Erica Blinn & the Handsome Machine will be headlining the Main Stage at the Columbus Arts Festival at 9 pm this Saturday night, June 7th, 2014, on the Downtown Riverfront.
First off, full disclosure: I have – on a very few occasions – worked as a roadie for Erica Blinn & the Handsome Machine, but I don’t want this piece taken as any kind of paid advertisement or boosterism. I have no financial interest in the band, I get paid a few bucks to wrangle guitars & merch once in awhile, but that’s not enough to convince me to conceive the rave you’re gonna view here.
I have only ever worked for bands I’ve loved – Willie Phoenix, Hamell On Trial, Watershed, The League Bowlers, Colin Gawel & the Lonely Bones, The Whiles – because if you don’t love a band enough to watch them a hundred different nights in a hundred different dives, why bother?
I'd watch a hundred nights of this band. I’d watch Erica and the guys a hundred shows in a hundred nights: I’d watch Erica belt out her incredibly well-written tunes like the bastard girl-child of Rod Stewart & Chrissie Hynde; I’d watch her peel out her rhythm parts from a low-slung Fender Tele like a Harley winding out on a Midwest dirt-track; I’d watch her wail harmonica solos like she was born on the South Side of Chicago rather than the West Side of Columbus; I’d watch PJ Schreiner bash out drum-pounding fever/beats behind her while simultaneously pitching in note-perfect harmonies along with bass player Mark Nye; I’d watch guitarist Greg Wise melting faces in the front row with incendiary riffs straight outta the Keith Richards/Fred “Sonic” Smith school of lead guitar, yet ultimately fresh, new, up-to-date and ROCKIN’. (I’ve only seen relatively new second lead guitarist Will Newsome twice, and he’s SOLID, my rock & roll brothers & sisters, but you’re gonna have to wait until next time for superlatives on him from me. I never rush my proselytizing.)
I first met Erica while I was working at Ace In The Hole Music when she was still a teenager. Her father Jerry – a key player in 1970’s Columbus rockers Black Leather Touch – shopped at the store and once when he brought Erica in with him I mentioned to Jerry that I had reviewed Black Leather Touch in Focus, a local rock magazine of the time. Erica got really hyped in that way only young teenagers can and said earnestly, “You don’t still have those articles by any chance, do you? I try to collect everything I can find about my dad’s band.” “You’re in luck, little lady,” I replied, “I am one of those egotistical motherfuckers who keeps EVERYTHING they’ve ever written.” I xeroxed the articles and brought them to the store for her the next Saturday. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Erica started performing at 14 years old and I watched her growing up in public over the next few years, throughout her scuffling days, playing with different bands in shifting line-ups, the songs always getting a little better, the stagecraft a little sharper with each incarnation. And then in 2010 there were the exponential leaps forward: hooking up with Colin Gawel of Watershed for co-songwriting sessions; catching the ear of producer Mike Landolt of Curry House Records; and forging a relationship with the rock & roll pride of Raleigh, North Carolina – Terry Anderson & the Olympic Ass-Kickin’ Team – for live dates and recording. The end result of those collaborations was Erica’s 2011 self-titled extended-play CD, six tracks of pure prime rockin’ perfection, led by “Choices” and Anderson’s classic “Weather Or Not.”
And then came the formation of The Handsome Machine: with longtime partner PJ Schreiner anchoring the drum-throne, bassist & harmony vocalist Mark Nye came on board first, followed by genius buzzsaw lead guitarist Greg Wise. The band – along with guest musicians Devon Allman, Aaron Lee Tasjan & Angela Perley, among others – recorded Erica’s new 12-track debut album “Lovers In The Dust” and hit the road to play any & every bar, dive & honky-tonk that would have them, all the while honing the blistering rock attack they lay claim to today. Second lead guitarist Will Newsome was added to the band after the album was completed to fill in some of the approximately one thousand guitar tracks that producer Landolt layered into the album, laid down by guitarists as disparate as Andy Harrison, Dave Bartholomew, Wise and Allman.
Maybe more than merely the band, though, it’s the Erica Blinn-penned SONGS the Handsome Machine are gonna throw at you that are going to have you standing staring mesmerized at the stage. “Whiskey Kisses” and “Sexy Mess” are going to ROCK you, “Let’s Give Love” and “Let Me Be Yours” are going to ROLL you, and if “One Of These Days” doesn’t break your heart on this upcoming warm spring Saturday night I’m inclined to proffer the opinion that you don’t have a functioning cardiac unit. And if the two minutes & twenty-seconds of “Home” isn’t the greatest individual rock song you’ve heard in the past five years, I’ll take back every word I've written in this blog.
I’d watch a hundred nights of this band.
I’m only asking you to watch one.