Dave Howsare is no newbie to the music scene – obvious with the first notes that flow from his instrument and his rich vocals. He’s well known in Bedford County at venues like the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, Jean Bonnet Tavern, and Salsa’s Mexican Grille. However, his brand of indulgence is fresh to the Johnstown area. Dave scheduled his Cambria County debut at The Boulevard Grill in the Southmont district on December 28.
This particular Friday evening, The Grill (the tavern setting of the Boulevard’s rather extensive set-up) is lively. The bar, booths, and tall tables are filled with a mostly younger, nicely-dressed but casual crowd. Cocktail waitresses bustle the floor, occasionally popping into a booth to visit. The atmosphere is loud and fun as customers consume tavern fare, cold drafts, and pricey but worth it holiday martini specials. They are here to catch up (with friends) and hook up (with alluring strangers). Dave unerringly sets the tone for both.
The situation is certainly different than cramming onto a packed dance floor where the band, replete with light show, is the full center of attention and only a shout directly into a glowing ear can be heard over the music. Dave’s acoustic rock artfully positions the mood of the crowd. It serves as background, yes with Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” and Fuel’s “Shimmer.” But something special also happens. Something almost magical when he hits on just that right song at just the right time and for a moment the bar is quiet with all eyes locked onto the corner stage.
Dave and special guest bass man, Jeremy Mock (a fellow member of the rock band, Washington Slept Here) held the Boulevard’s patrons in that trance several times throughout the evening. Bill Wither’s 1971 hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and a heartbreaking “Better Man” (Pearl Jam) were among them.
A song list at every table stimulates requests, and the boys know many more numbers than shown on the extensive inventory. Yet Dave adds his own vocal style to the accomplished guitar leads for a unique take on each tune. His tones have a mellow lushness that pervades the tavern hubbub. If you were lucky enough to have caught the show, you heard it in numbers as varied as Van Morrison’s 1970 classic “Moondance” and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s soulful “Blue on Black.”
Dave and Jeremy showed they could bump up the pace and the era with some of their best selections of the night: “Wonderwall” Oasis, “No Excuses” Alice in Chains, and the evening ender “Mama I’m Comin’ Home” (Ozzy Osbourne) by request.
Judging by the number of clientele who scooped up a Dave Howsare business card and their reactions to the music, this acoustic act will no doubt be showing up at many more Cambria County venues.