The Mike West Band
January 26, 2004
With his unkempt beard and waist length hair, Katie Euliss’ plain appearance, and Peter Orr’s pasty skin and Einstein hairdo, Mike West admitted onstage his band wasn’t the most visually oriented group out there.
So, it was no big deal when the lights went out at d.b.a. one song into their Truckstop Honeymoon CD release party Sunday night. The Bluegrass band seemed unworried and un-phased as they continued with an acoustic set that worked well in the venue’s intimate atmosphere. The group’s loud, preachy vocal delivery along with feet stomping from the trio and audience compensated for the lack of amplification.
West was normally on banjo, Euliss on jug or double bass, and Orr on acoustic guitar, but they switched instruments readily, and a mandolin was thrown into the mix for two songs. West described his music as “The Carter Family’s evil Southern cousin” or “Levee-Billy music,” and he was right on both accounts. His songs were mostly banjo-driven sing-along knee-slappers, and his song subjects ranged from love to family planning to jail and yard sales.
The level of musicianship within the band was exceptional, but the focus during and between songs was the trio’s wry, sardonic and irreverent sense of humor. One song spoke of the inefficiency of Jesus, while another lauded an affordable yet romantic truckstop honeymoon. The music could have been played anywhere, but West’s eccentric package was a perfect fit with New Orleans. This was proved by d.b.a.'s audience overflow and the slight crowd reaction to Euliss’ sixth month old baby residing behind West onstage.
The band plays in front of tourists three days a week at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café. A tourist’s need for entertainment has produced sometimes rehearsed barbs between the three, but they each were naturally funny. Orr implored the audience to interrupt him for a retail moment. “I’ll take the money. Screw the solo. I do ten of them a day.” The band was selling CD’s and wares that included squirrel fat soap.
The set’s rhythm was only thrown off when West went into two slow-paced Country songs that were average at best. Each song’s style was so similar, everything began to sound the same after a while. The band should have taken a break five songs before they did.
Still, the crowd applauded loudly after each song, and the night seemed a huge success for the band. The baby didn’t even wake up.