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Midnight blues: The Pines fight the law, and win (for a minute)

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The Pines fought the law, and… they won!
Photo: Laura Davis

It's 11:45 p.m. on First Friday at the Gypsy Den, and the last band of the night has just finished hurriedly setting up. Once the clock strikes 12, all live outdoor music is supposed to cease — at least so say the cops.

Performing for just the fifth time ever, locals The Pines are eager to show the fading crowd what they're all about. Fifteen minutes won't be sufficient. Frontman Walker Rose belts out the first note; he, drummer Dustin Tafeaga and bassist Preston Himebauch capture the audience's attention, just in time.

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The Pines

The reaction? Slightly stunned at first. The scrawny, curly haired blond clutching the mic doesn't seem to match his voice — heavy with the grittiness of Tom Waits and shouldering the wounded croon of classic bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

"The blues, pain, misery, inspire me more than anything," Rose explains later of the Deep-South sound that informs his lyrics, autobiographically split between his experiences with travel and women. Rose's love of the blues also spawned his six-month-old band's name. "There's a lot to that name," he says. "I grew up in Oregon, and I remember as a kid, the pines capturing the essence of the blues and the overall mysteries of life. It's like that old Leadbelly lyric, 'In the pines where the sun don't ever shine/I would shiver the whole night through.'"

After pleading with the patrolling cops for one more song — Rose's offer: persistent, "Three more minutes, I'll buy you a beer!" — The Pines leave mostly satisfied, having proved to Downtown they can bring the blues, even under police pressure.

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