By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 9, 2006

The Yahoos perform at Twagfest X. | Barry Gilbert
Fans of big loud guitars went home happy Wednesday night from the first night of Twangfest X, St. Louis' annual celebration of rootsy American music. Fans of gentle harmonies may have left in a different mood.

Roots-rock supergroup the Yayhoos headlined at the Tap Room downtown, displaying what emcee Kip Loui called a "stupid" amount of talent among guitarists Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and Dan Baird, bassist Keith Christopher and drummer Terry Anderson.

Drawing from their two CDs but not from their old bands, including the Georgia Satellites, the Del Lords and the Woods, the New York-based Yayhoos slugged out 18 songs over a 90-minute set, generous by Twangfest standards. And the band needed that kind of time to showcase all four singer-songwriters.

Yayhoos songs hew to the three-chords-and-some-attitude school of rock 'n' roll, bluesy and Stonesy and just on the neat side of sloppy. Christopher was a standout on bass, even taking a few solos, while Baird and Ambel traded power chords and leads. Anderson was solid on the drums and perhaps the best singer of the bunch.

The band didn't hit its stride until the fourth song, Anderson's "All Dressed Up" from this year's CD "Put the Hammer Down." Unfortunately, by that time the crowd, which had already thinned after the Avett Brothers' midshow set, had begun trickling out.

They missed a standout set that featured Baird's "Never Give an Inch," the ballad "Bottle and a Bible" and the blues-soaked "Get Right With Jesus." Ambel's songs veered to the quiet and pop side, including "Hurtin' Thing;" Christopher nailed the rocker "For Cryin' Out Loud," trading his bass for lead guitar; and Anderson scored with the rowdy "Gettin' Drunk."

The Yayhoos sparked a conga line with a cover of the O'Jays' "Love Train," and kicked off their encore with ABBA's "Dancing Queen," both tunes delivered full throttle without a hint of irony.

Speaking of full throttle, North Carolina's big-buzz Avett Brothers -- siblings Seth (guitar) and Scott (banjo), plus Bob Crawford (standup bass) -- produced the night's real excitement for a large number of people, who clearly came to hear their raucous mix of punk-fueled country, bluegrass and Southern Gothic. Think brother acts: real ones like the Louvins and Everlys, and fake ones like the Ramones.

The Avetts don't play their acoustic instruments as much as they assault them. Although they sing in two- and three-part harmony, it isn't always pretty. Often, they scream, getting so into the moment that they lose track of the key. But their music is totally honest and becomes infectious.

Opening the night was Southern California's Walter Clevenger and the Dairy Kings, a five-man guitar band augmented by keyboards that mixed original twang-tinged pop-rockers, such as "Paper Heart" and "Supermarket Checkout Queen," with outstanding covers, including Nick Lowe's "Half a Boy and Half a Man," Elvis Costello's "Radio, Radio" and Neil Young's "Burn."