"Hang in there, folks. It's a new year," offered Charlie Pierce as gravel-coated assurance in kicking off Sidewinder's Monday night Free Week lineup. "We're already broke!" countered drummer Leland Potter. Performing as a keys and drum duo, Choctaw Wildfire warmed up the chilly outside stage of the new club behind Pierce's intensity, his piano rolling ripe notes down the Waller Creek riverbed. "Daggers" from last year's excellent sophomore LP, Nowhere, burst and swooned like a John Grant ballad, while the album's title track loped an easy melody that belied the song's lost and yearning pull. Pierce unleashed a characteristic Tom Waits howl with the brooding "Have I Said Enough," his voice full of whiskey dents and cigarette burns as he scowled into the keys. Closing with the leg-kicking, hands-flying boogie of "It Ain't There No More," the short set offered only a sampling of Pierce's power, but demonstrated Choctaw Wildfire's break-out potential. Power trio Villasana followed with woozy, boozy, R&B-inflected guitar jams, but outside closer Daniel Eyes & the Vibes polished better promise with a swagger bigger than the stage. Previewing upcoming debut EP Sweet Dreaming, the local quartet unloaded slacker punk energy with tunes that bounced between Eighties Dire Straits and Police, and the rawer garage guitar of Kurt Vile.
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