Jon Hyde Band
Thurs Aug 23 at the Crocodile

The FIrst "One-Night Stand" I ever wrote was on Wes Dando, a band I enjoyed because it's made up of seemingly sweet, talented musicians; but it was also a band I wanted more from, because it didn't seem like Wes Dando was ready or willing to step up and play god. I want everyone who gets up on a stage in this city to be rock stars--even when they're not playing rock.

In the months since I wrote that first column, I have seen many bands I believe could use a great deal more fire. And this is how I feel about the Jon Hyde Band. I felt genuine ambivalence as I watched this band's performance last Thursday at the Crocodile.

Like the guys in Wes Dando, Jon Hyde is very talented, and could be a far more compelling performer and songwriter. I think Hyde likes writing songs a great deal, because his work is really well crafted and obviously the result of much attention and care. At the same time, I believe Hyde is either unready or unwilling to commit himself on any visceral level to the process of music-making--to put his guts into what he is doing, and make a song that is actually great. It's either that, or his soul is just very quiet and unassuming (in which case I wonder why he is onstage in the first place).

Hyde's set is about 45 minutes of fine instrumentation and pretty words that don't move me very much. He doesn't appear to be feeling what he is doing. Instead, he is surgical and exacting. The guitar is clean and the drumming is solid, but I could find exactly what the Jon Hyde Band does in about five of the videos in rotation on VH1--this wistful, well-crafted, almost-country/almost-rock formula that Hyde employs. I can find no emotional point of entry.

Throughout the show, I'm mostly impressed by how sweet these guys all seem onstage, not really claiming anything, not really doing anything new, playing an alt-country/bar-rock blend that relies too heavily upon trope and cliché to be captivating.

Bruce Wirth, on keys, is the band's strongest component, infusing each song with energy and momentum; he plays pedal steel on one song as well. Wirth is my favorite player, followed by drummer Eric Eagle, who listens well and plays accordingly. Caben Buswell's bass-playing is uneventful, because the songs don't ask for much more than simple foundations.

And that leaves Jon Hyde, the man in charge, on guitar and vocals. Hyde's voice is gentle and nasal. His songs are all nice and gentle. In the end, Hyde seems more like a person I'd go have a milkshake with than one I would go to the Crocodile for.

I write exactly two pages worth of notes as I watch the show, which isn't very much for me. Here is the gist: "The songs bounce along on fine chord changes/progressions, and while none are particularly emotional, or even exciting, the craft is apparent. The guitar is jazzy on one particular song, where it was folky on the song before it. The solos are uneventful and overly referential. The drumming is straightforward."

The thing of it is, Hyde could be great. As an audience member, I guess I'd just like to know that he wants to be.

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