TL;DR, Summary, Breakdown: Fire, Electricity, Guitar
I met Bartees Strange for a few minutes before his show, his tour opener at The Thunderbird in Pittsburgh last Thursday night. He’s soft spoken. He’s bald, squat, maybe even frumpy looking. He had a mask on — the smart thing to do in a crowd. I learned he was a press secretary for Obama. Bartees is from rural Oklahoma, the only black kid in school. He had some really interesting experiences to mine for meaning. I had noticed the poetic, deep lyrics on Wretched and the other songs on his album, Farm to Table. The lyrics pulled me in. So, I was thinking I was going to be treated to some wonderful poetry, set to music.
There was wonderful poetry set to music.
But it was background to the energy Bartees brought with his guitar. Listen to the chorus on his single, Wretched, and you’ll get a sense of what a Strange performance is like. The recorded album Farm to Table totally plays up his thoughtfulness and more somber emotion. On stage though,🔥 Bartees Strange is 🔥. I did not think a guy shaped like Strange could jump so high and rock out so hard — I think because no one in the past would have ever packaged or promoted someone without chiseled jaw line, inspired hair, and six-pack abs. I prefer the inspiration of the outsider, whose incredible talent burns through the bullshit.
I think of Brandi Carlisle’s “The Joke,”
They tell you that your place is in the middle
When they had the way you shine…
…I have been to a Bartees Strange concert
I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them.
His band was fantastic. He always had a second guitar going, but often times had as many as 3 guitars and a bass. His drummer was also totally inspired.
Bartees said Henessey was his favorite song, about the limits of stereotypes.
Four days later, I find myself searching for more concert dates within driving distance.
What a feeling. 🔥 🎸⚡️