Jon Drake & The Shakes, Chaperone at Burlington Bar

By my count this was the eighth time I’ve seen Chaperone in 2011. Far too few in my mind, but more than most people. One thing I have to say for the group, every show feels fresh and you always get 100% sincerity from them. This night was not their finest, and still I found their set thoroughly enjoyable. They hit all the right notes when they needed to, including a great version of “Son Of Love Control.”

Two things stood out more than usual during this dimly lit production: Christian was drumming like I’ve never seen before (maybe because he’s usually tucked behind everyone else but there was no room for that here), and Shaylah’s vocals came through a lot stronger than normal. She was projecting her voice better and the sound system at Burlington picked up the sound pretty well.

I’ve known these kids for a little over a year now, and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow into the band they always wanted to be. They’ve moved far away from the Appalachian Americana that they started out with and have embraced their inner punk. They’ve always had a bit of that live, but with the release of their latest 7″ “Raised By Wolves,” it’s been documented very well.

Jon Drake and The Shakes is a completely different story for me. I caught a little bit of a set way back in January (at Subterranean where they were also playing with Chaperone), and I left three songs into their set. I was a bit angered by how long it took them to set up, and I was too blurred by rage to appreciate any of their music. This evening the set only took a few minutes to be ready and we were off. Already an improvement.

The first song, which I think is called “Margie,” is a pretty good one. It’s a country/pop ballad-y tune that’s easy on the ears. Moving on from there I didn’t know any of the music.

Drake is a good frontman, and knows how to play to his audience, which was larger than I expected on a Thursday night. He shows a good command of his larger-than-necessary band, and he never appears flustered.

His set does have a bit too much polish for me. It’s obvious that they spend a lot of time rehearsing, and everything comes off as it probably should. With a band featuring at least seven members other than Drake, it would be impossible to just wing a set. It sounds great, but lacks some urgency that comes with the chaos of a Chaperone set.

That said, The Shakes do put on a good show. They’ve got strings and horns that add a lot of depth, and at one point I swear I thought a song reminded me a lot of Springsteen’s “Jungleland.” I don’t know if that’s what the band is shooting for, but they do have a good amount of E Street-ness to them.

The fans of The Shakes are a dedicated bunch. The people around me were dancing and singing along to every song. When the night was approaching the end and the crowd was cheering loudly, Drake decided to oblige his admirers and play one more song. And it was probably one of my favorites of the night, so I’m glad he did.

The highlight of the set for me, it should be noted, was The Shakes drummer. He looks a little, and plays a little, like Animal from The Muppets. He did a lot of playing standing up, which I found odd, but I dug it nonetheless. So if you aren’t sold on hitting a Shakes show for any other reason, go to see the drummer.