Last Night: Mates of State, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Headlights

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Mates of State, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Headlights Granada Theater June 11, 20008

Mates of State, with a full band for once. (Merritt Martin)

Better than: Stressing out over the Top Chef season finale.

Download: Merritt Martin snapped some shops for your viewing pleasure.

Walking into the Granada, I didn’t know what to expect. But I was hoping for the best.

Of the three acts on the bill, I had only listened to one regularly, and that was opening act, Headlights, who would end up falling victim to the smallest draw and a 30-minute set.

With two full-length albums under their belts, the Champaign, Illinois, act was a perfect fit on the bill with Mates of State, blending catchy beats with sing-along harmonies. And by the time Headlights closed with single “Cherry Tulips,” from its latest album Some Racing, Some Stopping, you see the converts in the audience--they were streaming toward the merch table.

The surprise came when Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears took the stage promptly at 8:45 p.m. (much to the disappointment of the fashionably late). Lewis was backed by a six-piece band, including three horns and one of the happiest, most animated guitarists to ever take the stage. And, much to the shock of the indie kids of the Metroplex, Black Joe Lewis hit the stage and brought a brand new revamp of old-school soul and funk to the unsuspecting crowd.

The audience was visibly taken aback by the scrawny black man with the voice of a young James Brown, but as Lewis and his band progressed through their set of songs--which included “Gunpowder,” “Bitch, I Love You” and Brown’s own “I Don’t Mind”--it was obvious that the crowd, though hesitant at first, was eating Lewis up with a spoon, too. Looks of confusion morphed into amazement as the ass-shaking vibe swept through the Granada like a tidal wave. And, by the end of the much-too-short set, every girl wanted a Joe Lewis breakfast special of bacon, eggs, ham and toast (uh, you had to be there, so trust me)--and every guy knew they needed some rhythm.

With Headlights and Mates fans now in the front row proclaiming their devotion to the church of Austin blues, it was had to imagine that anyone could have enough power to follow Lewis.

But Mates of State was well-prepared.

By the time the Mates took the stage, the audience size had practically doubled--as had their energy. Fans was either singing along or realizing that “chick music” does have its merits. With a satisfactory mix of tracks from albums like Team Boo, Bring It Back and the band's newest release Re-Arrange Us (along with the obligatory cover--Jackson Browne’s “These Days”), Mates of State met expectations, complete with Kori Gardner wearing the “We’re in Texas!” cowboy hat during the encore.

Yet, when all was said and done, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears stole the show, enlightening all the pop fans along the way. --Jennifer Medina

Critic’s notebook Personal bias: If they ever decide to legalize polygamy, everyone will be invited to the wedding of myself, Black Joe Lewis, and all of those sweet Honeybears.

Random note: Though a duo on disc, the two extra musicians joining the Mates of State on tour (playing violin, cello and guitar) were an added bonus, allowing for well-rounded renditions but still staying true to the band’s distinctive sound.

By the way: If you dig Mates of State and kids shows, set your TiVo for Yo Gabba Gabba on Nick Jr. Awesome indie bands make appearances on the show, and Mates of State send word via their Web site that they’ve landed the coveted dancin’ kid gig.

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