The Devil Makes Three will play its infectious blend of old-timey dance music and contemporary punk. - Photo by Allison Sommers

Playing with rhythm and dancing in mind

Combine The Devil Makes Three front man Pete Bernhard, stand-up bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean and you get acoustic music that rocks. "The rhythm is what our band is about," Bernhard states on the trio's Web site. "We write with rhythm and dancing in mind."

The DMT's infectious amalgam of styles talks the rhythm talk and walks the rhythm walk. The group is in the middle of a tour that will bring it to Southern Oregon for a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass.

From DMT's back porch blues ode "Ten Feet Tall" to "Shades," a wry look at barstool-hugging, daytime drunks, Bernhard, Turino and McBean create music that is refreshingly different from most of what you hear in the recording industry these days.

DMT's self-produced recording has been compared to The Violent Femmes, Steve Earle and The White Stripes.

"I grew up listening to a lot of old blues music when I was young," says Bernhard, who was raised in rural Vermont and first befriended McBean in the eighth grade.

"He was the only person I knew who was into the same style, although he leaned more toward the country side of things," he says. "When we started out playing, we were doing punk and rock."

Fast forward a decade as The Devil Makes Three took shape in Santa Cruz, Calif. Bernhard moved west right out of high school, and McBean soon followed suit. After first settling in Olympia, Wash., and playing in an ill-fated band, McBean — who by now had the name of his home state tattooed across his neck — again joined musical forces with Bernhard.

The duo later teamed up with New Hampshire native and University of California, Santa Cruz, attendee Turino.

They say her enthusiasm made up for her initial lack of ability.

"Lucia had always wanted to play bass," Bernhard says. "Cooper and I had already rented a stand-up bass for the group. And the main reason we were really excited about letting her give it a shot was because she didn't know how to do anything we didn't want her to do."

"And our music is simple, so the last thing that we wanted was someone who was overplaying. It wasn't long before she surpassed us."

The band's stated goal was to be an acoustic band that puts on a rock-type show.

"A lot of it is really calm, and performances are sort of a 'sit down, don't talk, don't move' kind of an event. Thinking back to the old blues, ragtime and jug band music, it was house music, party music. That was what we wanted to do. And there really aren't any other bands doing that."

For example, consider the band's "Old Number Seven," an homage to Jack Daniels whiskey. Bernhard says the chord progression sort of came to him, and the next thing he knew he was singing.

More cerebral, but no less celebratory, is the upbeat "Beneath the Piano," which was written about a New Year's party at which a bunch of people wound up getting totally wasted and passing out under the piano, including Bernhard.

"Graveyard" is marked by exquisite finger-picking and Bernhard's delivery of lines such as "Just leanin' on my shovel in this graveyard of dreams."

The band lists Mississippi John Hurt as a major influence, along with the Rev. Gary Davis, Doc Watson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, The Pixies, Gillian Welch, Lightnin' Hopkins and Bob Dylan.

The end result is music that thrives as much in a live setting as it does on "The Devil Makes Three" CD.

"We play mainly rock venues where it's not seated," Bernhard says. "Everybody dances. And except for the instrumentation and the fact that we don't have a drummer, it's pretty much like a rock gig. It can get pretty crazy. Ppeople are dancing and drinking and yelling. And that's the way we like it."

Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

See www.roguetheatre.com or call 471-1316.

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