VENUE: Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios
Sure, there's another one-man band playing on the Square this weekend. But, entertaining as Billy Roy is, he comes nowhere near the raw energy of Possessed by Paul James' Konrad Wert.
Wert's raw intensity is fascinating--his head shaking and body flailing and convulsing as he belts out his songs with a contorted, often pained expression.
And, while alternatively playing a fiddle, banjo or guitar, there's always the stomping on his stompbox. It's no little, lame commercially-produced stompbox either. Onstage, Wert keeps the beat by slamming his leg down on a big, old off-white Samsonite that's been shored up with duct tape. He stomps so furiously on the suitcases that they eventually fall to pieces. "
Yeah, the one I'm using now is my fifth one in three years," Wert told me after the show.
Somehow, he creates such a depth of sound that, if I'd have been standing in the bar at Rubber Gloves last night and heard Wert playing from other room, I would have bet money that there were at least three or four people feverishly hammering away on their instruments.
Now based out of Bandera, Texas, he's originally from Southwest Florida. And he's been playing under the Possessed by Paul James moniker for 3 years now.
"But there've been a lot of breaks in-between," he said.
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Like last year, when he and his wife had a baby. Wert is a school teacher by day and a "family man"--and, let me tell you, he's damn proud of both. Raised in an Amish-Mennonite family, his father was a preacher, and, in fact, the Paul James moniker Wert plays under is taken from the names of his father and his grandfather.
The "possessed" part of his stage name makes perfect sense because Wert does (cliché alert!) play like a man possessed. Seemingly possessed by roots musicians from the past, he threw everything from folk and blues to punk and bluegrass at that audience last night, and they were eating it up, clapping and cheering him on.
Honestly, I think he'd get the same reaction from a crowd whether he was playing at a West Texas honky tonk, a bluegrass festival in the Ozarks or a DIY punk venue. Anywhere, really.
His live show is that good.