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By David King

Dax Riggs

Bogie’s, Aug. 17

The beauty of the sound of Dax Riggs howling in the night—his eyes closed, mouth open, his guitar tight to his tiny, shaking frame—and the sound of pain, of mourning, are one and the same.

Last time the master of death-obsessed blues-goth came to town I sort of panned his show due to a herky-jerky set and an annoying audience. Despite being a Riggs aficionado, I learned something last Tuesday night: He took his first trip on salvia during that last show. (“I was being sucked into a black hole, or maybe another universe,” he said apologetically.)

Riggs, who normally looks innocent and cherubic, showed up at Bogie’s looking emaciated yet puffy, like he had spent the night in a gutter, as though the years of heartache and belting his songs about the painful but joyous dualities of life and death had finally caught up to him.

Whatever may have been wrong with him physically did not show in his music. This was a fantastic performance. For those who don’t know his voice, Riggs showed off its full range, from deep baritone to full-throated tenor, and all its colors, from sheer beauty to raspy cries.

On top of that is the best backing band Riggs has had since the early Deadboy and the Elephantmen days, when his delicate compositions were draped in elegant synths. He hasn’t found that level of complexity again—what his new tracks lack in finesse they make up for with heart-wrenching blues. But Riggs needs only his voice to captivate an audience.

He sent chills through the room when he moaned, “I hear Satan in the basement of the Pentagon” (from “I Hear Satan”); and his cover of “Heartbreak Hotel,” which comes across as underperformed on his new album, crushed the room, creaking and clanking forward until Riggs exploded, “I could die!”

“Sleeping with the Witch” evoked tones of classic ’50s crooners, slowly crawling forward until Riggs announces with a redemptive tone, “I dug my way out of the grave/and rode the worms to judgment day.” The song is perhaps the most developed of any of Riggs’ recent work.

The hecklers who I blamed for spooking Riggs at his 2007 show were again present. The motley crew of drunk hardcore kids, reformed Goths, metal groupies, and music aficionados at Bogie’s gave forth a number of idiots demanding songs from Riggs’ former metal outfit Acid Bath.

As the blues-rock amped up into glam-punk-goth freakouts like “Gravedirt on My Blue Suede Shoes” and “Living is Suicide,” the crowd got increasingly rowdy. Girls offered Riggs drugs. A dude walked up and insisted the singer play the Acid Bath song “Girl with Thirteen Fingers.”

“The band doesn’t know it,” Riggs whispered softly. “That’s OK, man, just play it for me solo,” the guy said, as though he were owed a personal favor.

Something seemed to snap. Riggs looked out over the crowd. “Love yourselves,” he said. “We are the conscience of the universe. We are the only things that are self aware.” He launched into “Stop, I’m Already Dead,” a hit from his former band Deadboy and the Elephantmen. The crowd was at fever pitch, but he seemed to be afraid he was going to lose them. “This is a quiet one; be quiet for a few minutes,” he demanded. Some girls shrieked and looked at their boyfriends quizzically: “Did he just shoosh us?”

He had, and it was well worth it. The hooting and hollering came to an end as Riggs made everyone’s heart ache and skin crawl with “Like Moonlight.”


Spicy Good Times

Chandler Travis Philharmonic

Zaika’s, Aug. 14

This was so overwhelmingly surreal that I figured at some point I’d just wake up and it would all be over. The Chandler Travis Philharmonic, nine pieces strong, were playing an unannounced gig on the deck of Zaika’s, an Indian restaurant a stone’s throw away from the Clifton Country Mall. I’d found out only because of a Facebook post where Chandler mentioned a “secret” gig on Saturday following a Caffe Lena gig on Friday. Neither wild horses, nor Wilco, would keep me away.

For the unwashed, or perhaps for the washed, the CTP are from Cape Cod, play there and Boston a lot and maybe once a month in NYC, and once in a couple blue moons over here. Described as stylistically something like “Dixieland on acid,” they have a proclivity for wearing bright- colored pajamas and tag-sale gag hats, being profoundly irreverent, and doing generally whatever the hell they want. For a time in the late ’90s, they released a new CD every two weeks. They are to a person virtuoso players, expertly handling Chander Travis’ brilliant pop tunes and various members’ arrangements of oddities from the ’40s to today all whilst maintaining a constant low-level riot onstage. The CTP simultaneously are and aren’t for everyone.

So here we are on the massive and massively cool deck of Zaika’s, overlooking an artificial pond and the mall, with one of the best, weirdest, and most unsung bands in the universe just laying it down, sounding like a million bucks, and looking like happy, disheveled hell. I can’t imagine how an unsuspecting, god-fearing Clifton Park family, perhaps seeking a quiet, restorative summer dinner of vindaloo and nan, would have handled coming face to face with such stark truth and beauty. Oh, did I tell you the drummer is a slender, athletic, and tall transgendered woman, who happens to be the finest pure groove drummer this side of Jim Keltner? She looked fab Saturday night in a zebra print dress. And goddamn can she play.

Off they went, from the stately, heart-rendering “Home” (from their album Have a Pancake) with the horn section slowly building the tender counterpoint refrains, to the push-me-pull-me audience- participation “Fruit Bat” (from their upcoming The Chandler Travis Philharmonic Blows), to an irresistible hard-swing version of Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.” Every member of the band was mesmerizing to watch. Not the most attractive band in the world, mind you.

Halfway through the second set, just after playing the signature “Chandler Travis, King of the World” (“waitresses and stewardesses love him, especially waitresses”), Chandler announced they would play something they just worked up, something from the film The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, the obscure Stanley Kramer-Dr. Seuss kiddie masterpiece generally considered one of oddest movies ever made, and a personal fave of mine since I was, like, 4. Bands, you want me totally in the tank for you? Do that.

Throughout the evening I kept getting tweets and IMs from friends over at Joe Field at Mass MoCA, folks watching Mavis Staples and Wilco. One said she was at the best place ever, at the best concert ever. Hmmm. Now, I visited Joe Field on Sunday and yes, it’s a bitchin’ venue, and I’m sure Tweedy & Co. were fine, but consider this: I was sitting 15 feet away from one of world’s greatest, most unique and charming bands, playing at the top of their game. I was picking at a spectacularly fine Indian vegetarian platter. The pretty waitress would stop by every 15 or 20 minutes and ask me if I’d like another beer. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I wanted it to last forever. I was in heaven.

Or maybe I just haven’t woken up.

—Paul Rapp



Photo: Julia Zave

American Idol runner-up turned legitimate pop star Adam Lambert brought the full spectacle of his Glam Nation tour to Albany’s Palace Theatre on Monday. The set included songs from Lambert’s hit debut disc For Your Entertainment, as well as cover tunes from his Idol appearances—and numerous costume changes.






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