Photo and Story by Rick Hiduk
Breakdown Jimmy guitarists (front, from left) Sam Scavone, Jack Davenport, and Matt Scavone and drummer Mike Stash made believers of a receptive crowd at the Highway Inn on Jan. 10 with classic rock covers and some engaging antics.
When I attend an event for a feature story, I gather as much information and as many photos as possible in the course of an hour or so and return to my studio to upload everything and compose an article that is essentially a “slice” of life – a snapshot of what the event had to offer.
Entertainment reviews require a different approach – and more time – because it is important to take in the event as a whole. In that amount of time, there is much more going on in a bar than just the live music.
A legitimate review should take in the entire experience, not just the ability of the band. That said, I have yet to give any band a perfect review, and I think its fair to also note that there’s room for improvement at every establishment, whether that be service, traffic flow, cleanliness, crowd dynamics, air quality, or acoustics.
Acoustics are particularly tricky in smaller bars, and Breakdown Jimmy’s first set suffered a bit because the vocals had not yet been brought up to where they needed to be. To the chagrin of some patrons, bands or DJs have to play loud enough to balance the sound and to create a party atmosphere. (If you’re going out to chit-chat with friends, go someplace where there is no entertainment and quit bitching.)
There was no doubt that Breakdown Jimmy’s repertoire was in the right zone, as patrons immediately began singing along with the time-honored hits that the band began cranking out, but the lost vocals had some of us wondering if the kids were merely going through the motions.
For a band that is primarily composed of teenagers to take on songs that are clearly older than they are is a tall order, and I wasn’t immediately convinced that the band members could actually feel the music without having grown up with it.
That changed when Sam Scavone, the band’s sole female, belted out Heart’s “Magic Man.” That and a smooth rendition of last year’s country rock hit “Boys ‘Round Here” grabbed our ears and convinced us that the band had true substance. The first set, in a sense, served as a warm-up round as the band and sound man sharpened their sound, and the patrons got a little primed.
The second set was not only more crisp, but much more dynamic. Scavone treated us to another scorching Heart song – “Barracuda” – and Jack Davenport, whose vocals seemed a bit forced in the first set, found his voice.
He also proved to be an engaging front man, able to trade barbs with bar patrons much older than himself in a professional and humorous manner.
He had his finger on the pulse of the crowd, and he kept it there. Davenport exuded a sex appeal that had a few of the women in attendance feeling a little naughty for swooning after a 19-year-old all night. “I was ready to go all-cougar on that,” a smitten patron admitted on Facebook the next day.
A hot medley of “La Bamba” and “Twist and Shout” was a big crowd pleaser, but the band made fast friends with audience members with an extended rendition of “Wipe Out.” Davenport moved behind the drum set and switched places with regular drummer, Mike Stash. He, in turn, picked up a single drum and set of stick and moved around the bar pounding out the iconic drum solo with the help of random patrons. Stash then returned to the drum set and played simultaneously with Davenport. It was a comical scene that highlighted both the musicians’ talents and sense of fun.
Other memorable tunes from the night included renditions of Sublime’s “Santeria” and “What I Got,” Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” Grand Funk’s arrangement of “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and Smash Mouth’s arrangement of “I’m a Believer.”
In the end we were all believers. Breakdown Jimmy made a great impression on a fun crowd, and they will certainly make new fans wherever they play. It will be especially interesting to check back in with these young musicians in five and 10 years, whether or not they come back around in the same combination.