Republished from MOVE Magazine
Previews for Black Joe Lewis concerts are bound to be filled with comparisons to James Brown or Otis Redding. And, to be fair, songs like “Sugarfoot” make it damn hard not to make these comparisons — in a positive light, of course. But it seems Lewis and company aren’t concerned with being the second coming of The Godfather or Soul.
“The biggest challenge is that people are always gonna try to categorize you,” Lewis says. “We try to do our own thing. I think that as long as you try to do your own thing, you’ll be all right, you know?
The aforementioned “and company” is generally referred to as The Honeybears — “Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears” is the title flaunted by their website, Wikipedia page and most recent album (although, sure enough, MySpace gets it right). But Lewis says the six-man ensemble isn’t using that name anymore for a very simple reason.
“I think it’s kind of lame, you know?” Lewis says with a laugh.
While the band’s name might be in flux, it seems like it’s got its genre on lockdown.
“My bass player calls it psycho sledgehammer blues,” Lewis says.
Whatever you want to call it, Lewis’ band has opened for acts like Lionel Richie, Spoon and, oh yeah, Barack Obama (assumedly not a music act…). Yet Lewis claims his coolest experience was at a concert in San Sebastian, Spain.
“It was on the beach, and there were a bunch of topless women laying down in front of the stage, checking us out,” he says. “That was cool. We had a huge show, and right as we were done, we had to leave — that was the shitty thing about it. People were like chanting our name and shaking the van.”
The road to van-shaking status began with Lewis performing so he could stop working at places like the pawn shop where he bought his first guitar.
“I had a lot of friends that were in bands, and I was always working my day jobs, and all that shit,” he says. “I’ve done every kind of day job you possibly can, pulling minimum wage, and this is definitely the best one, you know?”
A show at Mojo’s on Thursday has Lewis and the gang returning to Columbia, a city with a special place in their hearts.
“Last time we were there, my ex-guitar player flew out of a golf cart, he was so drunk,” Lewis says. “He was trying to be funny, and he was standing up in the golf cart. The guy driving swerved a little bit, and he flew out and fucked himself up real bad.”
When not attending to golf cart-related business, the band also found time to play at the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ festival in 2009.
“We’ve been (to Columbia) a few times,” he says. “We’ve always had a good time.”
Lewis’ Show-Me State ties can also be seen in his oft-sported Royals cap.
“My mom’s side of the family is from there, and I still got a lot of family in KCMO,” he says. “I gotta rep KC a little bit.”
Lewis has a bit of a Kansas City past himself; he lived there for a year with his grandmother. As for his future, Lewis’ plan is simple.
“We’re just trying to keep it rocking, man,” he says. “We’re in the process of, you know, getting some material together, and hopefully we’ll be putting out a record pretty soon.”
And as far as the present goes, Lewis knows how to get Columbia residents to come out to Thursday’s show.
“All the cool people are gonna be there,” he says.
Black Joe Lewis is playing with openers The Preservation at 9 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 the day of the show.