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By William Brents
Saturday, February 4, will no doubt fondly cling to the memories of Louisville's own Starbilly members. After all, they were the toast of the town.
First, the band held an album release party at the Highlands ear X-tacy and later that night plugged in for a set at the Butchertown Pub. To top things off, the brass from the band's Chicago label, Buzz Records, decided to record the show live.
Nice call by the Buzz folks, because Starbilly set the pub ablaze with their flammable mixture of scorching guitars and urgent vocals.
Vocalist Peter Searcy wasted little time in establishing a potent level of energy. From the opening song, "Heather," to the closer, "Diane," Searcy and company packed a collective wallop. One raucous tune after the other, a true rock 'n' roll party that would test the sizable crowd's stamina. As for me, l was drained. And that "out on my feet" feeling (which has nothing to do with alcohol intake) only ensured me of being part of a special show.
Starbilly played every cut off their new album Master Vibrator plus several other selections, including "Bourbon," a stark mid-tempo song drenched in emotion. Musically, "Bourbon" also marked a rewarding change of pace proving that guitarists Dave Ernst and Phil Wakeman, bassist Casey "hangtime" Seitz and drummer Tom Tompkins diligently listen and feed off each other with intuitive ease.
"Heather," "Unmistakable Tick" and especially "Baby Pool" all displayed polished song structure and loads of striking hooks.
Searcy is a very distinctive and strong vocalist; he convincingly cruises along during the verse and then delves into the fiery chorus with head-shaking and foot-stomping conviction.
Guitarist Emst blew an amp near the end of the set but the band forged on with a stunning cuver of Husker Du's "Diane." Fellow guitarist Wakeman handed his guitar over to Ernst for the lead parts while Seitz and Tompkins kept it rolling and. as for Searcy, his contorted face and repeated shouts of "Diane" assured me that Starbilly is a band that will have to be reckoned with.
Doc Ellis, a blue-collar hard-rock band featuring ex-Afghan Whig drummer Steve Earle opened with mixed results. The set started off promising with several tough and tuneful rockers but soon the seventies retro-rock wore a little thin.
I mean what can you say about a band that claims they know every Black Sabbath tune?