Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to fill a room


Guitar Face
Originally uploaded by V'ron
Friday the kids had off school, and it was so lovely out we decided to hit the zoo, in time to catch an an abundance of spring mammalian cuteness.

And then I headed over to Liquor Sweets that night to catch a McTavish show (after putting down an obligatory Shamrock Shake, described by Stella as "What toothpaste would taste like if it were a milkshake."). McTavish does the Irish thing well. This was their first outing this season -- they only do this on a seasonal basis, as opposed to year round Irish bands like Athas or the Tossers. They're just getting warmed up, and they put out the sweet Irish tunes well. Thing is, the sweet Irish tunes isn't what I love about McTavish. I'm more of a fan of when they turn into rowdy Irish hooligans, belting out protest songs like "IRA" or whipping themselves into enough of a frenzy that covering the Clash's "London Calling" doesn't seem one bit out of place. So I'm going to have to catch them at McBob's or something (if only because I was convinced last year that McBob does serve up the best corned beef made in this town by somebody not named Jake).

On the same bill at Liquor Sweets that night was supposedly the last performance of the Velvet Underground Project, and I hope that's not true, but without the dancers, without the light show, they were simply OK. I still loved it, because it's the only band guitarist Dan Mullen plays in these days where he can really stretch out his talent and take his guitar places that a Buddy Holly audience just won't let him go.

Part of the reason for the retirement, I've heard, is that it's just not drawing. Well, the VU weren't a giant draw to begin with, but here's the thing. Those who know VU almost hold them sacred. The idea of a cover band, a tribute band going over the catalog of a band that pretty much invented "alternative, original" music -- well, that kind of cancels each other out, no? And let's face it, the VU project almost skates on the edge of parody, what with Mark Shurilla's Warhol wig (and is it a waste of bandwidth to point out the obvious that Warhol never performed with the VU, just made them famous?). When the VU Project shines, it's when they don't try to sound like the original VU Project, because they will fail. Moe Tucker was a percussionist that was fascinated with the idea of minimalist rhythm. Andy Pagel, on the other hand, is a friggin drummer obsessed with Keith Moon. John Cale was a composer/violinist that went to left field. Guest violinist Tommy Greywolf is a brilliant versatile fiddler who's played with the likes of Brooks and Dunn. Doug Yule was an OK guitar player; Dan Mullen is a psychedelic master. The orignal VU didn't have a keyboardist; Chris Loss is a longstanding session man who's played with some of the best experimental/jam bands inthe city (including the beloved Trance and Dance band). There is no way this assemblage is going to sound like the original VU. They shouldn't even try. So, here's my advice: Lose the wigs. Bring in the Paka Paka lightshow to do something very 21st Century. Bring in the dancers if possible. Lose the Nico wig -- Marlavous is about as far from Teutonic as can be, plus unlike Nico, she sings on key almost all the time. Overall, take the VU to the next level -- be inspired by them, not slaves to them. These are musicians that are capable of that, and at their best, they take the spirit of experiemntation that the VU started. If they do it consistently, they will get more of a following.

Next night, we hit a Bucks game, and once again, the anthem gave us a preview of what the game would be like. Some 14 year old girl with a voice twice her age started singing and halfway through, she choked. Just stopped. A few dickslaps laughed at her, but the rest of the crowd seemed sympathetic, as the woman sitting next to me called out, "Help her out..." Well, the girl gathered it up, and belted out the rest of the song, so that by the time of "Land of the free..." the crowd was cheering her on, and when she finished she got the loudest applause I've ever heard a BC audience give an anthem singer. And that's kind of what happened in the game. About halfway through, the Bucks started to choke, but they came back and the last minute or so we stayed only to savor the win.
We all know Bango's hurt: the schtick that's goins is that other NBA mascots are coming in to help out. Tonight was "G-Wiz" -- the mascot for the Washington Wizards. I can just picture going to, say a "Sports Mascot convention", and maybe all the NBA mascots get together for a seminar about what kind of ridiculous ways to slam dunk a shot in costume can be done. Bango would stand up and say, "Uh, guys, the thing where you stand up on top of the hoop itself? Don't try this at home court." But G-Wiz was good anyway, despite his silly name. At least "Bango" has a history behind him. And he was wonderful when "Seniorgee" took the court -- a bunch of older women who, off court, probably don red hats and loud purple dresses and don't care what people think. I want to join Seniorgee in a few years.
The Bucks can still go to the finals, as a cinderella, that's for sure. But I suspect that's not what's going to fill the stadium over the next few weeks. They're hustling the fan appreciation -- witness that both Charlie V and Bogut have twitter accounts (and @CV31 is really hustling the twittering.) They're working every avenue they have to connect with the fans.
We zipped back down to Liquor Sweets afterwards, because I'm trying to hustle some photography work with Brother Louie, but I only caught their last two songs (they hit the stage at 9:30 -- talk about early!) so I told 'em, next time, no charge tonight. Can't review them based on two songs, but the crowd seemed to like them, and knowing their setlist, they served precisely what their function was: warm up band. They warmed the crowd well for the headliner, a group of 80s headbangers aptly called Metal Men.

You know I'm not a true Metal gurl, but I had to love these guys. The lead singer brought to mind the Scoprions (I was waiting for "No One Like You") and the guitar player did all the schtick: noodling high up on the neck with finger picking both hands, apreggios up the waz, and guitar face every moment. And the lead singer joked and almost winked at the leather, lace, and badass audience that filled the upstairs of Liquor Sweets. Brian, who knows his metal, assured me that they took on Dio, the Scoprions, Ozzy, -- none of the hits, but the deep cuts that I'm sure the roomfull of proper headbanging metalheads appreciated.

We headed downstairs to the Globe South to see what was there, and what was there was a promising looking Cheap Trick tribute band called Cheap rick. (Rick NOT capitalized.) I'd review them, but they were on break. A 45-freaking minute break, I'd say. The seemed to have it all: two racks full of guitars (complete with a couple doublenecks) for the "Rick Nielsen", a rack full of basses for the "Tom Petersson", a stocky guy in a shirt and tie that I had to assume was the "Bun E Carlos" and I couldn't find the Robin to save my life. Why no review? Because, I waited some 25 minutes (and they'd been on break for 10) and then finally asked them, "So when are you going on?" They replied, "Oh, in about 10-15 minutes." Glancing at my watch, I'm realizing I have a sitter to pick up. Fine guys, be prima donnas and make people wait until midnight. WhatEVER. It's not like if people want to chat and get a beer they can't go into the front bar, so get up and play already. Playing is how you fill a room.

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