Live Review: austin jenckes, polecat, cody beebe and the crooks

austin jenckes, polecat, cody beebe and the crooks
jan. 10 • wwu performing arts center

Austin Jenckes returned to his old college campus Friday, Jan. 10, after gaining worldwide recognition as a talented vocalist from his impressive run on The Voice.  The performing arts center was packed with students, professors, and proud alumni to welcome back the musician who used to perform at places around town such as the Underground Coffee House and The Green Frog – now after returning home from a long voyage across America he finds the biggest stage in town waiting for him.
Opening the night was Cody Beebe and the Crooks. Heavily bearded and happy to be there, the group played a diverse set of tunes that had a southern rock Americana feel to it. They started the set softly and Cody Beebe had a vocal delivery similar to that of Tom Petty, but with a distinct voice that reflected a more rural or country tone. The Crooks laid down jams with no particular genre in mind; they got funky, they got bluesy, they got real, then they brought it back and rocked the house.
Next up was Polecat, Bellingham’s Bluegrass Champions. The thump of the upright bass and the dust exuding the bowstring of the fiddle prompted a roar of applause, as Polecat wasted no time in getting the energy in the room stirring. As Cayley Schmid began jammin’ on her fiddle while stompin’ about the stage the whole PAC begin to clap in unison to the beat. The music was gorgeous, like a sunrise, or a blue sky above the open road with nothing but prairie fields and freedom surrounding in all directions. 12-string acoustic player Aaron Guest accompanied by lead electric guitar player, Jeremy Elliot, who exhibited flawless instrumentation with speed, drives the vocals and accuracy, which expanded the sound, gave the songs an abundance of life. Note for note battling it out with fiddle while harmonizing with the vocals, Jeremy Elliot is paramount to Polecat’s enthralling live performances, receiving tremendous praise from the audience as the excitement in the room grew stronger and stronger with each song The Celtic-inspired bluegrass sound of Polecat provided full set of enthralling enchantments, elegant and beautiful, joyous and captivating, love was truly in the air.
Who better to take the stage next than Austin Jenckes, a man who dedicated his life to spreading his message of love, to move people with his music, with his voice, with the air in each and every breath.  This was truly a special moment as the genuine heart-felt enthusiasm Jenckes brought to the stage was warmly embraced by the audience.  The jolly red cheeks lit up, and his smile was contagious. Jenckes has a way of getting at the vulnerabilities of people, softening their hearts with his sweetly sung convictions.  A humble man, exuding a presence of happiness and appreciation, you could tell this was a marquee moment in his life, a moment he shared with us. Playing songs filled with passion, dedicating a song to his fiancé, paying homage to his passed father, the emotional connection to the audience was real, not only heard, but also felt.
Upon the finale the whole room was on its feet, singing together, giving Jenckes the admiration he had earned.  After leaving the stage briefly, Austin Jenckes came back proudly with a WWU sweatshirt to let everyone know this man did not forget where he came from. Ending what had been an extraordinary night of music at WWU’s performing arts center with the Lynard Skynard’s “Simple Man.”  It truly could not be denied that Austin Jenckes meant every word of it.
-Mark Broyles