Shake It Like a Caveman
Mon. June 29
Sitting low and ready to go, wild-looking one-man band Shake It Like a Caveman (a.k.a. Blake Burris) stomped, jumped, and carried on like a happy maniac at the Village Tavern. It was the third of three gigs he did in town this week (he did sets at the Pour House and the Tin Roof on Saturday and Sunday), and he seemed pretty damn warmed-up.
Dressed in a red cowboy shirt, a red and gray jogging pants, Hollywood sunglasses, and a pair of sturdy sneakers, Caveman looked like he was ready to be cast as an extra in That '70s Show, but his blues stylings are derived from an era much earlier — mainly the Mississippi Delta sounds of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and other finger-pickin' boogie men. On a few fast-tempo numbers, there's was a heavy dose of that Chicago-style boogie rhythm close to the edgiest music of Magic Sam and John Lee Hooker.
Playing mostly original stuff from his 2007 album Or Will it Take Everything (produced by Man ... or AstroMan guitarist Erich Hubner) and his new disc The Tiger EP, Caveman got a lot of cool sounds out of only a few items: a fender six-string, a small Peavey amp (turned all the way up), a high-hat cymbal set-up, two microphones (one made from a telephone receiver), and a dirty-black bass drum held together with duct tape.
"Cheers, motherfuckers," he hollered politely between songs early in the set. "I'm a one-man band from Asheville, North Carolina ... I be Shake It Like a Caveman, so let's do this shit!"
His repetitive four-on-the-the-floor bass drum beats were infectious enough to keep some of the collegiate stragglers from the stand-up comedy show earlier in the night pretty happy. His downbeats came from clanky high-hat accents, executed at an awkward angle by his flailing left foot and leg, which looked like they might snap off and roll into the crowd at any moment. Tommy Chong's old blues-man character Blind Melon Chitlin' would have been proud.
Keeping a steady rhythm on thuddy pieces of percussion allowed plenty of room for Caveman to rant and rave on the mic and go nutty on the guitar. His dulled, fuzzy tone — slightly out-of-tune, of course — worked just dandy for this style of trashy blues-rock.
Not everything was pure blues, though. The four-chord, fuzzed-out "Love in the Workplace" — a hot-sex song "people might relate to as a good way to lose your job" — could have worked well on any Stooges or MC5 album.
Shake It Like a Caveman has been doing his solo thing for over three years. It's a rare but familiar schtick that few rockers bother with. The late, great rockabilly man Hasil Adkins (a.k.a. "the Haze"), made a low-paying but highly significant career out of it. Such garage-style duos as the Flat Duo Jets, the Chickasaw Mudpuppies, and even the White Stripes anchor from a similar rock 'n' roll base.