The Healing Sixes successfully rocked a good crowd of 150 at their Radio Radio show on Saturday night. The Indianapolis band, who have been active for more than a decade, seem on the verge of becoming an “it” band all these years later. So can I give one suggestion to make them even better? Make a sax player, like the one who joined Saturday, a fulltime bandmember.
The band, opening with “Beautiful One” and “Port-O-Let Monkey”, proved adept at blending 70’s rock influences with enough of their own personality to continue to forge an identity that may yet get them into territory once occupied by the Why Store.
Mixing up the setlist with cuts from 2007’s “One Less Friend” album, their work with Joe Bonamassa, and 2002’s “Enormosound”, the band paired some sugary hooks with alt-rock crunch. Plus, they had the elusive likability factor in their favor; You watch and want them to be good because they play with a palpable, relaxed confidence.
Bandmates Doug Henthorn, Eric Saylors, Wade Parish and Jeff Stone channeled Black Crowes, Collective Soul, Led Zeppelin and even a little Cheap Trick, which ain’t ever a bad thing. Their “Fine Tune”, originally recorded with Bonamassa, was another set highlight, with slamming blues riffs and Henthorn’s gruffly sweet vocals carrying the song.
A word to all bands who do mostly original material: good decision. It is the direction best traveled to being taken seriously as a band and finding long-term success. I know that. But throw in a cover song, and some inventive ways to let us know that you know it is only rock and roll. And Healing Sixes did, with a Zep cover and the inserting opening lines from The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”). Well done. Also smart move to experiment on a couple songs with the one-night-only addition of saxophonist Max McAllister. He’s a writer and business owner in the motorcycle racing industry. And a damn good sax man. The addition of a sax gave the group a tighter connection to the crowd and an R&B edge that sparked the crowd and the band.
Now, maybe McAllister wouldn’t be the man, but if I were in Healing Sixes, adding a horn would be a discussion worth having. Sure, a fifth member is dividing the payday one more way, but how many bands are doing new, rough-edged rock with twin chunking and screaming Gibson Les Paul guitars and a sax? In Indiana? Anywhere? I’m just sayin’ think about it. It worked superbly Saturday night.
The show was presented by On the Throttle TV, a motorcycle racing show. Healing Sixes drummer Parish, as well as the lead singer for opening band The Garrison, Scott Smallwood, and his bass player Pete Cline are all racers.
The openers rampaged through 45-minutes of punk-inflected music much like motorcycle racers compete: full of energy and a bit out of control. Not necessarily a bad template, but not completely successful on this night, though they tried hard to connect with the crowd. Smallwood still needs to refine his stage banter, and use more resonating between-song comments to get the crowd motivated rather than chiding them for not getting closer to the stage. But the band was tight and plowed forward, and at their best, had hints of 70’s Police, The Cure, The Clash and even the 80’s band The Godfathers. (Remember “Birth, School,Work, Death”?) At their worst? Faith No More.
Radio Radio is a great music room, with good, clean sound again Saturday, and Healing Sixes, with a couple shows coming up with the 2009 version of the Why Store, seem to be building some nice momentum. Not an easy thing to do for any group, and impressive coming 11 years after releasing their first album, “Maple”. It could be a good 2009 for the band.