I first saw the Devil Doves in June of 2013 on the main stage at Comfest. On a stage that could probably fit 20 comfortably, it was just three guys with an acoustic guitar, an electric bass and the box-like latin percussion instrument called a cajon. The sound, though was massive; the audio engineer was on the top of his game that day, and the band took full advantage. All three players were concentrating on giving life to the groove, and letting everything else follow. More than anything else, of all the music I heard that day, they were different.   Recently, I had the opportunity to see the Doves at the 3 Legged Mare in the Arena District. I fought through a mob of Blue Jackets fans (4-2 win over the Capitals!), accidentally purchased a Guinness, and found the band onstage toward the back of the bar. They were doing it up for the hockey folk, tossing out the occasional cover tune, noting the existence of the tip jar and generally enjoying themselves. Again, it struck me that this was something far more interesting than the usual Columbus band Americana.   It’s the group thunk of the beat that does it. The Devil Doves are Junior Kauffman on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Kyle Wilson on percussion and Eric Nassau on electric bass. Their choice of instruments favors rhythm; bass guitar is in part a rhythm instrument, acoustic guitar is half drum, and the cajon doesn't fuss around with cymbals. Wilson states that the band mantra is “as long as we play hard and fast, we’ll be OK.” However they accomplish it, when the three lock in on a groove it takes on a life of its own and it moves.   Kauffman's singing is at once powerful and good natured. He's one of the lucky singers who can take his voice just over the line of blues distortion without sounding raspy or losing it entirely after three songs. Nassau and Wilson periodically float in high harmonies, which slice through the mix as isolated treble frequencies. It's always cool when everybody in the band sings.   Kauffman and Wilson originally met playing baseball at Worthington Kilbourne High School. Wilson subsequently moved to Florida, and when he returned three years ago a mutual friend told him that Kauffman was playing that evening at the Scarlet and Grey Cafe. Wilson went down and caught the show, and afterward suggested that they try working together. The duo played open mic nights around town, and subsequently began booking their own shows.   Bassist Eric Nassau joined the group approximately a year ago. Already a well established singer and guitarist, Nassau was impressed with both the act and Kauffman’s songwriting, and suggested to Wilson and Kauffman several times that they add a bass player. Nassau finally took matters into his own hands; he took a copy of the groups demo tape home and charted the songs.   The next time he got wind the band was playing, he showed up with his charts and his bass rig and asked to sit in. "That's how I got in," laughs Nassau, "and I've been informed that the only way out is murder-suicide."   Kauffman is the principal songwriter of the group, and the tunes are good. "Status Quo" is a rambling blues number with a light brush of sardonic. The uptempo "Fine Line" asks the question of where you stand between “clever and creepy and just plain old mean.” “Oh Baby (All I Want to Do)” is a beautiful love affair between a man and a woman who drinks enough whiskey to float a ship.   I particularly enjoy “The Promised Land,” which chronicles the annoyance of watching youthful heroes transform into outstanding citizens: “Dr. Dre drinks Dr. Pepper, Ice-T says stay in school, everybody’s going to rehab.”   Kaufman wrote the song about his experience as an outside salesman, camping out in a different hotel room every night. “Every time I got in and flipped on the TV, I saw Ice-T acting in a Law and Order episode or Dr. Dre selling pop,” says Kauffman. “These were the bad-ass anti-authority guys I grew up with, and it was just getting ridiculous.” The song continues beyond this theme, turning a critical eye to the recent financial crisis and other corporate impedimenta.   As the fairly inebriated hockey fans sitting at the table to my left got up to leave, one of them noticed that I was taking notes and asked if I was doing a review. I fessed up, and he told me the band was "fucking awesome" and that I needed to give them a good one. I think the dude had a point.   The Doves play every Thursday night at the 3 Legged Mare. You can also catch them at the Rumba Cafe Saturday, February 22nd with the Midwest Dissenters and Theo’s Loose Hinges. It will be worth the trip.

Appears in Issue: