At Lola's Saloon Sixth, the quality of the music can often be foretold by the difficulty in finding a parking spot. The more passes around the neighborhood you have to make, and the more city ordinances you have to violate, the better the show.
When you find yourself parking on the sidewalk, as I did Sunday, that's a very good sign indeed.
This was the unofficial after-party following the announcement of the winners of the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards. The Quaker City Nighthawks were playing an early show, perfect for Sunday evening.
If the name sounds familiar, then you must be a Mark Twain fan. The Quaker City was a ship Twain sailed on, and the Nighthawks were a group of men on board with whom he played cards. The modern-day version of Quaker City Nighthawks consists of Sam Anderson (guitar and vocals), Matt Mabe (drums and vocals), David Matsler (guitar and vocals) and Pat Adams (bass and vocals). No word on how good they are at playing cards, but they are all first-rate at playing music.
With the opening song, you could taste a certain Wilson Pickett flavor. The drumming was precise and intense -- very Matt Mabe-like. The vocals were shockingly good, especially considering that Anderson had already played two shows at two other locations that day. The follow-up song was fronted by Matsler and had more of a Dylan feel to it. That intriguing back-and-forth between Anderson and Matsler was the hallmark of the evening -- and the entire band. They split the songwriting duties. And while their styles are diverse enough to keep things interesting, they share a bluesy consistency.
For the third song, Anderson took over again, and served up a John Fogerty-sounding rock number. Next it was right back to Matsler for an honest version of Robert Johnson's 32-20 Blues -- a touching song about shooting your woman to death for cheating on you. (The song dates to the 1920s, proving that violence in music is nothing new -- they just did it better back then.)
Straight from a win in the hard-rock category at the Weekly's music awards, Stephen Beatty of Stella Rose appropriated Matsler's guitar and managed to rock his way through the Big Joe Williams classic Baby Please Don't Go. Beatty was just one of many of the local-music elite who turned up at Lola's on Sunday. Elle and Richard Hurley of the Transistor Tramps, pretty much all of the Orbans, and Nick Choate were in attendance as well. During the show, Burning Hotels drummer Wyatt Adams jumped on stage to play tambourine, and Tony Ferraro of Eaton Lake Tonics performed a song about monkeys with a superiority complex. Before leaving the stage, Beatty boldly announced, "The Quaker City Nighthawks are my favorite f------ Fort Worth band." Based on the enthusiasm of the crowd, he's not the only one who feels this way.
Describing the Quaker City Nighthawks' sound is easy. It's first-rate rock, no slashes needed. There's some soul in there, some swamp and some folk, and you can hear the influences of groups like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Golden Earring. But it's just solid, original Texas rock 'n' roll.
The Nighthawks will be heading to Los Angeles to finish their upcoming album. They are excited to be meeting with a publicist while there but admit to possibly needing a manager -- since none of them actually knows what a publicist does.
For information on the Nighthawks (or to send them your résumé), go to www.myspace.com/quakercitynighthawks.