Wildcat O’Halloran Band

Deja Brew Wendell MA

June 28 2014

By Karen Traub

Full Disclosure:  The company that owns and operates this website, also works with Wildcat in other capacities.  Karen Traub is an independent fan and writer and writes this review separately from that entangling alliance.

I’m an all or nothing type of woman so it’s no surprise that when I fell for Wildcat O’Halloran, I fell hard. Like a lot of local folks, I was a fan of Wildcat back in the days of Northampton’s Sheehans’ but lost track of him after he sold the Dove’s Nest restaurant. 

It was my luck to rediscover Wildcat just before a big birthday when I was feeling low.  I found myself cheered up when he played “Wine Spodee Oddee” and downright uplifted by his “Wooly Bully”.  I have been following the band for several years now and have seen them at many different venues including Theodore’s in Springfield MA, the Shutesbury Athletic Club and the Sunderland Public Library. The show is always fresh and full of surprises with great music and wild dancing.

This summer has been great for music and Wildcat’s First Annual Wendell Bluesfest at the Deja Brew Pub featured a parade of stars including Wally Greeney, Emily Duff, Dave Boatwright and Wildcat’s sweet-singing daughter Sarah AKA the “Wildkitten”. “Catfest” was a benefit for Friends of Wendell and while there were plenty of splendid Wendellites, people came from the hills and as far away as Connecticut for this outdoor event on a beautiful summer’s eve.

Musically the crowd was satisfied and as always happens at Wildcat shows, the dance floor was rocking from start to finish. Dave Boatwright, founding member of the Equalites knows his way around the blues and started things off with some sweet sounds followed by up-and-comer Buddy McEarns, an instant crowd pleaser.wildcat blues fest

Wendell’s homegrown Perry “Danger Boy” Howarth smoked it with his back porch sound and Charlie Scott is a party unto himself, Wally and Em rounded out the sound, all backed by Wildcat’s rhythm section of Dave Kendarian and the one and only Billy “the Clock” Klock.  The music moved inside to keep the neighbors happy. But the party kept going, because dancing in the Deja Brew is a little like dancing on the fun bus.

I am pretty critical and don’t think a band should play a cover unless they can do it justice When Wildcat plays Hendrix I can imagine the old dead blues guys standing around in heaven or wherever they are saying “holy shit, that boy can play”. When Wildcat plays a song like “Cross to Bear”, he stays true to the original but there’s no mistaking his one of a kind style.  Speaking of originals, Wildcat’s latest record “Party up in Heaven” is his best yet. Clever, biting and insightful lyrics combine with virtuositous musicality to offer an over the counter depression cure to rival Prozac. With catchy songs like “Everything that I Do” and love ballads like “Crossin’ Off”  Wildcat shows he can be both fierce and tender. His songs like “Roller Coaster” speak to our human condition while “Party up in Heaven”, the title track pretty much describes the Wildcat experience.  

If you are looking for something different, check out Wildcat O’Halloran’s “Too Much Weekend” blues jam in Northampton every Sunday 4-8pm at the City Sports Bar (Northampton Bowling Alley). It’s a crazy fun confluence of music and social intermingling, kind of like a high school dance. Others may copy, but there’s only one Wildcat!

wildcat smilingA longtime reigning regional talent on the blues scene, Wildcat is a charming host and warmly welcomes guests to his weekly party (free pizza while it lasts!!).  Wildcat is a freaking genius at magicking up instant bands in an endlessly entertaining stream of action (but who knew he was also a twinkle toes on the dance floor!?)  

Each week the jam features a special guest followed by those who sign up to play.  It’s always a surprise to see who shows up and how Wildcat makes it flow. The jam draws a mix of popular local musicians like Tommy Whalen, Eva Capelli and Charlie Scott, and courageous first time jammers nourished by the enthusiastic encouragement they receive. One minute Wildcat’s screaming guitar sends dancers into a frenzy, and the next, the audience and musicians are treated to Wildcat on drums or bass. You never know what will happen but a good time is pretty much guaranteed.

Winning last year’s Valley Advocate Grand Slam Championship seemed like a turning point and the future is looking bright for the Cat.  “Party up in Heaven” is being played across the country, climbing the blues charts and was just submitted to the Blues Music Awards. If you’ve got the blues, don’t reach for the pharmaceuticals, reach for the Wildcat. 


Full Disclosure:  The company that owns and operates this website, also works with Wildcat in other capacities.  Karen Traub is an independent fan and writer and writes this review separately from that entangling alliance.