Eric Sardinas, who's playing at B.B. King's on Saturday night, is a visually compelling presence on stage. First of all, Sardinas, a blues slide guitarist and singer, has a body that's the envy of any anorexic--tall and thin with shoulders that seem broader than they are because his hips are almost nonexistent.
Last Saturday at Cozy's, he dressed in tight black leather pants and vest over a sleeveless T-shirt. Sardinas wore a big ol' cowboy hat that cast a shadow over the top half of his face. In fact, all you could see was hat and mouth.
And all you could hear was his guitar.
Sardinas plays a Dobro, otherwise known as a resonator guitar. It looks like a guitar with a hubcap tacked to the front.
"I like their tone," Sardinas said. "I can make it sound like a chain saw or a lonesome cat."
Unlike most rock blues players, Sardinas doesn't use a flat pick. Instead he uses thumb and finger picks.
"I use all 10 fingers," Sardinas said. "If you have that many fingers, why not use 'em?"
And Sardinas finger picks that guitar into a frenzy. In a dizzying display, he is nothing short of a wild man, and his music is hot and loud. He and his band opened their first set at a ferocious level and from there went to sizzling to blistering and then back to hot again. His repertoire covers a variety of blues styles, but all have Sardinas' slide guitar upfront and center. The audience ate it up and screamed for more.
Bassist Paul Loranger and drummer Scott Palacios provided solid accompaniment. Both were allotted several solos and did well, but Sardinas is the star of this show. Loranger, who played a stand-up acoustic bass that's bigger than he is, provided a sharp visual contrast to Sardinas' lean, mean intensity.
And that intensity was unrelenting throughout the 90-minute set. It seems Sardinas' idea of pacing is to take it to the top early and then keep it there for the next 75 minutes.
"It's my own thing," Sardinas said. "It's just an attitude," which he describes as "tastefully aggressive."
Eric Sardinas was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but came to the Los Angeles area in 1991.
"I was always exposed to blues--when I was younger, a lot of Motown and R&B;," Sardinas said. "As I got older, I started listening to delta blues and Chicago blues," people such as Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Lightning Hopkins.
The band is based in Orange County but plays frequently now in the San Fernando Valley. Sardinas is negotiating a recording deal, and he expects to have his first CD out by the end of the year.
One odd little aside--Sardinas had his eye teeth lengthened a few years back to give him Lestat-like fangs, but he's getting them removed.
He says he did it as a goof to go with his snake tattoos, but some people take it way too seriously. Sardinas says the only thing he takes that seriously is his music.
"I consider myself a blues player, but I incorporate a hard edge to it," Sardinas said. "I can light it on fire or I can take it easy."
And in This Corner: Sardinas is opening the show Saturday for the Slackjaw Blues Band. Saturday is Slackjaw's first night headlining at the Universal CityWalk club. The group, which released its first CD, "Knuckle Down," in January, is evocative of 1960s super group Cream, but with a '90s edge.
It should be a good show.
* Slackjaw Blues Band and the Eric Sardinas Project perform Saturday night at B. B. King's Blues Club, Universal CityWalk, 1000 Universal Center Drive, (818) 622-5464.