Shit-kicking and scary, catch the Pack A.D. when you can

At the Railway Club on Saturday, March 1

An evening at the Railway Club is always an interesting one. Whether you end up cornered by an eccentric old dude talking about the time he lent Joey Ramone 20 bucks, drinking until somersaulting down the infamous stairway seems like a good idea, or just catching an awesome band in an intimate setting, the Railway is one of a kind.

Saturday night’s crowd shuffled in for a four-band party to celebrate the release of the Pack A.D.’s new CD, Tintype. It was also a sendoff party for the Mint signing, which was headed to Austin, Texas, for the buzz-building South By Southwest festival.

First up was the Hideaway Jug Band, which, from the back of the room, appeared to be a quartet of middle-aged men turning a basement jam into a live show as a lark. Upon closer inspection, the band turned out to be composed of four 20-somethings doing a fairly good impression of an early Tragically Hip. Since it was only the Hideaway Jug Band’s second show, the group could be forgiven for being sloppy around the edges, and generally, you can’t fault kids for attempting old-man bar rock.

Next up was tROUBLE, an innocuous West Coast roots-rock band that provided the perfect soundtrack for sending text messages to a friend at another show. Singer Jane Sawyer has a pretty voice, but the songs deviated little from the love-lost-but-now-I’m-strong formula. The group did score a beautiful moment when John Mann, frontman for Spirit of the West, came up for a duet on Nick Cave and PJ Harvey’s version of the traditional murder ballad “Henry Lee”, but, that aside, there was little to remember about tROUBLE.

To an increasingly drunk and rowdy crowd, the Hotel Lobbyists played intelligent dude rock, sounding something like the love child of Rush and Guided by Voices.

Finally, well past 1 a.m., the Pack A.D. took the stage. If you’re not familiar with the two-girl group’s music, think the White Stripes minus all the annoying pretensions, but plus one incredibly talented singer and guitarist in came-from-nowhere Becky Black. Black has blues pipes that could give 1970s-era Buddy Guy a run for his money, plus the rare ability to use her virtuosity on the guitar as an extension of her voice. Add Maya Miller’s confident, perfectly restrained drumming to the mix and you have one of the most exciting bands to pop up in this city in a long time.

Highlights of an explosive set included “Oh Be Joyful”—during which Black’s forceful wailing practically carved a smile onto listeners’ faces—and the menacing “What’s Up There”. If the Pack A.D.’s shit-kicking sound didn’t scare the bejesus out of you, Black’s demonically impish grinning was more than enough to do so. It sure did me. Or perhaps it was just the millionth elbow in the head I’d received from the rambunctious crowd. By the time the duo was done (at almost 3 a.m., with the punters still begging for more), I’d dropped $12 on a copy of Tintype and resigned myself to the fact that shows from the Pack A.D. will only get busier from here on out. Brace yourself, Austin—something special is coming your way.