I’m not sure what I was expecting when I walked into Schubas Sunday night to see Hoots & Hellmouth. I knew from their newest album, Salt, that they’d play some well-written folk songs that would quench my desire for a laid back evening. Turns out I was wrong on that count, as I left the venue sweating after a raucous set led by the energetic and soulful frontman Sean Hoots.
I had a chance to speak with Sean right after Cloudbirds set was finished. It wasn’t a long chat, but he mentioned how much he loved playing at Schubas and how great the sound system is. Couldn’t agree more with that. He also said that the band now travels with their own sound guy. I have to say, as good as Schubas usually sounds, this show was even better. Kudos to the gentleman behind the boards.
The band played a lot of material off of Salt, as well as some tracks off of their earlier records, including “Watch Your Mouth” off of The Holy Open Secret.;
It was right around this point that I realized the show wasn’t going to be anything I expected. There are moments on Salt where the band gets funky, but not to this extent. Hoots guitar skills are mindblowing, and the band plays tight, but freely. I knew the vocals would be excellent, but the way he sings is completely different from the album. In a live setting everything is much more explosive and passionate.
A while later they played my favorite song off the new record, “Apple Like A Wrecking Ball.”
The lightning quick movement of Hoots’ hands in the buildup to the chorus is awesome. He also gets a chance to really show his vocal range, hitting notes toward the end that I feared might break the glass of the already-shaken Schubas structure.
As the show marched toward its end, I realized that Hoots & Hellmouth are as much a soul band as they are country or folk. They incorporate all these elements, along with blues and pop to create a sound all their own. They play with such power and stage presence that it is impossible to look away. Every member of the band is one hundred percent into the performance.
To close out the set they played a two-song medley featuring “Lay Low” from the new record, and “Want On Nothing”off last years self-titled EP. The result was a eight and a half minute jam session of epic proportions.
If you haven’t picked up Salt yet, I would encourage you to do so. It’s a strong album for this Philadelphia band that wears its heart on its sleeve and gives fans their all every night.