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They Were Black Happy, But Now They’re Shoveljerk

Shoveljerk - the new band that includes four former members of the defunct Coeur d’Alene octet Black Happy - will make its first local appearance Saturday at Outback Jack’s.

Shoveljerk won’t be the headliner; it plays second, before Seattle’s Pleasure Elite.

Shoveljerk debuted a week ago in Seattle. The quartet is still making the adjustment to performing with four fewer members in the band.

“I’m really nervous,” says bassist Mark Hemenway. “We have nothing to hide behind now. Greg (Hjort, guitarist) and I both have had to step up. The horns (in Black Happy) always kind of covered for us.”

More important, the band, rounded-out by singer/guitarist Paul Hemenway and drummer Jim Bruce, isn’t sure how well its new material will go over with a crowd that likely will show up because the four musicians used to be the backbone of Black Happy.

“I don’t want to see the guy there with a pitcher of beer yelling for ‘Chicken in a Biscuit’ (a Black Happy song),” Paul Hemenway says.

“That’s our worst nightmare,” Hjort says.

So, don’t expect Shoveljerk to sound like a hornless Black Happy. The new band is mining a completely different territory, a terrain over which horns wouldn’t glide smoothly.

Shoveljerk melds nicely with the Northwest scheme of guitar bands. It wields a driving, edgy sound complete with unyielding grooves, emotionally-ridden vocals and baiting crescendos.This may be true, but it’s a sound that Black Happy’s following, as well as new fans, will likely embrace.

In the six weeks that have passed since Black Happy disbanded, Shoveljerk has been writing and rehearsing songs for an album it will record in Seattle in May.

“As far as the songs go, I love them,” said Paul Hemenway. “I’m excited; I can’t wait to put them on tape. I think we’re going to make a good album.”

In preparation for recording, the band has booked several out-of-town dates. And although the Coeur d’Alene band could use its impressive past to command headlining slots, the group is settling for opening ones.

“Not to be arrogant, the clubs want us to headline and we’re saying no,” Paul Hemenway says. “We just kind of want to start over.

“Really, we’re only a month old. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Blind Tribe opens.

Showtime’s 9:30 p.m. The cover is $5. Bring your ID.