Live: Honky Tonk Lives in Boca Raton at Hooligans, May 7

Loxahatchee Sinners Union
With Los Bastardos Magnificos and Lone Wolf
Hooligans, Boca Raton
Saturday, May 7, 2011

A bit of the swamp invaded Boca Raton on Saturday night. Under the tutelage of longtime Palm Beach County musician James "Scarecrow Jenkins" Pellegrini, Hooligans welcomed a night of honky-tonk revival that sounded straight out of the backwoods. Surprisingly, much to the contrary of the country-tinged sounds that the three acts emitted this night, all the bands are comprised of city folk. Opener Lone Wolf (birth name Bruno Esposito) and Los Bastardos Magnificos both have Magic City connections. Scarecrow himself is a lifelong Boca Raton resident, and his bandmates from the Loxahatchee Sinners Union reside in more urban settings than their handle would suggest.

The hootin' 'n' hollerin' one-man-band attack of Lone Wolf was a last-minute replacement for Lake Worth nu-country act Heavy Boots -- who pulled out of the show earlier in the week. Lone Wolf, now based out of Satellite Beach, made the trek down just for the night and entertained the crowd with his frantic kick-drum tapping, frenzied banjo strumming, and whirling harp blowing. Most enjoyable of all was his vocal delivery, a caricaturing throaty warble that had many parallels to one infamous sailor man -- Popeye.

Los Bastardos Magnificos followed next, and their lead singer, David Miller, maintained a similar raspy cadence as Wolf. The five-piece, though, brought a fuller, more expansive type of roots rock to a set that was heavy on its tributes. "My Last Hillbilly Song," a Willie Nelson cover, took matters deeper into the Appalachian countryside with Miller's tenor banjo, George Geanoracos' fiddle, and Lone Wolf (who filled in for the band's bassist, Jamie Pflug) on bass fiddle. Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" was given a proper twangy treatment from Miller. And as expected (we figured the odds were good that we'd be treated to at least one Johnny Cash number this night), "Folsom Prison Blues" was rendered, a stellar interpretation that would have made the man in black proud.

After the set, Miller told us how a guy from Miami who also plays in hardcore groups can get into outlaw country. In Miller's case, it was the Coen Brothers' Great Depression-era romp O Brother, Where Art Thou?

"That movie really exposed me to more old-time music that I had never heard before," he said. He feels that the Coen Brother's flick in general piqued American audiences' interest in throwback sounds from other eras. He also pointed out to us that country gets a bad rap: "Country is a style of music that people claim to hate, mainly because lame acts like Toby Keith have really given it a stigma."

Scarecrow came over and interjected while his band was setting up: "I personally never met anyone who hates Johnny Cash." Scarecrow feels that there are many closeted country fans out there, and acts like Lone Wolf, Los Bastardos Magnificos, and his are bringing them out.

Scarecrow, who toured the country extensively with his previous outfit, Lake Worth psychobilly villians Viva Le Vox, tells us the hillbilly revival is a nationwide movement. "There are magnificent groups from coast to coast like Th' Legedary Shack Shakers from Nashville and Slim Cessna's Auto Club from Denver that are doing exactly what we are doing -- paying homage to the way things used to be done." 

Scarecrow's group took the stage shortly thereafter and brought a midtempo sound that was akin to the "swamp gospel" descriptive he has told us about. His partner-in-crime/girlfriend/bandmate Erin "Junebug Jenkins" Helton -- quite a looker who could legitimately be a stand-in for famed American Burlesque star Dita Von Teese -- joined him frequently in sing-alongs with her sultry, smoky pipes.

"Take the Hammer" was one of our favorites -- a certifiable mountain boogie jam with the Loxahatchee Sinners Union's perfect unison of harp, bull fiddle, banjo, and guitar, Scarecrow even evoking a little Johnny Cash bravado here.

After 15 years of playing music, Scarecrow certainly has found his stride as a frontman; this project his first in the lead role.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Fan of country or not, all the acts this night brought a passion and sentiment to their work that was universal. We expect a lot more closeted country fans will be coming out with more shows like these.

Overheard: Scarecrow: "You don't need any

electricity to [play this music]. You can jam out anywhere, in the street, during a

blackout, it doesn't matter."

By the way: Los Bastardos' David Miller currently doubles his time with a sludge band called Consular.


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