For categorization’s sake, Bridge City Hustle sounds a bit like Jason Mraz on overdrive, only BCH’s songs are far more about the music than they are about the words. Frontman Johnny Burgos could sing the lyrics “I just wanna touch you” or “You’re just too good for me” (lines from two songs’ choruses) and I’d still come away satisfied. Burgos has a smooth tenor that accompanies Dan Cherouny’s saxophone well, and the rhythm section of bassist Pete O’Neill and drummer Dave Zerio provide a tight foundation for each song. Joining them on electric guitar was John Bendy, who looks like a former member of the Grateful Dead and shreds like a former member of Black Sabbath.
With a name like Bridge City Hustle, you can’t half-ass things. The music is A-grade in the making, and the presentation was, on the whole, stellar. John “Jerry Garcia” Bendy threw his body into every guitar solo, and the bass/drum section behaved themselves, sticking to the music and fading, at times, into the aural backbone they were busy creating. Johnny Burgos is a good frontman in the making: His passion for the music shines through his smile, and he clearly wants to elevate the spirit of every person in the room. The show was exciting and the music soulful and refreshing, but this kind of funk-rock fusion necessitates a very intimate stage presence that Burgos does not display. The line between performance and shared experience is thinly veiled, and last night’s display felt more like an act than the shared nirvanic ascension I was hoping for.
Am I asking too much of a band who’s been together for just over 1½ years? Perhaps, but if your music is exceptional, then I expect your overall set to be just as gratifyingly moving. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: The band closed their set with a driving, on-point version Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” It was a great cover, but if they had jumped around the stage with a little more passion and enthusiasm, it would have been an amazing cover.
Bridge City Hustle features all the hallmarks of a great band in the making, with fun, catchy and danceable songs like “Touch You,” “Can’t Let Go” and “Too Good For Me.” Their musicianship is stellar and their music is sonically diverse, running through both ends of the funk-rock spectrum. If they can polish their live performance, I have no doubt that this band will be going places.
Check out their website here, and listen to “The EP.”
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