Americana STUDies

Well, iffn Friday night wasn't a great night to take a bath in my generation's pop culture, no night was.

As predicted, I started off at Frank's Power Plant in Bay View to check out Marlavous Marla Rothenberg sitting in with Blue Valentine, as they described it (and it was pretty accurate), an "eclectic mix of country, swing, blues, with a touch of alt-country.) Covers all night, but good ones. They open it up with a take on "Ice Cream Man" that recalls niether Diamond David Lee Roth or John Brim. Still nice. Marla joins them for classic renditions of Ballad of Billie Joe and such, but she finds her own way on Gershwin's "Summertime" and doesn't have to recall Janis to make us drop our jaws. Then she's got to duck out (she has a karaoke to run, you know), and Kathy Walker takes the girl singer spot on stage, opening with a great little ditty called "Kathy's Blues." Rothenberg's voice is a higher and richer register, where Walker's got more of a laid-back, but bluesier style. I liked them both, but I too had to duck out, because, well, babies, the Studs were at the Ale House and I've had a stressful month, and this girl needed herself some Studs.

Ah, the Five Card Studs. "Novelty Act" -- pshaw! No, "novelty" would be the word if they did faithful renditions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" or something equally annoying. But no, these fine gentlemen perfectly nail the Las Vegas vibe, where the 70s isn't considered "nostalgia" and being sexy sexy sexy never went out of style. But all of us are in on this, aren't we? We know they're wearing hairpieces (or at least some of them are), don't we? We know that Mr. and Mrs. Spumanti didn't really name their kid Asti, don't we?

The correct place to see them indeed was the Ale House. It was somebody's birthday, and this was a band to celebrate you 30th birthday for sure. I bumped into Chris Lehmann, enjoying some locally brewed beer, as we couldn't wipe the grins off our faces. Lehmann is resting up for the return of the Buggs later this month, but he still gets out to check out a fine band now and again. The Studs? They plowed through a setlist that included everything from "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" to "Cherry Hill Park" to "Ride Captain Ride" and honestly, I'm pretty sure there were some people in the audience who weren't necessarily onto all this as an act. First off, I'm noticing that a lot of girls are on the dance floor, shaking their groove thangs in an obvious effort to catch the eye of one Mr Cesar Palace or another Mr. Reno Nevada. Within one minute of the song, their boyfriends/dates found their way to the dance floor, dancing awkwardly, but nevertheless making sure the girls remembered who bought their drinks this evening.

While the schtick is a put on, the musicianship is not. These guys are dead on, tight musicians, who obviously listened to everything in the 70s, not just lounge lizard fodder. Witness the set-closing rave up of Diamond's "Kentucky Woman", which ended up featuring Spumanti doing a Keith Emersonian keyboard run before bringing us back to the yuppie-soaked club atmosphere of the Ale House. I'm a fan anyway. It all started a few years back, when I woke up one morning, and realized, "Wow. I just had to order my first pair of bifocals. I own and drive a station wagon. It's just hit me that my favorite CD right now is this copy of Tom Jones' 'Reload' that i just picked up. Oh, dear God, I'm 40." Thank that same dear God for the Five Card Studs.

So I pop over to Points East to catch a set of the Chop Top Toronados, a band I've been meaning to see for months now, but it was not to be. They went on first which meant I missed 'em, so that answered my question as to where I was going to finish the night. At Old Heidelberg Park, with Marlevous Marla's Karaoke.

This Marla Karaoke thing is taking on a surreal life of its own. I walked into the Bavarian Inn to see Marla serenading a older couple celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary, although the wife had already gone home (the daughter and her husband were still partying with daddy!). Marla congratulated them with a hearty "Mazel Tov" and the poor goys had no clue what she meant. Marla, ever the gracious hostess, explained that it was a hebrew expression that..... well, she ended it reminding everybody, "Well, I'm a nice Jewish girl here at the Bavarian Inn...."

You never know who's going to pop in. Last week we had Brian Wurch and Brian Kurzinski, this week Mark Shurilla made an appearance, as did Binky Tunny. It's like this place to test out new songs you might hear these guy doing on a real stage with a real band later. Binky covered Bono for us; Shurilla joined me and Dave for a run-through of Alice Cooper's "Hello, Hooray!" I grabbed a handful of popcorn, and sipping my diet coke, went home to rest up for today, driving home and realizing that you know when you've finally grown up when everything is hip enough for you.

Brian was going to follow up tonight and check out Chief at Lulu, but it was not to be, either. Why not? Because we spent the afternoon with our friends Linda and Ken, homebrewing enthusiasts, and local contacts for the National Homebrewing Association's national Big Brew. The idea, of course, is that thousands of people agree to brew the same recipe (this year's was a doppelbock) and have fun doing so. We've been going to this for years now, even since before Stella was born. The folks who attend every year have pretty much seen Stella grow up over the years, climbing in Linda and Ken's beautiful magnolia tree, and of course lots of "Look how Sammy has grown!" I love it when people throw "annual" parties: its such a nice little baseline to keep in touch with our friends.

Well, you can't hit a brewing party all day, chasing kids around, and expect to have energy to catch even a hot band like Chief, so we'll have to catch you next week, boys. In the meantime, I have to rest up for Los Straightjackets tomorrow night.


czeltic girl said…
Heh. Funny. We ran into Lehmann at the Chief show at Lulu. Well, actually before the show. He was grabbin' up his stuff and rushing over to Points East.

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