Monday, June 15, 2009

I know what you're thinking: "Did she hear six bands or only five?"

Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. Really. I maybe have heard six bands this weekend, but I only heard one shot. And I thought it was the PA blowing up, because that's what I expect at Locust Street. It's a freaking hippie festival, for chrissakes.

I'll give you my account all this excitement at the end of this blog, because dammit, I'm a music and culture blogger. Yes, I have this whole journalism background so I'm reluctant to discuss what happened at The Crime Scene because all I know is what I saw and the rest is heresay. And there's my journalism teacher's voice in my head intoning that anything that happens at a crime scene MUST BE VERIFIED BY THE POLICE before going to press with it. Period. No exceptions. Or else "Police could not verify."

I didn't get to the Street until later in the afternoon, missing the Beer Run and the first few bands, and here's why: I'd spent a very enjoyable Saturday night at the Points East Pub for a show by the terrific Animal Magnets, who are absolutely the correct set of musicians to back up Rob McCuen and his pop-machimiso, bordering on American Glam songs. I choose the word "correct" because I don't want to say "best." He's been backed up by a variety of guys who are among the best players in town in such incarnations as The Ruins, Love Bully, even the recent White Hot Tizzies. But Animal Magnets are the correct configuration of a Rob McCuen band. There's so much testosterone (both real and contrived) amongst this band that it almost makes Rob look like the wimp out of the bunch, and noneof these guys are above it all. Christ, Joel Bescow has the biggest bass drum in town. That's because he normally plays with Cliff Ullsberger, who brings in his Wanda Chrome guitar setup -- a pair of Marshall heads and a few more cabinets just to fill the 1000 square feet of Points East with sonic thunder. And thank goodness he did, because when Paul Wall's bass amp blew up, it was only a matter of swapping a few wires, accepting that a bass run through a guitar amp might be a little distoreted, and they played on. And this is one of the few bands where Chris Tishler can actually be upstaged, on both guitar and vocals. This is a band whose very lineup validates Rob McCuen's existence. There's no apparent drama, just five guys who understand and execute genuine glamorous cock-pop with razor sharp precision. Too bad all these guys are busy with equally excellent projects, so this is their second band for all of them. And, honestly, their plan of only doing this live about 2-3 times a year is correct as well. This stuff is highly perishable -- too much of it and it will get old fast. And for those of us who know and love Rob's songs, yes, mistakes were made, but these guys are all crack pros who didn't blink an eye while I cringed during a few songs early in the set ("No no no" my brain was screaming, "There's still another verse here before the chorus kicks in!") But if you didn't know these songs you wouldn't have noticed.

Which is a lecture I need to give Melanie, playing bass thank you, of the following band Eva Grubb,who rose to the challenge of having to follow the Animal Magnets. They were called in at the 11th hour to take the place of some other band that cancelled at the last minute, and further contributing to the Ohmigod factor was that this was their first ever "real" gig. They're a garage cover band, but as agreed upon by everybody in the room, they have excellent taste in the covers they pick-- lots of forgotten psychedelic-era garage pop tunes. Let's put it this way, the biggest hit out of the bunch (the gauge being sales) was the Syndicate of Sounds' "Hey Little Girl." So Melanie steps off stage admitting something absolutely NOBODY in the room noticed (including myself): "I made mistakes on every song." Girlfriend, nobody plays a perfect set. Nobody noticed your flubs, because you covered 'em well. That's the trick. Plus, the weak link in this band was the drummer -- who I'm told that this is the first band (erm, time) he'd played the drums in public. But it all still worked. It would have been ridiculous to try to put a power boy band after the Magnets -- and these guys filled the room with sweet little pop nuggets to come down from the Magnets to. Great party band, they are: they will just need to get a little more self-moxie, something I'm confident will come with time.

OK, time for the Locust street rundown. Because I actually stayed out until Bar time, I didn't arrive at the street until well after 2ish. Missed the Beer run, but whatever, I gained a little weight this year and couldn't fit into my prom dress. we began the ritual walking east to west and west to east, because that's really what the Locust Street festival is, isn't it? You just walk back and forth like it's a giant reception line, and you end up literally running into those people whom you only see annually at the Locust street festival. Occassionally, you stop for a band. Or you walk into a bar you normally would never set foot in, except today you do in lieu of having to piss in a port-o-let. And today's winner was Saylece's. Saylece's you say? I haven't gone through those doors since it was the Riverwest Commons (or for you real old timers, the Golden Nugget) to see Crumpler or Floor Model or some other band that I'd run into Chris Tishler at. Then there was the sudden news that it was Saylece's and nobody knew what the story was. Here's the story: it's a DJ joint now. It's carpeted. It's cheap, high-traffic carpet, but still. It's carpeted. Where the stage used to be are now a couple of relatively fresh-looking pool tables. Truly top shelf booze on the top shelf. Digital jukebox terminal on the wall. Logo in the same font as "That 70s Show." Whatever. Stella, Sammy and I each took a whiz and left.

