The Balkun Brothers and Gang of Thieves
March 7 2015
Strange Brew Pub Norwich, CT
by Christopher Gallagher
The Balkun Brothers Blues Band and Gang of Thieves show at Strange Brew Pub in Norwich, CT on Saturday, March 7 was an evening dominated by the themes of professionalism and family. I arrived early to get a history lesson from Jason Wallace who co-owns the venue along with his parents and has steered it from a local bar of questionable repute to one of the Northeast’s hot spots for live music. Located at 297 w. Main Street, within minutes of Routes 2 and 395 and boasting a pool table, plenty of room to move and groove, a full kitchen, and a list of over 110 available beers, Strange Brew began its current life with a name change and a rebranding in the summer of 2013.
The Wallaces closed the former High Noon Saloon for a week in June of that year to undertake a renovation that came to include a sharp new sign on the building’s facade and an interior makeover highlighted by the very cool mounting of classic albums side by side with the purchasable works of local artists along the walls. The week of work was truncated by a phone call on Thursday from the wonderful singer songwriter Ryan Montbleau who was looking for an alternate venue following the rainout of an outdoor show he’d had scheduled in the area. Several hours later, Strange Brew, with Jason at the helm and behind the soundboard, was off and running and now approaches its second anniversary hosting thrice weekly visits from the region’s top touring acts.
On Saturday the 7th, the Wallaces were joined by two bands, each boasting a pair of brothers, who have travelled the musical highways and byways together for over half a decade that began with a sit-in with the BBs by GOT bass player Tobin Salas and has featured many double bills. As Gang of Thieves, a six piece outfit out of Burlington, VT including an electric violin, two guitars, bass, drums, and trombone, took the stage to prepare, it was clear that things would proceed in singular fashion as lead singer Michael Reit (brother of trombone player Nate) soundchecked the vocal mic by calling out the Fibonacci sequence up to 89.
Taking the stage for real promptly at 10:00, Gang of Thieves, all six members in their stocking feet, ripped directly into a ten song set of inspiring variety that blended a couple covers, marching rhythms, a tour story set in a California motel, harmonies, chants, choreography, blues, psychedelic freakouts, raggae, bird calls, and ripping solos into a stew of musical wonder. The crowd was primed and moving, ready for what was to come. Each member of the night’s headliner provides reasons you should catch the Balkun Brothers as soon as possible:
-Steve Balkun, lead singer, guitarist, and luthier, has serious game. His instrumental range, which sets a new tone almost by the moment, and fingerpicking virtuosity, which evokes a slew of other “beast mode” players from Hendrix and SRV to John Frusciante and Scott Murowski, coupled with his skills as a frontman- prowling the stage using his voice with its mix of slur and crystal; growl, howl, and yawp as another instrument combined with perfect comfort in his interactions with the crowd pegs him as someone with a bright future in his chosen profession.
-Nick Balkun, the younger of the bandmates and drummer, possesses both tickling touch and powdercharges in his hands and skillfully uses whichever the moment demands. The efficiency with which he and Steve pass the musical focus back and forth with fluid ease places them well in a musical genre replete with fraternal combinations like the Vaughns, the Allmans, and the Winters.
-And, Dave “Davey Blues” Sadloski, guitarist turned bassman and longtime associate of the Balkuns, joining the band in that roll for the first time in public, provided color far beyond the repetition of a few patterned notes. His addition to round out the established foundation of this band portends exciting things for the immediate future.
Stone Free > Fire
Got My Boots
I Know What Ya Did
Mean Town Blues
Keep It Up
Keep Me Warm
Champagne and Reefer
Be sure to check out this week’s featured show, DEADBEAT at the Brighton Music Hall, previewed here.
Check out the reviews of two nights of Golden Gate Wingmen featuring John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane and Reed Mathis in Long Beach CA February 6 and 7 Night one: Check out the review of Long Beach night two here!