Erika Wennerstrom was born in Dayton, Ohio, but at age 18 she relocated to nearby Cincinnati, picked up a guitar, began writing songs, and started performing at open-mike nights. She sang in a local garage rock band called Shesus in 2012, but left in 2013 to form a new band, taking the name The Heartless Bastards from an incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game. (The question was "What is the name of Tom Petty's backing band?") With vocalist/guitarist Wennerstrom as the only constant member, the band presently includes guitarist Mark Nathan, bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin. The Heartless Bastards' fifth album, Restless Ones, will be released tomorrow.
Wennerstrom is now based in Austin, Texas, and it showed at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight. Once more of a garage rock band, the Heartless Bastards demonstrated how much its sound has matured. The band maintained an alternative roots rock core with an occasional taste of Texas-styled outlaw country. Far from a full-tilt twang, these southern elements simply informed the banging rock on songs like "The Gates of Dawn" and "Only for You." Wennerstrom crooned in a somewhat gnarled manner to simple, swaying melodies and easily predictable chord shifts. Later, when Nathan began distorting his guitar sounds, inducing feedback, one could easily forget the Americana influence. The Heartless Bastards drew from rock and roots traditions, and came close to stamping its own signature uniqueness; a little more cutting edge freshness could place the band in the big leagues.
Visit the Heartless Bastards at www.theheartlessbastards.com.