Matthew Heaffel
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Right outside Sayleces was Matthew Heaffel, a power duo of guitar and drums that spewed some angry folkie blues that may have woked better at the Linneman’s stage. We walked down the street to the Klinger’s stage, and caught some more of Matt Hendricks, who impressed us last year and did so again this year. He worked the blues too, but he’s more of a blues guitarist than Heaffel was. The giant puppets that had been strolling the streets stopped by this stage too, and enjoyed a bit of blues. We got ourselves a serving of Klingers terrific chin=cken wings, and settled down outside Linnemans to chat with frineds and heat a bit of Frech Cut Collective. They looked promising — drums, guitars, keyboards, electric violin. Multi cultural and multi racial lineup. But then they started in and they turned out to be a garden variety rap band, albeit with a little more emphasis on melody. C’mon, will these guys please sing? I’m getting tired of being literally yelled at by rappers. In fact, a friend commented that he really liked the beat and the syncopated rhythm, but wished it was more musical. “Oh, “I said, having a sudden epiphany, “There is a whole genre of music that does that. It’s called funk” And we both agreed we love funk.

horn solo
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Back at Klinger’s East stage, the highly recommended Phil Lee was on stage, a country bluesman from Nashville who did indeed sing a convincing country blues. Good for Klingers for scoring him — he definitely belongs on a bigger stage, at least Linneman’s, if not the Lakefront Brewerery stage. He looks like a biker, has the warm stage presence of a folkie, the sense of humor of an oldschool country man, and the musical delivery of a bluesman. And amongst his band there was a horn player whose horn was bigger than all of them, and at first, it sounded like the only note that came out of this horn was a bluesy minor sixth to their song, but give him his own twelve bars and he could get plenty of other notes out.

another disaster in the works....
Originally uploaded by V'ron.

We were all ready to fill his tip jar before we went to Linneman’s indoor stage to catch a full set from The Grand Disaster, who I’d just seen last week, but who Brian had not seen in quite some time. Brian says they’ve improved vastly since their debut last winter; I say they’ve improved vastly since their show at the Polish Falcon last week. Maybe they felt more comfortable since last week where it wasn’t their wedding to crash. Whatever it was, they seemed more confident, and for a band whose songs I’ve once described as “three minute epics” that’s necessary. The kids were getting cranky at being indoors on such a great day (even though not a half hour earlier they were whining about the hot sun), so I coaxed Sammy into dancing with me so that he could deal with the rest of the set. (However, what Sammy calls dancing, I call “moshing” because he likes to mix in a little kung fu fighting with his dance.). So that must have been something to see: my moshing/sparring with a five year old in the middle of Linneman’s with a band onstage. Go figure.

Snopek blowing Louie's horn
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Back outside to catch a set from Brother Louie, a cover band built for a hippie festival, since their setlist grabs those hits from the 60s and 70s, a time when radio’s format wasn’t as segmented as it is now. From the Raspberries “Go All the Way” to Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” to others. Snopek joined them with the previously mentioned horn and things were fun until we heard a loud POP. The band stopped playing, so I just assumed the PA blew up. Wouldn't be the first time, you know. Then we started thinking it might be a little more serious, as Louie started saying into the microphone, "Hey, this isn't cool." (Obviously the PA was fine.). "This is a festival, let's all be cool," he intoned, and suddenly he was sounding like Mick Jagger and this was Altamont. About five minutes later I see about twenty uniformed and undercover badges running up the alley and that's when I realized this wasn't some kids playing with firecrackers. "There's been a shooting," lots of people started whispering. Now, call me jumpy but, wait a second. Where's the mass panic you usually get when somebody pops somebody in a crowd? Where's the screams? Huh? The band plays on, and within ten minutes we see TV guys running through to the corner of Weil and Locust, followed by EMT guys (there's something wrong with that chain of events), and we're walking through the crowd with people casually mentioning, "Hey I heard there was a murder today." No murder, but even so, why so blase? I.Am.So.Sure. Within another ten minutes, there's police tape going up, and we're seeing a few more badges "casually" scoping out the area behind Klingers and working their way to Bremen street. "Uh," I said to Brian, "look at the way they're scoping things out. They don't have a suspect in custody yet, do they?"

That's when we "casually" scooped up the kids, "casually" bid adieu to our friends, and made our way to the car, accepting that we'd have to wait until somereal news agency with access to the police blotter could get us the facts. In the meantime, we had to make do with facebook and twitter gossip.


Stuff I unfortunately missed: Eugene Chadbourne at the Ring, playing Paul Kneevers' shoelaces, and opening band The Dark Clan. Also missed a pile of terrific stuff at PrideFest, including the fabulous Etta James herself. And most sadly, I missed a production of Cabaret which featured, among other local stars, the fabulous Liv Mueller in a supporting role. Next time, honeys.

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