Severe ‘Storm’ Alert with ZZ Ward and Special Guest Devon Gilfillian

Is it me or has this summer been wildly busy so far? So much fun stuff to do, but the ever-looming specter of time is always grabbing those grains of sand. Whoa, man. Just last Thursday saw your fantastic photo man Josh and I chillin’ in the mulch at Crossroads. The following Saturday saw Josh covering Kevin Bacon and his equally bacony brother at the VooDoo Lounge. And this last Monday, July 16th, in the year of our Dio 2018 saw us covering the Storm Tour with the ever lovely ZZ Ward with her special guest, Mr. Devon Gilfillian.

This auditory adventure took us back to The Truman in downtown Kansas City. I hate to play favorites, but this place is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots in Kansas City to see music. Holding up to 1400 ferocious fans year-round, The Truman ticks all the boxes for a great concert venue: Multiple clean bathrooms, a ton of places to get reasonably priced drinks, a righteous sound system, and ample floor place where the view is always great.  The former low-rise building aesthetic still bears hints of former industry; a concrete floor still wears marks and scars from years of work and rafters hold giant industrial fans. But the drone of machinery tonight has been replaced by guitars, and drums; and workers have been replaced by fans. The product produced at this show would be great music, and awesome times.

The first act to delight our ear holes was the ever-talented Devon Gilfillian. Devon, along with his backing mates on drums, keys, and bass, laid down a bluesy, soul-filled jam. Devon, hailing from Nashville, TN, released his first EP in May of 2016. On paper, this guy would seem a bit of a greenhorn, but Devon was there to prove the to the audience he’s not going anywhere but up. One can pick out old school influences in Devon’s music – swampy guitar licks from delta blues, psychedelic guitar dive bombs of Hendrix, and that booming, classic, soulful voice. My favorite part of the set, though, was when the band broke down to perform an acapella version of “Lean on Me”. Adding to the touching moment was learning the band had been recently involved in an accident with a drunk driver. Luckily, none of the band or anyone accompanying them was seriously injured (and on a really huge side note, get a damn Uber or Lyft if you’re going to drink – it’s so easy and cheap) After the soulful sounds of Devon Gilfillian, our headliner made her way to the stage to the excitement of all her screaming fans.

ZZ Ward (Zsuzsanna Eva Ward for those in the know) got her musical start at age 12 in Roseburg, Oregon in a band with her father. Largely active in LA since 2012, Ward got her start recording interpretation tracks of hip-hop artists as well as her own material. This multi-talented, multi-instrumental maiden of music is sure to leave a lasting legacy on music for years to come. In addition to her powerful voice, Ward also plays guitar, piano, and kicks some major ass on the harmonica (I really wish you’d see more bands use a harmonica here and there). Ward kicked off her set with “Let It Burn” off of her latest release The Storm, following that up with another song off the Storm, “Ghost” Ward switched it to the acoustic for her third song “Put the Gun Down”, and despite some technical difficulties, Ward pulled it all off with grace and a smile. Even when the tech was furiously messing with the input on her guitar (or a faulty cable?) Ward took it all in stride. Cheers to an artist that can remain calm and not skip a beat during what must be a heart-stopping experience on stage. The songs of course continued through the 19 song set list, with a few covers like “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home” by Etta James (followed by her original “Charlie Ain’t Home”) and “Grinnin in Your Face” by Son House. Ward wrapped up the set with Blue Eyes Blind, but followed up with an encore performance of “365 Days”

Photos from the Pit has taken a bluesy, soulful detour from our normally brutal coverage of rock and metal. Both genres share the same amount of heart and intensity and often cover the same themes in their music. I encourage you, the reader, to find your own way to branch out musically.  Go out and see a show you wouldn’t normally see (I bet you that there is a great local band in your town!) or just go ham on Spotify or YouTube. Or don’t, I’m not your father. But moral of our little story here is that you may find beauty where you’d wouldn’t normally expect it.

Words by Dallas Hessel
Photos by Josh Chaikin

ZZ Ward

Devon Gilfillian

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