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Review: Honeyhoney and James Morrison @ The Neptune 4/29

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Honeyhoney, Photo by Houston Kraft

Showing up almost an hour before the doors open at a concert, and finding a line wrapping around the block is a good indication of an artists fan base. On Sunday night, I found myself standing in line waiting to see California’s Honeyhoney and British golden boy James Morrison at the Neptune for the first date of Morisson’s American tour.

As I looked at the people in line around me, I realized how different this show was sure to be from others I’ve attended recently. The most blatant thing to point out was that crowd wasn’t universally 20somethings, but rather pulled from every age group you can imagine. I am 99% sure I saw someone who must’ve been 8, and heard a rumor in the lobby of an 60 year old celebrating her birthday upstairs. The diverse crowd provided for an interesting mix of fans, but a packed high energy crowd nonetheless.

Honeyhoney is a band name I’ve been hearing for a while now as their second album, Billy Jack, was released in October of last year and they’ve been relentlessly touring since long before then. I saw their name first pop up on Coachella’s line up, and then Washington’s own Sasquatch and I was thrilled to get a preview of what I’d be seeing at the Gorge Memorial Day weekend. Honeyhoney are an undeniably adorble duo (Suzanne Santo vocals, banjo, and violin and Ben Jaffe guitar and vocals) who were backed by a live band on the Neptune’s stage. They’re exactly what I imagine based on hearing their album- they’re firecrackers of enthusiasm, bursting  with attitude, and vocals and guitar licks that spread from the front of the stage up to the rafters. There music is a blend of country, folk, and poppy hooks, and a touch of soul found in Santo’s singing. That was one part of their performance that really stuck out- on the record they come off as heavily influenced by country music, but live their soul and rock and roll roots shine through in a bold, distinctive way.

Their set floated around older material from their debut release, First Rodeo, through parts of their most recent release, Billy Jack, introduced the audience to new material, and they even threw in a Bill Withers cover for good measure. Highlights of their set were many. ‘Ohio’ from Billy Jack filled the Neptune with its rambling, echoing, freight train of a melody- it’s a force of a song, and one that is an experience to hear live. Their rendition of ‘Grandma’s Hands’ by Bill Withers demonstrated the soul in Santo’s vocals in a huge way. Hands down my favorite song of the night was their performance of ‘Thin Line.’ This song is whiskey soaked, and not just within its lyrics. Santo’s vocals were clear and passionate, matched perfectly by Jaffe’s guitar playing. Jaffe really showed the crowd what he’s capable of during this song through a sultry guitar heavy portion of the song that resulted in cementing this group as a Sasquatch must-see in my book. Throughout their set one thing was apparent- these two performers have charisma and  completely compliment one another. They’ll be performing  Friday at Sasquatch, at 5pm at the Yedi stage, so make sure you set up your campsite and get your ass over there.

James Morrison is a class act, that’s for sure. After his performance, I understood wholeheartedly why his crowd was so diverse- he appeals to men and women of any age who want to be swept off their feet. He’s a crooner with a seemingly perfect voice, good looks, and the ability to connect with just about every member of an audience. His set was a well thought out series of hits, familiar songs, and perfectly timed stories about his work, his life, and his legion of fans. Playing songs like ‘Perfect Love,’ ‘Beautiful Life,’ and ‘One Life,’ he had the crowd eating every note up- that’s one thing I can say without a moment’s hesitation- his fans adore him and his music. The whole place was swaying in time with the music and singing along with each of his tunes.

When he came back out for his encore, he made sure to include ‘The Awakening,’ ‘Under The Influence,’ and of course ‘Wonderful World’ before throwing his towel into the crowd for a lucky fan. His performance reminded me of a different era in music, as not only was he clearly a showman during the entirety of the set, but he also had back up singers so talented they at times almost seemed to dominate the songs. His performance left the crowd buzzing as they flooded out from the Neptune, and I’m sure he’ll get a similar reaction as he continues across the United States on this leg of his tour.