I don’t know if you’re superstitious or not. I’m not typically superstitious myself but I certainly believe in The Black Keys curse. Perhaps you’ve had a different experience and if so, please interject. Every time I (or any of my friends) have tried to catch The Black Keys at an outdoor venue, a festival or otherwise, it has rained like a sonofabitch. (And yes, that is the technical term.)
The first time I saw them was at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2011. I had queued up to get as close to the front as I could when the skies opened up. It came so quickly that I was soaked through almost instantly, as was my bag, so it was no use digging out my parka, nor running for cover. This storm was so violent that it, unbeknownst to organizers, likely weakened the integrity of the stage rigging so that when it stormed again the following week during Cheap Trick, the stage came right down. When The Black Keys finally hit the stage that night, it was only to do a shortened set, a fast and furious half hour that included almost no banter with the audience.
The following year, I was at Osheaga in Montreal and they were due to close out the Sunday night. It rained off and on all day but the rain gods were at their most furious during The Shins’ early evening set. It was enough to scare my wife and I and our friends, Jean-Pierre and Shannon, off for the night. Another Black Keys opportunity missed. (Incidentally, my friend Tim was at their show in Toronto the night before and it rained pretty heavily there as well.) I finally got to see a full Black Keys set in 2013, this time, again, at Ottawa Bluesfest. They were energetic and rocking and you guessed it, they were playing to a damp audience, most of whom were wearing rain ponchos or toting umbrellas.
“Tighten up”, or rather the music video for said song, was my first introduction to The Black Keys. I know that they had been slogging it out for years, nine to be exact, before their sixth album, “Brothers” hit the mainstream. The Akron-based duo had built quite the cult following with their raw, blues-infused garage rock but I had been pretty much oblivious to them. I saw the pretty hilarious video one morning on AUX TV, which I’ve mentioned before in these posts on my Best of 2010, and then, the next morning and the next. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that the catchy number was produced by Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse. Pretty much everything this guy was touching around this time was turning to gold. And “Tighten up” really is pure gold.
Its playful beginning calls to mind a ‘whistle while you work’ type theme but quickly gives way to soul and angst, mostly on the back of Dan Auerbach’s Howlin’ Wolf vocal play. But his raunchy guitars and Patrick Carney’s musclebound drumming certainly don’t hurt matters. You actually wish you had your own drum kit in your living room to bash things out right along with Carney. It definitely sounds like he’s having a blast.
Yes, this is a song worth standing out in the pouring rain for. Enjoy.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.