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Voice of the people? Gay Tastee at the Larkin. Photo: Joe Putrock

Something in the Air
By Shawn Stone

Gay Tastee with Money Shot Bros., Brent Gorton, Amazing Plaid
The Larkin Lounge, Jan. 3

By the time Gay Tastee and the guys from Lincoln Money Shot, billed as the Money Shot Bros., wedged themselves into a little corner of the Larkin stage to the right of the baby grand piano, the audience had already experienced an evening’s worth of sound and fury. (More about Brent Gorton later.) Tastee, aka Stephen Gaylord, and the boys may have turned the volume down a bit, but they did not lack intensity.

The songs were nasty slices of life. (Gay Tastee is the poet of the pissed-off, dispossessed, hopelessly lost, fucked-up, and proud. I’m not the first to point this out.) The mournful “Shot to Shit” was followed by the laconic “Dollar Tree” (“When they tell you to ignore what you can’t understand/That’s everything”). Gaylord’s strangled voice matched the strangled emotions of “Sultan of Brunai.” The snarky “Berkshire Spur” was dedicated to our president; “Homo Radio” reflected—in a cracked way, of course—our president’s not-so-inclusive ideals. “Live Like Pigs” was a loser’s anthem; “Town Car” was a funny but not particularly exaggerated working-class dream. “Designated Driver” is as painfully honest a love song as you’ll ever hear.

The accompaniment was minimal and precise. It took a while to figure out what the vibe was, and then it hit me: Crazy Horse. The boys from Lincoln Money Shot—Mike Keegan, acoustic guitar, and Nick Carpenter, drums—were, in their smart, primitive way, channeling god’s own band. Gay Tastee should employ them again.

Brent Gorton wasn’t feeling well. While this was not obviously apparent to the audience, he was compelled to share the info: “I’m really hungover today, it’s true.” Sympathetic laughter was the general response.

Accompanied by a couple of ringers from the Kamikaze Hearts—namely, Troy Pohl and Gaven Richard—Gorton seemed to be exorcising demons with his guitar. Or, at the very least, the evil effects of the hangover. “Holland” found the trio conjuring a wall of noise: Richard brushed the drums with vehemence, Pohl bowed ghostly effects from his strings and Gorton cranked out a bracing, minimalist solo. “Sunbirds” found Gorton pacing back and forth in the tiny space allotted him between the crowd and the baby grand, as Richard laid down a march beat.

The musical fury grew through the next few songs: The floor shook, and the water in the glass on the piano spilled over. (I wish I was competent to describe the look on Stephen Gaylord’s face as the water began to fly.) Gorton knocked an audience member to the floor, set his guitar down in such a way that it continued to screech, took off his jacket and sweater, danced, and finally picked up the mikestand and sang as if his life depended on it.

It was quite a performance. At one point, Gorton summed up nicely: “It’s a little tiring, but worth it. . . . Only Albany gets this show.”

No kidding. Try that out of town and they’ll lock you up.

The Amazing Plaid opened in their almost-acoustic duo configuration. Almost, because Bryan Hamill occasionally played a plugged-in guitar, and Thomas Wilk (sporting a genuine rock-star haircut) did very interesting things with an electronic keyboard-type device. Stripped to the essentials, the songs were as intriguing and mystifying as ever.

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