A few songs into the Hawks’ first-ever acoustic show, bassist Chuck Hernandez begins worrying the content might offend G.I.G.’s all-ages sensibility.
“We’re about to perform an onstage abortion,” Hernandez says, standing mic-less behind an upright bass. Whether he’s tossing off a nonsensical non sequitur or this is just one more example of the band’s self-effacing stage banter isn’t clear, but thankfully the boys never make with the eviscerated fetus, metaphorically or otherwise.
Instead, Hernandez delivers “B.F.F.,” a rambling sing-along that may or may not be set at Bayside, the fictional high school depicted in Saved by the Bell — but most definitely references Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and Christopher Cross’s “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” and ends with the narrator winning the lottery. On the album, it’s a catchy plugged-in goof-off, but here, accompanied only by acoustic guitars, bowed bass, and keyboard, its subversive pop deconstruction has space to resonate, and the result is less sarcastic than naked and fragile, still funny in parts, but weirdly affecting overall. Hernandez, filling out his Miami Dolphins jersey like a lineman, sings lead in his improbably small, cracking voice, at times conducting himself with his bow.
The Hawks alternate vocal duties, and guitarist-keyboardist Frank Weysos leads equally impressive show-opener “Loose Teeth” from his chair. Arrhythmically rocking while he strums, dipping his head and rolling back his eyes when he sings, Weysos has real rock-star stage-presence potential, and the song’s chorus of “whoas” — a passable indie-pop hook when electrified on record — develops a rugged, unfinished, Old West feel without all the wattage, and the song’s immeasurably better for it.
Best of all, “Mijo,” with its usual electric guitar assault and keyboard blips replaced by group whistling and a bassline that sounds like Hernandez is attempting to saw his upright in half with the bow, finally sounds raw enough to support the “one more pill to kill the pain” refrain. The Hawks play at Limelight (2817 N. St. Mary’s) on January 31. Maybe we can convince them to do a few songs with their amps turned off.