Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016
Steve Gunn is a guitarists’ guitarist, much in the same way that there are comedians’ comedians (Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK). He’s earned the respect and admiration of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Wilco and the guy who I buy strings from in the guitar shop off Carmine St. Gunn falls somewhere on the guitar family tree under John Fahey, the legendary master of Americana ragas, and he certainly shares his ability to hold down meditative rhythms while stringing a different melody through them. That he’s able to sing on top of it all (something Fahey rarely did) makes the skill all the more impressive. Back from a recent European tour, Gunn returned home to Brooklyn—at Music Hall of Williamsburg—last night, kicking off his American tour in promotion of the excellent Eyes on the Lines, his Matador debut.
Gunn began as a guitarist for Kurt Vile’s Violators, and Vile got his own start as a guitarist for the War on Drugs. If this tradition holds up, stay tuned for an amazing debut from Jim Elkington, who embellishes Gunn’s tunes with artful twangs of his slide guitar. Elkington and Gunn proved to be impressively skilled, trading guitar solos in an epic call-and-response session off the jams of “Park Bench Smile.” Both made use of racks of guitars and a healthy number of pedals to bleed just the right sound out of their noodling. “Ancient Jules” showcased some of the finest riffs to have come out thus far in 2016, searing through a steady on-the-road flowing rhythm. Mid-set, the crowd started yelling, “More Steve!” “More Steve?” replied Gunn. “What does that even mean? Oh, turn me up?”
The set wound down with just Elkington and Gunn on acoustic guitars for a stripped-down version of the beautiful “Wildwood.” The full band returned for the encore with “Way Out Weather” with Gunn’s guitar drifting in and out of the song like a gentle breeze.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks
Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com