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The White Buffalo Roams Home

The White Buffalo Roams Home
Concert Review: The White Buffalo at the Troubadour
By Gerry Gomez, Staff Writer
Photography By Nelson Blanton

When Jake Smith took the stage with his band The White Buffalo on Thursday evening at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, he did so like a man stepping into his destiny as a generational spokesperson to a full house of fervent followers. Standing proudly, confidently with a hint of vulnerability, Smith is the physical embodiment of the moniker, “The White Buffalo”. It fits him, the band and the songs.

The show was one of those special moments for a band when you sense they’ve arrived. Especially arrived in their home town (technically Smith grew up partly in the coastal town of Newport, but the buffalo roams the Southland), as members of the sold out crowd included fans from Ventura to Oceanside out to Norco. One fan named Joe and his girlfriend made the long trek from the Inland Empire anxiously looking to hawk tickets for the special night and sold out show – excited to land a pair from a gracious concert goer.

The White Buffalo is on the rise. With two albums, three EPs and dues paid on the local and outlining circuit, the band romped and swayed their way through stomping anthems like “BB Guns and Dirtbikes,” “How The West Was Won,” to the swampy “cross between a love song and murder song” as Smith called it, “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done,” round through to tender moments like “I Am the Light.” All-the-while many in the late 20s, early 30s crowd did their part, singing along with every word.

Smith sings with a husky howl and wears a five-inch beard with long hair. He’s an imposing figure on stage, standing over six feet tall. But he is a welcoming figure. Kinda like a big bear or, well, buffalo. Tender but boarding on rage if need be. His lyrics are similarly wide ranging, emotional, telling and empathetic if not anthemic to his generation. He’s been compared to many great songwriters and he has the knack of saying things differently with a fresh take.

If you’re part of the clan of boys growing up and approaching adulthood today in the suburban outskirts of towns like Norco or Ventura, the White Buffalo is telling your story through his own. “BB Guns and Dirt-bikes” is a great song for that ilk and it was embraced by those cramped into the Troubadour on Thursday night. It’s a genuine fable of how life is lived today and of the moments that struggling kids of the White Buffalo’s audience can relate to. Somehow, in the magical tale of feuding with rival boys from across town, he penned one of the most cinematic, contemporary classic songs of youth one can imagine:

“With quivering eyes and our fears and disguise
We called all that would burn in the breeze
We hit the assault howlin’ like hell fire
Ain’t no time to get weak in the knees
Under the cover of night when the timing was right
Like a furious army of three
We light up the sky like a 4th of July
And raced home like it was it was a dream
And mama yells where have you been and where are you comin’ from?
With my brother and my memory, I bring my history home.”

The White Buffalo’s songs fed the faithful with energy given to them by Smith and his crack band including one of the harder hitting drummers seen in a local roots band in years, bass player Tommy “Chardonnay” Anders, and first-time White Buffalo gigger – English pedal steel and electric guitar player Tim Armstrong. That energy was repaid all through the night with dance alongs and sing alongs. The band even performed “Folsom Prison Blues” as an encore to everyone’s delight.

Saying that the name comes from a “big, powerful kind of American symbol,” the White Buffalo performed as such: big and powerful. The night was intended to showcase much of their new album, Once Upon A Time In The West, having come out on February 28 this year. It ended up showcasing a voice on the rise and a house full of worshipers.

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