What to Do Tonight: Heartless Bastards

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Don’t let the name fool you — Heartless Bastards burn with feeling and emotion. The Austin power trio (originally from Cincinnati) blasts out blue-collar country-rock that pits love and hate in an arena of static-filled guitars, blasting percussion, and singer-songwriter Erika Wennerstrom’s Janis Joplin-style moans. The band’s third album, The Mountain, might be its most intense. “It’s about starting over,” says Wennerstrom. “My boyfriend and I split from a 10-year relationship, and I moved to Austin. I changed everything. I packed up my van and moved on.” That boyfriend was ex-Bastards bassist Mike Lamping. The original band also broke up, Wennerstrom headed for Texas, rented a cheap apartment and wrote for six months, emerging with the 11-song Mountain. Songs range from the lonesome travel ballad “Be So Happy” to the cathartic rocker “Out at Sea,” backed by new instrumentation like pedal steel, mandolin, banjo and strings. Produced by Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Trail of Dead), the record sounds like PJ Harvey going alt-country in the bayou. “I’ve never worked with a producer,” says Wennerstrom. “I was working with musicians I just met, so I didn’t want to create in this sterile environment, trying to make music with people you don’t know at all. It’s important to feel this connection, but I trusted [McCarthy], and now I feel this is my strongest work.” Wennerstrom is touring with two new Bastards — drummer Dave Colvin and bassist and banjo player Jesse Ebaugh. “It’s a new energy,” she says. “But I’ll leave it up to people who are already familiar with the Heartless Bastards. Let’s see what they think of the live show.” The concert starts at 10 p.m. at Oberlin College’s Dionysus Club (135 W Lorain St., Oberlin, 440.775.8471, oberlin.edu/stuorg/sco/). Tickets: $12. —Keith Gribbins

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