Michael Hurtt and His Haunted Hearts

The Circle Bar

November 03, 2004

The room was silent between songs, so it wasn't hard to hear the band's under-their-breath bickering. Most of the trouble came from vocalist/acoustic guitarist Michael Hurtt, who was constantly worried about the band's sound. After one of the most drawn-out, detail-oriented soundchecks I've heard at The Circle Bar, the band started late. This type of OCD behavior went hand-in-hand with Hurtt's interrogation of audience members over the band's sound quality--even into the middle of the set. It's understandable if a band wants to sound right, but to the point that it takes away from my enjoyment of the music? The band played their drumless rockabilly well, but people weren't very into it. Everyone sat and clapped politely, but there wasn't a lot of energy exchanged in the room Wednesday night at The Circle Bar. I can only imagine it was because people like me were turned off by the band's worrisome behavior, which translated into a lack of confidence. It's kinda hard to sell rock and roll, especially string guitar strap pompadour rockabilly, if you act like a mother sending her kid off to school for the first time. I can't remember how many times Hurtt asked his bandmates if they were ready to start the song. The songs were tight, but they need to get up on their performance skills.

Hurtt was accompanied by an upright bassist, a bass guitarist, and an electric/lap steel guitarist. Hurtt's acoustic guitar sound was drowned out by the other instruments, so it looked like he was playing a prop. The bass guitarist dictated the speed and melody of the songs, which were mostly jumpin' affairs. They played a couple slower honky tonk numbers. The upright bassist mimicked a snare sound by stricking his strings. The electric guitar added the small amount of texture and attitude needed to push the songs from good into better.

I enjoyed the songs, and Hurtt delivered them with a great voice and an attitude representative of each one. Still, you can't attack the audience when you're worried about the sound.

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