On the Beat

The Whom brings The Who to life at Hopscotch, and it was an amazing journey

Back in the early 1990s, Motorolla was just about my favorite Triangle band. A scarifyingly powerful guitar-bass-drums trio, they echoed the old classic-rock titans without being slavish about it, especially The Who. It helped that drummer Jon Heames has always looked eerily like Keith Moon, and played like him, too. Motorolla came to a sad, bad and premature end, unceremoniously dropped and disbanded after just one album.

But in recent years, the trio of Heames, guitarist Bo Taylor and bassist Brian Sliwa has periodically regrouped as The Whom, with Roger Daltrey look-alike Paul Siler (from Birds of Avalon) as frontman. They played Kings on Saturday afternoon as part of Hopscotch, and flat out blew my mind. I suppose you could call The Whom the greatest Who tribute band you’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t capture anything like how magnificent it was. It’s not just that they’re precise and hit all the marks, even though they are and they do. It’s that I think it’s very possible that this was exactly why Heames was put on this planet.

All four of them were fantastic. Siler had every grunt, groan, howl and microphone twirl down pat. Taylor and Sliwa perfectly nailed Pete Townshend’s guitar and John Entwistle’s bass. And Heames...My God, Heames, he made you think Keith Moon didn’t die 36 years ago to the day but went into hiding. Of course that’s not what happened, but Heames sure as heck brought him to life for an hour on Saturday afternoon.

The songs they played were circa 1970’s “Live at Leeds” album, and every song was just incredible, especially “Young Man Blues” and “Sparks” -- the “Tommy” instrumental, which seemed just about to explode. Yet for all the precision of the evocation, it didn’t feel the least bit mannered or self-conscious. It wasn’t a tribute so much as a conjuring, and I loved it immensely.

Other Saturday highlights: Amigo, an immensely likable and energetic young bar band from Charlotte; Tarheel pop veteran Chris Stamey showing off some fine new songs from his upcoming album; Death, the resurrected 1970s-vintage proto-punk Detroit band that was truly ahead of its time; and Mastodon, a band with more catchy pop sense than just about every other progressive-metal band put together.

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