A Hard Lessons live show is a fierce and amazing thing to behold. This trio of Detroit twenty-somethings merges power pop, blues chords, soulful harmonizing, and straight-up rock 'n' roll, and delivers it with a vengeance. The group's Blind Pig gig last winter was one of the best local rock 'n' roll shows I've ever seen. Really.
Before the three went on stage, I asked singer-guitarist Augie Visocchi if he was Italian. To answer, he stood on tiptoe, waved his hands theatrically, and shouted a stream of Italian into my ear. Then he ran off to perform.
Observer photographer Adrian Wylie and I settled in right up front. Augie and key-
boardist-vocalist Korin (KoKo) Cox took up the front half of the stage, with drummer Christophe Zajac-Denek at the back. KoKo, a shimmering young blond with soaring vocals, held the bass line and accompanied the guitar with vintage organ or humming synthesized keyboards throughout the show.
Augie and KoKo started off singing a few verses accompanied by some bare riffs and hand claps and then launched into driving drum-and-guitar-driven swagger. Augie slung one arm around a stage pole, held the microphone out over the crowd with the other, and commanded us to sing. "You guys sound great," he said, and jumped atop an amplifier to play to the crowd, flirting. The girls next to me were standing on their stools and dancing.
After a freakish guitar solo, Augie stood at the rear of the stage with his back to the audience and suspended his guitar by its strap from a light rack. The drummer, Christophe, played a two-minute solo that defied his small stature, with that guitar still roaring all the while. Then Augie dove off the stage and landed literally right in front of Adrian and me. He climbed back onstage, freed his guitar, called for more lights, and walked along the countertop next to the bar, picking up where he left off.
"This reminds me of the Who," Adrian shouted in my ear, and he was right. The whirling-armed guitar licks? Stage diving and tight black pants with sleeveless black and white T-shirts? This is why rock 'n' roll was born, to bask in ageless youth. It's almost as if they were taunting us older folks. "Go ahead," they dared. "Now try saying they just don't make music like they used to."
Near the end of the show, the Hard Lessons performed their sole cover of the night, Neil Young's "Out of the Blue and into the Black." At the chorus, they had the audience singing, "Hey, hey. My, my./Rock 'n' roll will never die."
I'll tell ya — it was easy to believe. The Hard Lessons return to the Blind Pig on Saturday, September 27.
[Review published September 2008]