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Scorch Songs
By Bill Ketzer

Jason Ringenberg, Michael Eck, College Farm, Glenn Weiser
Valentine’s, Jan. 23

It was no joke. Solo acoustic shows can be horribly dangerous. You can’t hide in the mix on an off night, can’t look to the bassman to recite filthy limericks while you fix a broken E string.

For Jason Ringenberg, formerly frontman of the notorious Jason and the Scorchers, these concerns meant about as much as did the flimsy Raider defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Super Bowl Sunday. Ringenberg is the real deal, well-wheeled, well-heeled and forever stuffing the vanilla compass of popular country-rock up its pimple-ridden arse. His truth is a virulence, accompanying a compassion that makes him a gold-rush mahatma of sorts to his listeners. To them, here was one of the most durable members of the old guard, still burning it down on the cutting-room floor of roadhouse confessionals.

His tireless daddy longlegs shenanigans and blue moon howls have been the inspiration of many a Schlitz-drinking lonesome heart, and he lit up the downstairs hall at Valentine’s on frozen New Scotland Avenue like a barbeque gone horribly wrong. His cannonball anabasis across the globe promoting his latest CD, aptly entitled All Over Creation, is a firefall in its own right, with collaborations with artists like Steve Earle, Swan Dive and—holy crap!—former Albany music-scene mainstay Ed Hamell. The alt-country overseer got right down to business with the product of that latter effort, “Honky Tonk Maniac From Mars,” a 4/4 extraterrestrial rodeo bomber, and we knew it was party time. For Scorchers fans, it was a gig from the heavens, right from the majestic teat of Mother Nashville’s sacred crooked bosom.

“I only had an idea of what I wanted to do for the first few songs,” Ringenberg said. “So feel free to call ’em out. I’ll play ’em.” Amid the administering of standard Scorcher classics like “Bible and a Gun,” “Greetings From Nashville” and “200 Proof Lovin’,” our man also honored requests to expose his soft white underbelly with “Somewhere Within” and “My Heart Still Stands With You.” I called out my favorite from the new disc, “One Less Heartache,” and he graciously obliged, a sweet redemptive middle-of-the-packer recorded with the Wildhearts, who are quite possibly the single most ridiculously overlooked band in the world, or as Ringenberg said, “the last of the great British rock bands.”

Ever the statesman, local favorite Michael Eck offered up his Martin to Ringenberg after joining him onstage along with Glenn Weiser for Hank Williams’ testimonial “I Saw the Light.” Soon after, in the spastic throes of “Broken Whiskey Glass,” Ringenberg inadvertently unplugged himself, threw maintenance to the breeze and leapt into the crowd—“HI-YAAAAA!”—flopping on the floor, pole vaulting onto the bar for a chicken strut and taking the crowd hostage one last time for a monster version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” egged on by swaggering patrons and surrounded by dismantled gear. If love is blind, he’s a Seeing Eye dog (and a talented one at that).

Eck opened up the show with his perennially earnest tales of love, hope and malfeasance. This guy has seen it all before but gives you the nod and wink just the same, seeking out the sardonic little anomalies beneath Americana, articulating (quite loudly, I might add) the idea that true happiness is sweetest when it’s just a little unsettling or even tinged with sadness.

College Farm kicked it down, too, as a dynamic duo comprising Big Barn Burning’s Matt Pelletier and his brother Andrew, who handled the hillbilly hollow-body while Matt gave up the ho-down on his Telecaster. The guy has a way of phrasing his runs on that thing like a fiddle, and the years have treated those crazy fingers well indeed. It’s the kind of act you wanna see with amps and a grouchy drummer in tow, while you stomp your feet and triumphantly hurl behind the cider press.

Mentioned earlier, blues aficionado Glenn Weiser served up a timeless batch of blues, bluegrass and string-band standards, all the while showboating a downright alarming collection of harmonicas. They came in the sort of hardshell case normally reserved for explosive materials, which is, of course, OK by me. The popular instructor and writer just kind of sat and smiled and flawlessly did his thing. It was no joke.

It’s in There

Collider, Martly
Valentine’s, Jan. 25

Some overthinking, music-criticizing journalist type once crafted an analogy between the music made by Collider (the band) and the products produced by colliders (the favorite toys of your friendly neighborhood particle-physicists). It was a wanky, pretentious analytical stretch, sure, but it did capture a key element of Collider (the band)’s allure, in that they’re really good at smashing things together that don’t normally even frequent the same neighborhoods, creating fire and smoke and carnage, heat and fear and danger in the process.

The New York City-based quartet sure crunched all sorts of things together to great effect during a massive set Saturday night at Valentine’s. Collider offered pure punk-rock power, for instance, played with King Crimson-caliber technical precision. They poured molten buckets of guitar noise over our heads, then feathered us with fancy keyboard filigree. They shouted and screamed like hopping, bopping cretins, but when we pieced together the words that flew out of them, we realized that they were some of the most thoughtful and entertaining things we’d heard in ages, about such way cool topics as trilobites, Joey Ramone, white kids with dreadlocks, Farmingdale High School’s class of 1991, Korn, the last two letters of the alphabet, lovers who don’t come back when you set them free, the trees, roundhouses to the head, America, God, man, love, hate, you name it, it was in there, and then some. Prego.

Collider even offered up a bracing Faith No More cover (“Be Aggressive”), then topped that with an awe-inspiring, to-these-ears-definitive take on Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso” (done John Cale style, mind you, not Modern Lovers style). And how often can you use the words “Faith No More” and “John Cale” in the same sentence about the same concert, and have it make sense, huh? Well, that, in a nutshell, is the Collider magic: the fact that you could pretty much hear some facet of just about every type of popular music from the past quarter-century somewhere in their set’s high-speed swirl of hyperaccelerated sound and energy. Well, except for Rush. There is no Rush in the Collider sound. None at all. Nada.

So how do they pull it off? Well,
keyboardist-guitarist (and Albany ex-pat) Jed Davis writes and sings some awesome songs, and has for ages, so we expect that from him, but the Collider that I saw Saturday night were a lot more than just the Jed Davis Experience or Jedmania or the Jed Matthews Band. Collider are one tight group, got me, and they were firing on all cylinders at Valentine’s, with Sean Gould channeling the ghosts of guitar gods past, present and future, Mike Keaney playing bass guitar the way Keith Moon might, if Moon wasn’t a drummer, or dead (Keaney also sang the aforementioned “Pablo Picasso” and “Big Hot Monday,” a classic track by Collider precursor band Hanslick Rebellion), and drummer Joe Abbatantuono making the whole thing rocket along like a criticality accident in a crystal-meth laboratory. You just can’t argue with results like that. Vote Collider for Congress.

Last time I caught Martly in concert in 1998 or so, they still had the word “Style” in front of their name, and John Delehanty was twiddling their knobs behind their soundboard. These days, though, Delehanty’s up on stage with a sweet black-and-white Rickenbacker, creating some fabulous, Television-esque twin guitar parts with fellow string bender Chris Conti. They and their bandmates had it going on like nobody’s bidness Saturday night, offering a great set of striking songs (which nicely merged three-minute-pop-style melodies with ambitious, free-form experimental structures) and working the crowd well as they did it. Great stuff from a great band who have grown tremendously over the past few years—yet still seem primed and ready for more.

—J. Eric Smith


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