Derek Hoke’s $2 Tuesday event at The 5 Spot this week was a modge-podge of artists, varying from Hoke’s own traditional country/western swagger to a rock n’ rolled-up incarnation of singer/songwriter Dave Armstrong’s music.
The flat-screens that usually play sports were set to different news channels flooded with headlines about the election, which lent itself to the overall excitement of the evening. Patrons were shouting and hooraying the election in between (and sometimes during) songs, but amidst all the claps and clamor in the bar, it was oddly fitting.
Hoke opened the night himself alongside a violinist and an upright bassist. His persona was nothing less than that of a “right southern gentleman,” and the twangs that came from his guitar matched the cowboy hat and western shirt to a tee. Hoke’s musical style is reminiscent of Hank Williams or Conway Twitty, often relying on big, flowing ballads and fiddle interludes. With the burgundy curtains behind Hoke and his band, the general commotion in the room, and the smoke—lots and lots of smoke—the bar felt alive with a (dare I say it?) “classic Nashville” vibe.
Hoke was followed by a handful of singer-songwriters. The second and third acts, respectively Sarah Gayle Meece and Elise Davis, were both contemporary country acts. Aside from a few memorable moments, both sets lacked originality. This is not to say that the acts weren’t good, so much as it is to say that it’s not hard to find pretty girls holding pretty guitars and singing pop-country in Nashville. That being said, Meece and Davis were good at what they did. The two were followed by David Armstrong, who shifted the evening’s gears from the acoustic instrument-based acts before him.
Armstrong, of local rock band The Joy of Painting, was scheduled to do a solo set. Generally when he plays a solo set, it’s just him, a harmonica and a guitar. What came onto the stage at the beginning of said solo set, were Armstrong and 3 band members. With no effort to tone it down and fit in with the low-key atmosphere, Armstrong ripped into his first song, loud and proud. His voice changed with the moods of his songs—sometimes sweet and soft and other times giving way to a growling wail, both of which came across as heartfelt.
Following Armstrong’s inspired performance, the final band of the evening, The Shelf Dusters, took the stage. Their attitudes were relaxed and informal, and the music was Rock n’ Roll, straight, no chaser. The Shelf Dusters closed out the evening before the next event started.
The lineup was a large one, and with such a bill, there are nearly always one or two acts that stand out. In this case, the acts that carried the evening were Derek Hoke and David Armstrong. Both got up on the stage and made the audience listen, even through all the hoops and hollers about the election that night.