When you are a fan of live music, especially of rock and blues, you may sometimes find yourself at clubs you have never been to in order to hear bands whose music your ears have not happened upon before. Sometimes not knowing what to expect of evenings such as this can be both nerve wracking and exciting, as there is often the chance for adventure and new experience.
Within my never-ending adventures of being a music fan, I found myself at San Francisco’s famed Boom Boom Room to experience for the first time Los Angeles blues-rockers Hunter & The Dirty Jacks. The fog outside the club was blowing a cold wind in the darkened streets of The Fillmore district, but the warm interior of John Lee Hooker’s blues and jazz venue made for a cozy evening as Hunter and his band of Dirty Jacks took the stage among fog and mist plumes not unlike the world outside the doors of the club.
Dressed shamanistically in a long leather vest with fur collar and tribal-style jewelry, front man and multi-instrumentalist wunderkind Hunter Ackerman grabbed his mic and the first swirling notes of drums, bass and guitar unfolded and lead us into a rollicking journey of blues-rock in the form of “Double Down” from the band’s first album, Single Barrel.
The band was off and running at breakneck speed from the beginning of their almost 2 hour set, busting out many songs from their first album including the slow and sultry mood of “Salt Whiskey,” the harmonica influenced good-time jam of “Jubilee,” and the epically named “Prometheus,” a gritty jaunt into the world of the Gods. The group showcased many of their songs from the newest acoustic album, Mixed Company & the Midnight Hokum. Highlights of the set included guest appearance by guitarist Russell Bourne (The Mudflaps, The Silver Threads), who double-teamed on electric guitar with the band’s lead guitarist Jon Siembieda, adding depth and flavor to an already rocking evening.
Stage presence is important to the band as much as the music they play. With props such as handmade wooden candleholders, colored lights and smoke machines, the band creates a feeling of mystery and ritual. Hunter Ackerman describes the experience he aims to create when playing; “We want an audience who has never heard our music before to walk in and know at a single glance that they are in for something different before the show has even begun. An experience that’s sometimes primitive and strong, sometimes vulnerable and open [being so immersed in your craft]. But it works both ways like a hug where it’s hard to say who’s giving and who’s receiving…”
The band began 4 years ago after a series of serendipitous moments, remembers Jon Siembieda, “Myself and Brian Lara and Aaron Barnes(drums/bass) were in another band. That group more or less had gone as far as it was going to go, and we weren’t satisfied with that, because we knew more could be done. We ended up meeting Hunter, by accident actually, through our drummer’s wife. Somehow we got lucky and it worked.”
Hunter inputs his views of the beginning of the band: “Ultimately it was the mutual search for a dependable group of guys that can rely on each other. Guys who could form a tribe and trust each other as we would if we were a mammoth hunting team. Guys who want a rare steak, and drink heavy cream in their coffee before sharing bourbon straight from the bottle and can consistently put forth the sort of superhuman effort required to keep gas in the bus and keep on touring.”
As a guitarist, Jon Siembieda flows and shreds in a dynamic interplay with rhythm guitarist Carmelo Bonaventura. Hunter’s smoky voice cracks the whip on bluesy lyrical content befitting of a band that follows the legacy of the Rolling Stones and the Black Crowes. Holding the backbeat of a band is always deeply important but often overlooked or taken for granted, but bassist Aaron Barnes and drummer Brian Lara hold the heartbeat of the music in place, creating a vehicle for the band to harness the hard driving force that a good blues-rock band needs. The band as a whole speaks the language of blues-rock fluidly, with style and grace, and adds their own heavy dose of authentic and professional musicianship.
All members of the Hunter & The Dirty Jacks share songwriting credits, often working out songs together and individually. States Jon Siembeida of creating music with is band, “It’s freedom to me. To be able to create music and generate income by playing the kind of music you love, with songs you have written/co-written/co-produced/collaborated and then seeing and hearing those songs be recorded, be played live, with people loving them, buying your albums, having a record label pick you up, etc. is amazing. It’s completely organic and incredibly rewarding.”
“I went to the blues because I wished to live deliberately,” adds Hunter about playing music. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, I wanted to see if I could learn what music had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.”
As I leave the club at the midnight hour, the San Francisco fog is still swirling in the empty city streets. The searing guitar and thumping bass are ringing in my ears and the music of Hunter & the Dirty Jacks continues to swirl in my mind. I sing to myself as I walk into the night, “It’s been too long since you’ve been gone, I gotta keep movin’ on…”
Hunter & the Dirty Jacks
Boom Boom Room
San Francisco, CA
June 2, 2016
Set List: Double Down, Big Legged Woman, Smoking Gun, Jubilee, Yellowed Paper Doll, Tumbleweed, Come On In My Kitchen, Someday Past The Sunset, Back On Shaky Ground, Crucify, Kennel Howl, Ain’t Gonna Waste My Time, Bad Bad Bad, Cross-Eyed Cat, Gotta Keep Moving On, Prometheus, Leave Tomorrow, Salt Whiskey, Midnight Rambler