by Blake Hammond
It was the first night of the MidPoint Music Festival on Thursday. This means that for at least the next three days, Cincinnati will be the U.S.’s musical Mecca of sorts. It’s not only a great opportunity for the city but also for the numerous Cincinnati acts that have been struggling and grinding for a chance at real recognition, a chance many are finally awarded this weekend. But as the calamity of festivities began to unfold downtown, The Devil Makes Three was throwing a good ole’ fashioned hootenanny of their own, 15 minutes north in Oakley at the 20th Century Theater. Before I delve into the logistics of how the Santa Cruz natives blew the top off the 20th Century, something must be said about the opening act, John Fullbright. This young man out of Oklahoma is a one-man band in every sense of the phrase. With his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and foot-stomping rhythms, Fullbright attained his own brand of back-porch folk providing the perfect setting for his raspy, southern drawl croon, heavy hitting guitar, and virtuosic harmonica skills. His best song (also his first) is titled, “Gawd Above,” which goes into great detail about how God is a needy asshole, showcased the 24-year-old’s potential, vocally and musically, and really got the crowd revved up for the headlining act, The Devil Makes Three. If you haven’t heard of The Devil Makes Three, they are a three-piece Folk band out of Santa Cruz, California that incorporates Ragtime, Bluegrass, and a Punk Rock attitude in their music. Imagine Johnny Cash getting out of prison, drinking a bottle of “Old Number 7” and going home to have sweet, unprotected sex with June while listening to Dead Kennedys records. Nine-months later, you’d get The Devil Makes Three. Even though The Devil Makes Three is used to playing sold-out shows, the smaller-than-usual crowd didn’t stop them from putting on one of the best concerts I’ve been to in awhile. The second Pete Bernhard, Lucia Torino, and Cooper McBean strummed the first chords of “Beneath the Piano,” to the encore (a cover), “St. James Infirmary,” they had complete and total control of the room, even if it wasn’t at maximum capacity (Thanks, MidPoint!)Part of their great crowd control came from the fact that their set list was meticulously thought out (probably not, but at least it seemed that way). They kept the crowd going with up-tempo fan favorites like “Gracefully Facedown,” “All Hail,” “Statesboro Blues,” “Old Number 7,” and “For Good Again” while still incorporating new slower jams like the blues anthem, “Dragging All Those Chains.”Their best track of the night, however, had to be “Aces and Twos,” for it was not only the height of the hoe-down that was happening in the crowd but was technically perfect and played blindingly faster than the studio version, despite its musical complexities. The last song they played (before the encore) is a tune titled, “Help Yourself,” which had the every patron of the 20th Century Theater doing their booze-induced jigs and solidified the fact that The Devil Makes Three had helped themselves by garnering a wider fan base in the Cincinnati area. Overall, the only think I think could have made this concert better is if they handed out overalls, straw hats and jugs of moonshine at the door. Just keep it in mind for next time, guys.