Show Review: The Belle Brigade at House of Blues

Review of The Belle Brigade’s performance opening for G. Love at The House of Blues in downtown San Diego from Friday, April 8th, 2011.

By: Chuck Cartwright

It’s not hard to overhear folks lamenting the state of popular music while strolling on virtually any college campus across the country.  The conversation has gotten so generic and repetitive, I do my best to avoid such exchanges at all costs.

Last Friday at the House of Blues, I had the good fortune of seeing a band which rises above this contemporary mediocrity, with a captivating live performance.  The best part –they weren’t even the main act.  Rather a support act for funky blues hip hop virtuoso G. Love.

The act I’m referring to is The Belle Brigade, hailing from that big city a few hours north with the bad air and the angry drivers.  Strangely enough, The Belle Brigade might be the antithesis to the city of which they hail.

This brother-sister duo rocked the crowd into a frenzy by the end of their 45 minute set.  They opened with a sunny track called “Lucky Guy”, which harkens back to an era where songwriting and musicianship were paramount.  Their set continued with a number of skillfully crafted jams infused with guitar solos, sincere lyrical content, and even an epic tambourine session by the drummer (who looked like a cross between Alan from The Hangover and Tom Hanks in Castaway–after he was on the island for 4 months).

The crowd was loving every minute of it, even breaking out into a rare House of Blues dance sesh partway through the band’s rousing “Where Not To Look For Freedom”.

One should hardly be surprised.  The core of The Belle Brigade is comprised of siblings, Barbara and Ethan Gruska.  Grandchildren of composer extraordinaire John Williams, and offspring of songwriter Jay Gruska.  They cite Fleetwood Mac, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beatles as chief inspirations, which definitely shined through in the band’s performance.

The band recently signed to Reprise Records, and after positive reviews from their showing at SXSW, and an album set to drop on April 19th, this is a band on the rise.

Check out their anthemic single, “Losers”, or catch the band live this summer.  And next time you hear the whiners on your campus lamenting the state of popular music–tell them to check out The Belle Brigade.

Losers - Single - The Belle Brigade