New Years Eve Eve

I already knew I wouldn't be going out on "Amateur Night" (my name for New Year's Eve, I can stay sober but I'm not counting on anybody else on the streets to do so). Fortunately it was a Saturday night on the 30s, and there were four bands at Points East, three of them I knew nothing about, so off I go.

First off, if had I known that the openers, Deadmans Shoes, were who they were I'd have gotten my act together and made the effort to get out there before I actully did, because this band could very well name themselves "The Milwaukee Roots Rock All-Stars." I've taken a seat at the bar where I met up with Darrell "The Brains" Martin and this other guy I know only as "Steve From Atlanta" and I'm all "hey Darrell, is that Blaine (Schultz) on guitar?" Yup. And yes, that was Jeff Lauwasser on bass. And, Darrell pointed out to me, "That's Dave Thomas hiding behind the PA speaker." Wow, glad to see he's still out and about playing. Mike Farrow on drums (who I remember from an old Liv Mueller project) and some guy I didn't recognize on third guitar. Only caught about three songs, but they sounded so wonderfully like you would expect a collection of some of the city's best and most longstanding country/twang/(fill in your)billy musicians to sound. As I commented on my Flickr page, my own insecurity prevented me from getting a decent shot of them. I took one look at Lauwasser, remembered his wife is one of the best musican portraitists in the city and got stupidly intimidated.

Year of the Gun guitarist
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Next up, new band Year of the Gun. Rob McCuen is taking credit for discovering them, and we tried in vain to figure out what they were going to sound like, given half of them looked like old Cure fans (and half their friends and fans looked really really goth), and the other half of 'em looked like Seattle grunge match guys. McCuen steps on stage and proudly introduces them, and, well, being new at this playing out thing, they don't jump into their first number at the end of McCuen's big intro. Still, they were impressive. They turned out to be dark glam. You can't call them goth -- they're way too American, specifically way too midwestern. But they're American boys who listened to a lot of their parents' British guitar heroes from the 60s, and filtered it through Detroit and their own Generation Ys sensibilities. Their last song sounded so much like a cover that neither I nor "Da Brains" could place -- was this a Zeppelin cover? Blind Faith? Traffic? Or, as Da Brains pointed out by the end of the song, "I'm hearing a bit of Lesley West and Mountain here." But it turned otu to be an original, and a great one to end with that. In the meantime, Rob's all over the audience shouting out encouragement to the band, and I'm not quite sure if that was for the purpose of truly encouraging them, or to remind us all who found them. I think it was a little of both. Or maybe a little nervousness that he was going to have to follow them.

Miles on guitar
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Up next, Rob himself and the White Hot Tizzies, which means its Rob and Dan Mullen. (full disclosure here again, if you don't know it already, Mullen is the bass player in my band). I'm not at all jealous of Mullen in this band. He's a wonderfully versatile guitarist, and while Rob's ego is ginormous, he knows to let Mullen run free with his guitar tricks. Mullen can get as heavy when he needs to, and still pick up the electric 12-string and sweeten up whatever Byrds-type tune McCuen cares to belt out. Yes, they did "Life Imitates Art" -- still a wonderful pop song that really ought to be the theme song for some teenage soap opera on the WB or something. But the highlight of the show for me was the run-the-six-string-through-the-fuzzbox (read: massively heavy) rendition of "Please Please Me." Somehow they heavied up one of the poppier Lennon songs while retaining the prettieness. A few months back, I intoned to Rob, "Let Myles (our nickname for Mullen) be Paul." In this case, I was wrong. Not only can Miles John it up, he can Cold Turkey John it up. And with the fuzzed up guitar, Rob's cracklin' voice works wonderfully.

On other other hand, I agree with Steve from Atlanta that the misstep of the set was "Space Oddity." McCuen is enough of a glam drama queen to pull off Bowie, but this isn't the Bowie for him. "Space Oddity" is a song that doesn't work in a two piece. Its too complicated, it needs a full band, it needs the dynamics that only a full band can give. It's too first-second-third complex for this drums and guitar thing. As a result, it seemed to drag on forever, and we're all thinking to ourselves, "Oh, geez, we're only on the second part?" Worse yet, this was their second to the last song. Last song, a meanacing fuzzed up beast of a song called "Drive By Shooting" was good, but too short to make us forget the Bowie debacle, so that's what we're left with. Cut this one out, boys. If you must do Bowie, dig out your copy of Diamond Dogs, Ziggy, or you can probably even get away with Lodger if you insist on getting all artsy about it. But "Drive By Shooting" needed to be preceeded by something equally dangerous and ferocious, even AJ Foyt or something of that ilk, to leave us with the 1-2 punch that the White Hot Tizzies promise to knock us out with.

The last band was a white boy hip hop thang called Dark Sarcasm. Perhaps I don't get hip-hop, or I'm missing something, but they were missing something. I'm not a fan of just rapping over a beat. As readers can probably tell, I like the sound of the guitar and the bass, and both were weak here. Its not that they weren't competent players, but they needed to give me something to hold onto, a snappy little riff here, a funky bass line there, and it wasn't happening. Coudn't hear the lyrics, so I couldn't tell you if that would save them or not. I might be being hard on them, as I'm getting into a lot of Britishhip-hop and trip-hop lately, and the big difference is that melody plays a strong role in the proceedings. That's why I finally discovered that say, the Black Eyed Peas, were worth looking into. They GET melody and bravado, which everybody else who played tonight was loaded with. OK, I'm comparing a bunch of kids just starting out to super megastars, but then again, three paragraphs ago I'm comparing some kids just starting out to Page, Clapton, and West and they come out shining. OK, boys, listen to your drummer (McCuen, looking a bit out of place, but still an elderstateman worth taking advice from) and when you're done, go to ITunes and download some Grandmaster Flash or Funkadelic or even the Beasties and hear what I'm looking for in my white boy rap. Hey at least you got the shoes right.


Alana said…
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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