Bumbershoot Music Lounge: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

photos by Dave Lichterman
intro by Carrie Rubens with Christy Thacker

Black Joe Lewis delivers call and response singing with his 8-piece band The Honeybears over grooving rhythms from songs like “Big Booty Woman,” or screams– fiery and unrestrained– over the gritty “Please, Pt. 2.” Lewis has a rambunctious attitude and sense of humor, showcased on songs like “Bitch, I love you” where he wails “Bitch, I love you, but i don’t really know why.”

While working at a pawn shop in Austin, Lewis began to learn the guitar, and subsequently hit the open mic scene. Teaming up with guitarist, Zach Ernst, they built a solid lineup of musicians that came to be The Honeybears.

Since 2007, Lewis has been producing raw, Wilson Pickett and James Brown-influenced garage soul and R&B. The Austin-based 8-piece recently released “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!” on Lost Highway.Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears play with a gut-wrenching energy that brings new meaning to soul, knocking the audience’s socks off at the secret Music Lounge.

And speaking of soul, these guys woke up at 4 a.m., trekking all the way from Victoria just to play a 30 minute set for us! Exhausted or not, they didn’t show it a bit. The bluesy band couldn’t wait to perform, and started jamming before Kevin Cole even had time to announce the group on-air.

Lewis immediately captivated the crowd, belting out a voice of an experienced blues singer twice his age. Between the unpolished saxophones and trumpet, and organ-like keyboard, it felt wrong not throw my arms up in the air, as if I was worshipping at some hip, southern church. Mostly playing songs from their new album, and I couldn’t help shimming my shoulders back and forth to the band’s sultry “I’m Broke” and ironically gospelesque “Big Booty.” Throughout the show, Lewis shared the spotlight, like during the lively “Humpin’” which featured all the guys repeating the simple lines of “yaaaaa, ya, ya…” Sick of playing the same songs, Lewis ended with the unreleased “So Scandalous,” leaving the audience fresh and funky.

You can see it happen at the Bumbershoot Starbucks Stage 3:15-4:15 p.m. on Monday, September 7.

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