call this one the Rooster: Dash Rip Rock
bring the twang at Valentines. Photo by: Joe Putrock
a Tree Falls in the Forest . . .
By John Brodeur
The last time Dash Rip Rock hit Valentine’s—six years ago,
give or take a bunch of months—they just happened to be playing
on the night of my birthday. It was the kind of evening where
my date and I arrived two wine bottles under, and ended up
grabbing a cab for the six-block trip home due to lack of
motor function. The band were passing around a communal bottle
of Jack Daniel’s at the foot of the stage that night, much
of which then-bassist Ned “Hoaky” Hickel poured down my gullet
(and my shirt) as I sat in on the drums, while then-drummer
Kyle Melancon stripped down to his underwear and, er, danced.
Granted, it’s taken me close to six years to get all of that
straightened out mentally, but I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate
log of events. (If anyone has any conflicting information
about that evening, please call me at the office.)
Times have changed a bit in the Dash camp. Cajun cowboy Bill
Davis is two decades deep into his career now, and the years
are showing in a number of ways, despite what one might gather
from the irreverent, liquor-fueled cowpunk-rockabilly his
band turn out (think of a crack-smoking CCR covering the Cramps).
While Melancon was merely one of a Spinal Tap-esque number
of guys to occupy the drum throne, the group were nearly stopped
in their tracks when founding member Hickel left the band
around 1999 to charter fishing boats (no joke). If that wasn’t
troubling enough, upon further investigation, it turns out
they don’t even drink Jack anymore (they’ve switched to tequila).
Ouch. Thankfully, despite the setbacks and “lifestyle changes,”
Davis has managed to soldier on, and with newbies Brian Bruce
and Jody Smith (on bass and drums, respectively) on board,
Dash plowed through an energetic, slightly nostalgic set last
Thursday night, packed solid with Dash classics old and new.
is our next big radio hit,” Davis cheekily declared early
in the set to introduce “The Mother of All Fuckers,” a new
song “inspired by the war in Iraq.” Dash have never been known
as a politically inclined—nor politically correct—bunch, and
in case you missed the joke, Davis was kind enough to explain
(it had something to do with a “really hot chick who, when
she fucks you, you die”). See, subtlety has never been their
strong point, but it’s all in the name of good fun, and to
punctuate the tune’s gravity (or lack thereof), they let the
song “degenerate into cacophony” because they hadn’t quite
settled on an ending yet.
While Bruce mostly stood fast and held down the bottom end,
Smith played the talkative lad, perhaps hoping to occupy some
of the airtime vacated by Hickel. Apparently this was the
young basher’s first tour, and he seemed to be relishing every
moment of stage time with his mindless chatter, sometimes
to the chagrin of audience members, who shared a “shut up
and rock” mindset. Davis, on the other hand, is a colorful
and funny storyteller, and he frequently prefaced his songs
with anecdotes about their genesis—one involving songwriter
Steve Poltz (whom Davis refers to as Dash’s Robert Hunter)
and his ex, pop-folkie Jewel, was especially hilarious. Bruce
also took his turn at the mic for a true-to-source take on
ZZ Top’s “Tush,” on which Davis played a flawless beer-bottle
slide- guitar solo.
The remainder of the set, while not necessarily up to the
furious pace of old, was a hoot nonetheless. Highlights were
many, coming in the form of barroom rockers like “High Speed
Chase” (from their 2002 Sonic Boom CD), psychobilly
freakouts like “DMZ” and “Rich Little Bitch,” and the potty-mouthed
sing-along “Pussy Whipped.” And, yes, there was still the
anything-goes silliness one might expect from a Dash show,
including a punk-pop rendition of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know
Why,” a 72-hit break (!) on the stop-and-go rocker “Shake
That Girl,” and Davis’ solo version of AC/DC’s “Highway to
Hell” (featuring guest vocals by an audience member who sounded
an awful lot like Mike Trash of the Erotics). They even slowed
things down from time to time . . . twice, anyway—once to
honor a fan’s request for the Big Star-esque Ace of Clubs
nugget “Marsupial,” and another for the oddly romantic
“Liquor Store.” All said, by the time they closed with “(Let’s
Go) Smoke Some Pot,” they had packed nearly 30 songs into
100 minutes, and still left the tiny crowd wanting more.
