Friday, June 08, 2012

Jorin Fest,'12

I'm squishing your head by V'ron
I'm squishing your head, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
So I guess the XPosed4Heads had a minor hit back in the 80s, back when I was still living in Champaign, IL, called "Nice Guy." Missed 'em at Lest We Forget, and this is what I missed: Neu Wave. The 4Heads are/were a bunch of guys who, like me, probably woke up that Sunday morning in October 1978 asking themselves, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT LAST NIGHT!" when they saw Devo on SNL. I remember going to school and going to band class the next Monday morning. Everybody was talking about it, but mostly like it was some sort of musical blasphemy: How dare they do that to a Rolling Stones classic!. I whispered to a sympathetic trumpet player who sat near me, almost apologetically, "I kind of liked them" to the hushed reply, "My big sister has their album!" In fact, almost everybody in my generation who I still talk to remembers that SNL episode and has their the first time I saw Devo on SNL in '78 story, like it was our Kennedy Assassination or something. I think the reason it stuck with us as teenagers was that it was the first time we'd encountered (and we didn't have this post-wave term for it at the time) deconstruction of pop music. And for many of us it woke us up: this was the moment when we realized there was more to the evolution of music besides the spirialing out-of-control bomabaticness of late Zeppelin or proggy ELP.

I bring this up because walking into the Down and Over (the South Side's answer to the Up And Under, finally opening after the usual neighborhood drama over potential noise) I was instantly transported back to the Band Room at Rich Central High School, finding that one other person who got it and having my entire musical world turned around while the members of XPosed4Heads started in with a willfully retarded drum/bass beat, purposefully mechanical/electronic-sounding keyboards and lead vocal snarling at us in a snotty but pridefully geeky voice: "I am a nice guy!" New Wave! This was it! This was the sound that turned my whole musical head around. It didn't matter that this wasn't the band for me at the time (that was indeed Devo, and when I got to college there were plenty of local equivalents in Champaign-Urbana stretching out their chops). This was the sound. It screamed early New Wave (before New Wave got boring and predictable by, say, 85). That's why I guess "Nice Guy" was a minor, WMSE (I can't imagine any other station in Milwaukee would even touch it) hit. Heard touches of Gang of Four in there, and these definitely are guys who probably remember the first time somebody played The Residents for them, too.

They were the second band of a night I'm calling "JorinFest" (in the same tone you hear the VO for those Red Lobster "LobsterFest" commercials). Bob Jorin was the representative for the 4Heads (when I have more time, I'll relate a story he told me later about his pet bird Stanley that confirmed that everything I just wrote above is spot on) and the opening band is my favorite new band these days, The Northside Creeps. with Ted and Tim Jorin (I get all those brothers mixed up, there's a Tyler and a Tom in that family there and if they don't watch out, they're going to get compared the Duggars with the J names) on bass/guitar, and Kip Satan from the Dick Satan Trio (that's not really a trio) on drums. They're just a really good, tense, energetic, dangerous garage band. The songs are all hookier than hell, they're tight, and Tim's Buddy Holly glasses give them that nerdy-Weezer vibe that suggests some all-knowing detachment to balance it all out (and provide me with all sorts of opportunities for parenthetical details.)

Dick Satan ended the night, and as usual, they were dangerous surf, as the name implies. They get slicker each time I see them: they're playing around with messed up melodic modes, modulations, but that's making them sound prog, and they're not. They're solid instrumental surf and they have that element of danger that sometimes goes missing from a lot of surf bands. There's still a few spots they have to polish up, but they're aiming high, and when you do that, you're going to trip a bit. That's the nature of dangerous surf anyway, so I'll take it anyway rather than overly-polished perfection. Overall, a good way to come down from Lest We Forget, and remember that while there is much to celebrate about the historic music scene here, there's much to cheer about the present, too.

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