhawk hails from Duluth, and the appropriately titled "Hillside Blues" salutes a place where "all the good women and all the bad men" live. For this song he invited "rhythmically inclined" members of the audience to grab a shaker or tambourine and play along with the band which also included the amazing Bob Olson on guitar, Brad Nelson ripping through the drums and Justin Sparhawk sporting sunglasses-at-night on percussion.

While I've always found Low to be, for lack of a better word, boring, there was nothing dull about the Snakes' too-short set. Their hell-bent playing reminded me of Scott H.Biram's fire and brimstone one-man rants, and it occurred to me that they out-exploded Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion. As for their encore cover of "Ziggy Stardust," well, that was just flat out stunning. Cheers to Furthermore for bringing this seldom touring band to town.

Note to Alan Sparhawk, please quit your day job.

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