Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Thinking Man's Cock Rock Band


Rear View of Cocksmiths
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
So, how best to follow up an evening at the ballet Friday night? At the Cactus Club with the Cocksmiths!

I know this is going to sound like an oxymoron, but the Cocksmiths are the Thinking Man's Cock Rock band. But really, that's exactly what they are. They are not ridiculous, they are not a single bit self-conscious (or even ironic, as was, to a very slight extent, opening band Chief). Jesus, even their huge pedal racks scream "Cock Rock" -- and this particular one is the bass player's. They have got this Cock Rock thing down to unapologetic perfection: these guys are the Cocksmiths, yes, they are smiths, they are craftspeople indeed. Why does it work so well? Because for one thing, I think they secretly know what they really are. They're glam --because Cock Rock is basically Glam Rock made by people with Kinsey/Klein numbers less than 1. So since they're really glam, they're not afraid to show their emotions, to sing about both sex and love, because that's all in the dramatic package. You don't even have to talk to them afterwards to know that these are cock rockers with hearts -- but you can because they are regular guys, easy to talk to, and they don't downplay or escalate personas on or off the stage. They are sincere and unapolgetic about this music they play that won't get them on any critics' darlings lists anytime soon. But that's because to call them "darling" would be absolutely wrong for the package they pack.

And pack a package they do: no matter what your taste, there's a Cocksmith for you. Looking for the introspective, yet sincerely frantic guy? Matty Gonzales on guitar and vocals. Like 'em grungy, "I like Soundgarden AND Van Halen"? Lead guy Ryan Daniels fits the bill. Need an exotic guitar god with a history from funk to metal? Paris Ortiz is the man with the foot pedals held together with duct tape so he doesn't kick them apart while he wails away on his axe. Want a meanacing load of tattoos topped off with a goatee that strecthes beyond the chest but doesn't approach the ridiculousness of ZZTop? Bass player Jeff O'Connor, with his bass strapped high on his chest because he already knows he's a badass so he doesn't have to sling the four strings down to his knees. Or do you just need a regular guy with a regular haircut but the mental anguish that goes with being a drummer? Bill Backes, taking time away from his other gig, the Uptown Savages. That's the thing: these guys don’t look like they'd all be in a band together at all, and you'd think that with all this variety of look and style, it would be a band of exploding egos that in theory, shouldn't last more than three songs before implosion. But they appear to have a sensibility that they are greater than the sum of their parts, and that each of them brings something to the table that doesn't detract from the others, they are not threatened by each other, and instead feed each other's egos.




Chief singer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Opening this glorious double bill were relative newcomers Chief, who rocked the house, and they came pretty damn near close to knocking the 'smiths off the stage -- only a smattering (and that's a SMATTERING) of self-conscious irony kept them from toppling the masters. Still, heart-pounding stadium anthemic rock scaled down to fit a bar, but with enough endearing ego to fill the Bradley Center if called upon. Lead singer Chris Tishler, has inherited all of the bravado (not to mention the sparingly but effectively employed vibrato) he needs from his second cousin twice removed, Tom Jones. He has a vocal range that grabs the ends of his toothsome tenor but never falters. Bass player Dave Benton, with studded gauntlets that somehow avoid scratching up his instrument, is beyond O'Connor's meanacing: he's downright fucking scary, but approachably so.

The songs themselves are torn (viciously torn) from the pages of Mott the Hoople's catalog, but with more of that uniquely American thumping bravado that the British glam guys just couldn't get. A perfect band to open for them would be the slightly more self-effacing band from Chicago, I Love Rich. Except that the reason the Cocksmiths work so well is that there is no self-effacement here, and Chief's is so transparent that you don’t care that they kind of know (and want you to know that they know) they're not dealing with high art here. But that's back to the greatness of both these bands on the bill. They're not art-TEESts per se, they are craftsmen, and extremely skilled craftsmen at that. Sign me up for the fan club!

One final thing: Eric, the smoke eater at the Cactus Club isn't working. Thank god I wasn't wearing my contacts. But look at tonight's "self portrait in rock and roll restroom." I had to cut out the red just so that my cigarette-bloodshot eyes wouldn't get me arrested.

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