Tommy Castro And The Painkillers

Saint Rocke / Hermosa Beach, CA

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Photos by Matt Stasi 

“Check out Tommy Castro, he’s playing near your guys tonight. You’re welcome.” This is the text I received from my big brother, Clady, from his home in the Bayou of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana. Although I’ve only known my brother for about seven years, after we met at my Dad’s funeral, there are three things I know about him. The first is that he has exceptional taste in music. The night I met him, he pulled short of kicking his now ex-wife out of the back of my rental car for asking who Bob Marley was. The second thing I know, is that he rarely sends me a text suggesting music. Most of his texts are pictures of his motorcycle or the crawfish he broiled the night before. The third thing I know about my brother, is he has access to live zydeco and blues music we rarely get to hear in So-Cal. Since the artist he was recommending hails from San Jose, my interest was piqued. My husband, Matt, and I gave him a listen, and after a phone call to the venue, he grabbed his camera and we found ourselves stuck in traffic headed from Hollywood to Hermosa Beach on a rainy night.

Saint Rocke was nice, clean and actually had a parking lot with no valet. Yes, free parking. The damask print booths, corner fireplace and imposing stage sent a positive message. When Kira Lingman took stage to open the show and did her sound check like a boss, I paid attention. She had some fans in the room, and had me sold by the middle of her second song. Rigged with her guitar, harmonica and foot-tambo, this soulful, ballsy twenty-something reminded me, vocally at times, of Amy Winehouse, though her music is more blues and country. She worked every fret of her guitar, and kept the moments between lyrics full of sound. I’m looking forward to seeing what this spitfire can do with a band backing her.

Next up was the band the Other Mules, made up of LA locals Rooster Kingfish, Kevin Merrill, Todd Szabo and Grant Chilar. These guys know how to bring the party, and immediately put the kind of smile on your face that only comes from great swampy blues music. They were fun, and got the laid-back beach crowd on their feet. Kingfish takes you to church with his apocalyptic voice, like it’s the last sermon you’re going to hear before Armageddon. The band’s sunglasses and business suits suggest a conservative style, but that’s where they get you; these guys are high energy, serious blues musicians. Basically, if ZZ Top and Muddy Waters had a baby, it would be the Other Mules.

It was hard to imagine someone following the Other Mules, but when Tommy Castro took the stage, armed with his Fender Jaguar and an ornery grin, it was hard to deny the fact that this guy could probably bring it even in his sleep. As six time Blues Music Award Winners, with hundreds of live shows under their belts, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers are seasoned with just the right amount of cayenne. Randy McDonald with his earthy bass, Mike Emerson, who brings the gospel on his keyboards and Bowen Brown, with his commanding drums all make up a sound unique to this band. Although I favored songs on his new album, Method To My Madness, Castro knew his crowd and what they wanted to hear. Songs like “The Devil You Know” and “Nasty Habits” were fan favorites, and Castro had no problem delivering.

As I sipped on a shot of Crown for Clady, I thought about how perfect it was to spend a rainy night in SoCal. My brother somehow knows- just like my Dad did- when good blues is exactly what this girl’s thirsty soul needs!

-Bylle Breaux Stasi

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