Review: The Devil Makes Three @ The Grog Shop

The Devil Makes Three @ The Grog Shop, May 25

Words: Zach Bloom
Photos: Michael Stein

The Devil Makes Three delivers a rockabilly moonshine that puts a sting in the belly and lights a rock and roll fire under their audiences’ feet. The band returned to Cleveland on Friday night at the Grog Shop just three months after they planted their seed at the House of Blues this February on a recent touring stint with Flogging Molly.

[All Photos by Michael Stein]

This enthusiastic power-folk trio brought their sinfully entertaining set to a nearly sold out crowd of young and energetic fans drinking Tall Boys of Pabst Blue Ribbon and singing along to a trove of rhythm driven ballads. The band played from the half-foot riser in a dimly lit corner of this popular rock club in the heart of Cleveland’s college community and from the cheers and the stomps of the sweat-soaked crowd, the feeling was clear that The Devil Makes Three were a huge success at their first headlining appearance in the home of Rock and Roll.

Guitarist and leader for the band, Pete Bernhard, is a talented player and a gritty front man who belts out catchy blues and country influenced lyrics about the passion and the agony in the exploration of love, life and music. Bernhard displays the depths of his musical roots in songs like Graveyard and Do Wrong.

On Bernhard’s right stands guitarist and tenor banjo player, Cooper McBean, who founded the band with Bernhard in 2002. With a strong presence on the stage, Cooper’s fascinating demure merely exemplifies the spirit of the folk and bluegrass style that he plays in his parts. When so often today folk-rock bands present seemingly compulsory banjo parts with little more than basic chord strumming, McBean shows his talent as a true “picker” in the song Black Irish and many others that prominently feature his inventive banjo style. A handful of covers, including the band’s rendition of Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues, placed early in the set solidified the impression that these players have been meaningfully impacted by the greats of blues and folk music.

Unfortunately, Lucia Turino, the regular Bassist for the band, has been absent from this tour due to a broken arm, however her stand-in did an excellent job keeping the bottom stable, walking gracefully through the fast paced rhythms and providing the important emphases during the more passionate lyrics. The band’s most infamous lyrics appeared in a triplet series at the peak of their set, which included Shades, Old Number 7 and For Good Again, which all play on persistent struggles in life and a nagging penchant for drinking ye old whiskey beverages.

The Devil Makes Three will be easily accessible on the festival circuit this summer, from Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza, where they are sure to deliver an entertaining and feet-stomping show outside in the summer sun. Yet, the energy delivered from this uniquely entertaining band is perfect for a rock and roll club with the sound turned up and the lights dimmed low and where the energy of the music is felt from the heat of the crowd chanting away the dredges of their week on a Friday night out.

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