The room darkened alerting the crowd to take their seats. The lights came up revealing old radios hanging from the ceiling above the stage. In a sea of dusty browns were pops of blue and red. The band introduced themselves – JD & The Straight Shot and they broke into the song Glide.
JD & The Straight Shot are not new to Bethlehem. In April 2016, they opened for Jewel at the same venue, Sands Event Center. The El Vee covered the event which can be read here. This time around they were opening for headliner Don Henley.
JD & The Straight Shot is often grouped in the Americana genre. Americana is defined as a genre based in an array of American roots music such as folk, country, rock, and many others. It was playfully amusing as this dynamic genre was displayed in their stage attire with lead vocalist Jim Dolan in what appeared to be a rock inspired suede maroon blazer with violinist Erin Slaver dawning a shoulder baring folk dress with a hat. The collaboration/range of their music seemed visually evident.
In addition to Dolan and Slaver, Dolan’s son Aidan also plays in the band lending his voice for harmonies and playing guitar. Marc Copely is the fourth vocalist who also plays guitar and Byron House on the bass.
There are not many bands I can honestly say sound better live than on their albums, but I can attest that JD & The Straight Shot’s sound along with stage presence trumps their YouTube collection. The energy isn’t present in the pre-recorded content as much as it is live. In concert is where that they truly shine.
The best performance and proof of this was that of Ballyhoo. Dolan first explained the term ballyhoo which is defined as the following by Merriam Webster:
1 : a noisy attention-getting demonstration or talk.
2 : flamboyant, exaggerated, or sensational promotion or publicity.
3 : excited commotion.
The song uses this word in the context of a circus or freak show ringmaster. The person who would come to the center of the city to publicize the show to the townspeople. During this performance Dolan played the part of the ringmaster clad with a top hat which he pulled a plush rabbit out of. He paraded around the stage playfully presenting each member of his band as a spectacle. This included a duel against the violinist and guitarist feverishly playing back and forth.
Following Ballyhoo was a favorite of mine, Better Find A Church. I was enchanted with Erin Slavers vocals and especially love them with the airy melodies of this song.
The last song to wrap of the evening was their second cover of the night. This time around the band played Let It Roll by Little Feat. Here the showmanship appeared once again as the band enthusiastically inserted instrumental snippets from: Wipe Out, Paint It Black, and Tequila engaging the crowd as they heard familiar sounds of classic favorites.
I appreciated JD & the Straight Shot’s ability to make every song playfully delightful. Even the romantic ballads were interjected with some humor in explanation or story behind the song. One such example being a love ballad (Moonlight) of the unrequited love of a statue. It is this playfulness that won me over as a new fan to this band.
Full Set List:
*Nature’s Way (Spirit – cover)
Perdition (featured in the film Jane Got a Gun)
Violet’s Song (featured in the film August: Osage Country)
Better Find A Church
*Let It Roll (Little Feat – cover)