Tough choices made right
Anyway, back to Linneman's, the site of Reunion Number 1. It was a packed bill -- opening with Dyna Flo and her Roadmasters -- with Chris The Colonel on guitar there as well. You could have called it The Colonel's night: it was his birthday, and you'd never know just how many birthday shots he put down because it sure didn't affect his guitar virtuosity. But even though he's a great guitarist, he's not that star of the show in Dyna Flo -- it's Dyna herself, otherwise known as Skirt's Jessica Knurr. Dressed in a red plaid shirt over a black skirt, pigtails in her hair, she steps onstage and belts out a honky tonk blues worthy of some filthy roadhouse just outside of Tupelo. Don Turner on sax and Felipe Calivera on standup bass complete this whole "Morphine's Tour Van Breaks Down in Memphis" vibe. Jess has the perfect amount of sass -- sass that's justified in a clear voice that grabs people and doesn't let go until they've gotten the point that she's here for a good stiff ..... drink. I'd like to see her on a double bill with the fabulous Deirdre Fellner.
Floor Model is on tonight's bill, and they're a good bridge between this almost purist bluesy/country/honky tonk of Dyna Flo and the hilbilly sophisticated punk of the Toronados. They play a short but killer set. Drummer Dave isn't around tonight, so their former bass player stepped in on drums. He was supposed to play bass instead of Mark E Lee, but it wasn't to be -- so like the Colonel, Marky's doing double duty tonight. I reminded him that "back in the old days, musicians played two... heck three sets in a single night, so suck it up, dude." He does.
Here's the thing about the Toronados that makes them so good: yes, they have the punk sensibility. Yes, they get psychobilly (they open with a cover of the Reverend Horton Heat's "Marijuana"). Yes, they proudly wear their Livin-In-A-Trailer look that says "And we can't even afford a spot Down By The River." But they don't settle for the simplicity of three-chord punk or country. The songs are downright complex musically, and lyrically they're clever and (would they be insulted if I actually said they were) poignant. You can tell that bassist Jeff O'Connor has jazz sensibilities, if not formal training. They didn't need to have a song that namechecks Charles Mingus to prove it, although it was one of my favorites of the night. The fact that they can pull off a Reverend cover only proves what I said earlier about the Colonel's guitar chops. (Spotted in the crowd), Paul "The Fly" Lawson pointed out, "Hey, that's the drummer from Bleed" which answered all sorts of questions as to where he gets his energy as well as attitude. And this was a band where we get to hear Mark E Lee sing. A lot. And it's a great voice for this kind of music -- bringing to mind the Vertebrats' Kenny Draznik -- a cross between sweet and salty that works with this material, although the country really comes through as his voice is just on the edge of cracking. (Look, the fact that I'm even mentioning this band in the same paragraph as The Vertebrats says a lot.) I was both floored and pissed that I missed out when these guys were together. Oh well. Maybe they can talk O'Connor to stop up from Chi-town at least once or twice a year -- the rarity of these performances will probably add to the specialness.
Meantime, I have some sad gossip to pass on -- and beg people to tell me there's nothing to this rumor. I'm told that when Zappafest comes to Points East in a couple of weeks, it's going to be the last live music show there. Apparently the place has changed hands, and new management has decided against live music. What's going to go back in that room? A sports bar? (Gee, we don't have enough sports bars in Milwaukee). Points East is one of my favorite places to see a band -- clean cans, excellent (and resonably priced) drink selection, crystal clear sound (courtesy of Dave Gelting). It could stand a few more chairs, but parking's usually reasonable, and true to their ads, they really do have the best chicken wings in town. Please, please tell me this isn't going to be another Saylece's.