Chris "The Colonel" Dant's birthday and it's like they never left. Maybe they're turning into one of those band that didn't really break up; they just don't play out all that often anymore. The fact that Jeff O'Connor trimmed his waist-length beard (disqualifying him for that ZZTop tribute band that would someday scout him) and moved to Chicago probably didn't help much. But still, they sounded like they'd never broken up and rehearsed together twice a week anyway. They were tight, they were brutal, oh, and they were fun. Despite their mastery of their instruments, they still maintained a great punk ethos working the alt-country corner, and it's a shame they didn't get noticed by enough A&R guys to lengthen their existence. Still, I don't think they're really going away anytime soon.
Opening the show was a set from the Pills, a 4-piece, straight up oldschool rocking bar band fronted by a pair of matching black epiphones. I liked them; good bluesy rock songs, a singer with a perfect bluesy but not quite gravely wail. My only complaint is that they could use some more dynamics -- both in volume and harmonics. But they were a good opening for the Chop Tops.
Actually, the warmup for this night came a week earlier: I'd stopped into the Circle Acafe to get in a set from favorites Floor Model, but alas, I was too late. Didn't know there were two bands on the bill, and was really disappointed to learn that I'd missed the band I came to see but I quickly got over my disappointment when I saw Big Dave Thomas strapping on his guitar. Dave Thomas is back! And I obviously wasn't the only one happy to hear his sweet country voice backed by folks like Jeff Lauwasser and friends. The outfit is called the Jackpine Gypsies and they have a mix of originals and country and alt-country standards. They lightened up the mood for me and reminded me of the impending Chop Top show. All this Americana goodness was enough to get me through the storm this past week.