4/4/2015 – The Sinclair

Lips pressed against the microphone, garage-punk/soul musician Benjamin Booker delivered mostly unintelligible lyrics to a sold-out Sinclair crowd. On top of gritty, overdriven guitar, the audience might have been more likely to discern what a seagull had to say.

It was New Orleans-native Booker’s third show at The Sinclair. “NOLA!” shouted a fan. Booker flashed a peace sign. It would be his only crowd interaction until 10 songs later.

For a trio (including mustachioed bassist Alex Spoto and ferocious drummer Max Norton), the group pumped out an astonishing amount of noise. Feedback swelled like a fever as Booker wielded his guitar in a circular motion. With Spoto and Norton keeping pace, Booker whisper-sang and moaned into the mic—and even though both the guitar and vocals sounded waterlogged, the music seemed to pour from an authentic, soulful source.

However, parts of Booker’s set were a bit too gimmicky. At one point Booker lit a cigarette and smoked it while playing, a timid version of onstage pyrotechnics. Whatever happened to the days of lighting instruments on fire? Later, between songs, Booker glugged down a Coors Light. A few people cheered. Both were unnecessary props for a soul soldier whose greatest weapon he’d been holding all night—his electric guitar.

One of the night’s highlights came when Spoto traded his bass for a fiddle, and Norton picked up a mandolin, relieving the crowd—at least for a song—from the group’s garage-punk sound. Booker followed up with a three-minute solo of feedback frenzy. Some crowd members nodded their heads, others plugged their ears.

Booker finally encouraged crowd participation with a sing-along to New Orleans folk standard “Little Liza Jane,” though it was so loud that it was impossible to hear if anyone was singing along.

After about an hour, Booker plainly said, “Thanks for coming out,” placed his guitar by his feet, and walked off stage with his band. Feedback continued to surge through the speakers. A crew member walked onto stage and stamped the pedal board kill switch. The venue lights turned on. People filed out the door.

Feedback Maniac: Benjamin Booker
Pros
  • Full sound for only three musicians
  • Ferocious drummer
Cons
  • Indiscernible lyrics
  • Sparse crowd interaction
  • Feedback maniac
6Sewer Blues

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