Sunday, January 18, 2009

Venturing out from Winter Whining

I'll admit it: I was a wimp during the cold snap. The kids didn't have school Thursday and Friday, so I really saw no reason to leave the house. It's not like I don't own a good winter coat and hat and mittens, I just had no reason to go out. By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, though, we had ferocious cabin fever, such that I took advantage of the family's Discovery World membership, parked in the heated garage, and let the kids run loose petting sea animals, testing simple machines, and laying on a bed of nails. Normally, I would have hit Gallery Night -- and by all accounts it would have been worth it -- but with two kids with me, if I had to park more than two blocks away from the cluster of galleries I wanted to see, I would have --and consequently did -- blow it off. And all three galleries were in the Third Ward: did I really think I was going to strike parking gold? Yeah, right.
Saturday's heat wave got me out of the house, though. And as I've been looking forward to it, I accompanied my DH to Liquor Sweets. The setup at Liquor Sweets was in full tilt: a heavy death metal festival in the large ballroom upstairs; Dr Chow and Ekko Galaxie and the Rings of Saturn at the "Globe South" room downstairs. One cover charge gets you in the whole building, even though most people chose to go either up or downstairs. I wasn't sure how this one cover for the whole building thing would play out.

As Paul "The Fly" Lawson said, Ekko Galaxie were indeed the darlings of Trash Fest this year, and we were all dying to see what they would come up with for a full set. Dr Chow opened, and were steadfast as usual. They're putting a lot more country into the act, but they're not completely serious about it: I finally got to hear their take on Canyonero and was happy to see that the crowd got it. This crowd would probably have enjoyed more of the psychedelic blues that Dr Chow does so well: they were jumping at a great version of "Psychotic Reaction" and needless to say, they were overjoyed and packing the dance floor when the introductory syncopated riffs of T-Rex's "Jeepster" were played.


ekko and mick ronson stand in
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Ekko Galaxie and the Rings of Saturn is a band that knows their glam and lives it, that's for sure. Even when the Bowie clone arrived, before applying makeup and hairstyle, he was dressed for winter correctly -- in a smashing full-length double breasted dark blue wool coat that signified even off stage, he lives this life -- since the only people who would have seen this were band people at load-in time. But the whole band dresses up and looks precisely the part. And the set list isn't just Bowie. They handle Sweet, Mott the Hoople, T Rex with equal precision, and covers of Roxy Music, Eno (with a particularly blistering guitar solo on "Baby's on Fire") and even Hedwig and the Angry Inch also get the treatment. Ekko Galaxie himself throws on a pair of aviator sunglasses when he goes into Lou Reed's "Vicious" -- there is no glam stone unpolished by this bunch. Their love for the genre is evident, and shared by everybody in the room. People are calling for the Bowie, of course, since it's the most familiar, but there were enough glam purists in the audience (among them, Darrell "Da Brains" Martin) to smile appreciatively when the introductory strains of "Virginia Plain" were played. And on top of it all, they've got the charisma, moxie, and stage presence to keep glam fans happy. They don't just play this music, they perform it, and that's one of the funnest part of glam.

About half of this band is originally from Minneapolis -- and they were even more surprised than I was that this kind of tribute band hasn't already existed here in brew town. They're just getting started here, and if there's any criticism to be made at this point, it isn't about anything that won't self-correct in a few hardworking months. They need to tighten it up a bit -- and that will come with playing together, getting used to playing as a band more, and seasoning themselves with more gigs and outings in Milwaukee. Right now, we're all happy to see somebody touching this stuff -- when was the last time you walked into a bar to see a bunch of androgynous guys take on a TRex song besides "Bang a Gong"? But round about the time we as an audience will start demanding they nail the break in "Virginia Plain" they should be able to deliver. What will also come with time is their confidence to make this music their own. They're excellent copycats today -- I'm looking forward to when they evolve into excellent artists in their own right. I -- along with the majority of the audience -- had a terrific time just being happy to hear these young ones take on the music that got me through high school and college, and I'm impressed with how deep their knowledge of the genre is. Bravo, guys! Now: get yourselves a web presence. They're not even on myspace yet, or Facebook (I looked.) How am I -- or any of your fans -- going to know when to catch you next? I'll just die if I miss your next show.


Lockjaw singer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Spotted in the crowd: prog priestess Julie Brandenburg, who talked me into going upstairs to the actual Liquor Sweets stage to check out her friends in Lockjaw, a band I saw about two years ago that at the time left me a bit underwhelmed after the shock of the sideshow act they featured wore off. But I'm glad I checked them out last night. For one thing, musically, they've vastly improved. The songs are distinctive from each other, and since they didn't have the sideshow act with them, they had to depend on their own stage presence and delivery -- and perhaps that forced them to step it up. Lockjaw doesn't need the sideshow anymore. They're absolutely tight musicians, they have a strong song catalog, and they have this whole "hell rock" thing in the palm of their hands. It's not my thing, but dammit (or damn them, as I'm sure they'd prefer) they were good at it. They certainly could hold their own opening for NiN, Manson, Skinny Puppy, or any of the other death metal bands in their niche. In fact, they're tight enough that with good management, they'll be headlining similar shows in a couple of years. Particularly impressive was -- even though they clearly have some pre-recorded backup help -- how much sonic thunder guitarist Jos3 and drummer Johnny can put out by themselves when singer Medavon puts down his guitar to just sing. And, unlike many cookie monster-style vocalists of this genre, Medavon actually carries a tune over all the screams he puts out. He's sinister looking, backs up that look with lyrical content you'd expect ("Call me the devil!" I picked out of one of the songs) and, fundamentally, they rock. Again, I'm glad I checked them out: it was like giving them another chance -- and without a giant band or a sideshow distracting attention they withstood critical muster, especially from somebody like me who isn't into their subgenre to begin with. Good show, gentlemen. Maybe this whole Liquor Sweets concept of paying once for the whole joint and getting totally different forms of entertainment is going to work after all. I certainly got my money's worth.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind words, support, and photographs. To further your EGATROS experience please visit http://www.myspace.com/ekkogalaxie

-Saffron Starr

the sandwich life said...

oh man...that glam band sounds FABULOUS!!