Unfortunately, the number of songs in the set may well have
outnumbered the total number of patrons. Blame it on the old
guard of Albany’s rock crowd—the ones who remember, dammit!—for
not getting out as much as it used to. Blame it on the economy
(seven bucks is still cheaper than an On-Demand movie and
a six-pack, though). Hell, blame it on a younger rock crowd
that just doesn’t know its ass from its elbow when it comes
to good, live, rock & roll music. Whatever the case, Thursday
night’s show felt more like an awkward high-school reunion
than the anticipated rock & roll event. Just remember
this, kids: When someone tells you—like my friends once told
me—that you have to go see this band because they’re
the greatest fucking live band on the planet, just do it.
Don’t ask any questions, just scrape together the cash and
Colonie Center, July 30
The lighting: bright and florescent. The crowd: filling the
aisles (the clearance aisles, the DVD aisles, the CD aisles).
The venue: packed with savings. The band: on a two-foot-high
stage toward the back of the store (at a curious nexus between
“comedy,” “easy listening” and backpacks). Tousle-haired Mike
Trash, in mascara and tight jeans, looks exposed, sober and
a tad uneasy in the unforgiving retail brightness. New drummer
(and Metroland writer) Bill Ketzer says beforehand
that he’ll chalk this one up to new experiences. Mall pedestrians
stroll by the distant, gaping end of FYE—chatting, carrying
plastic bags—blissfully unaware of what’s pending. A manager
stacks gold-tin-bound Elvis trivia games on a shelf.
Suddenly the ambient mall chatter and occasional intercom
request for assistance are blotted out without warning or
introduction: SSSKKkkkrrRAANNGGG! A parent pushing a stroller
picks up her pace, purse flapping like a metronome against
her side, and heads toward the front of the store. A 5-year-old
big sister trots alongside, index fingers plunged into her
ears. A 30-ish, golf-guy dad picks it up to a brisk walk,
his hand clamped around his son’s wrist, the poor kid barely
keeping up. An older kid—9 years old or so—simply weathers
it, hunching his spine, as if in pain, and wearing a wince
as he walks determinedly by the stage and toward the front
of the store. A middle-aged black woman in gold hoop earrings
freezes in her tracks, scrunches her brow and stares indignantly
for several long moments at the almost hidden stage. In mere
moments, the bone-heavy squall has risen up beneath the casual,
item-browsing atmosphere, collapsed over it and basically
pounded it into surf.
A sparse crowd begins to form at the side of the stage, some
there on purpose, some by serendipity. The Erotics have come
to do what they do: rock the fucking FYE with a mongrel mix
of Bowery glam, Alice Cooper, ’80s metal and who-knows-what.
(Much like a bargain egg roll—you don’t want to know
the secret ingredient.) It’s a carnival of gouging SG scrum,
B-movie themes and crunch-heavy, surprisingly poptastic hooks
(particularly on the Erotics classic “Gas Chamber Barbie Doll”).
Ketzer—in a black Plasmatics shirt, bald pate dewy with exertion—is
an engine, driving things along with powerhouse enthusiasm
and gleeful backing vocals. (I’m thinking of Nicko McBrain.
Why am I thinking of Nicko McBrain?) He comes off like the
fan who knows all the words, got his shot and has more than
enough drum chops to pull it off. A perfect fit. Billy Belaire,
in leather cowboy heat, keeps it cool, holds things together
on a low-slung bass, eyeing customers.
Mike Trash peevishly kicks over a cardboard cutout of Buffy
that someone has comically placed on stage (“I’m Mike Trash,
the Buffy slayer,” he announces) then breaks out a solo, legs
spread, brandishing his glittery guitar. “This is the first
show I’ve played sober in about six years,” he commiserates
early on. (Me too, amigo. Me too.) Covers, Erotics standards
(“Teenage Drag Queen,” “Helen Keller”) and new tunes (a stropping
“Rock and Roll Killing Machine”) are rolled out in rapid succession.
This is the kind of juvenile-delinquent fun you had at the
mall as a teen (bemulleted with black Kiss T-shirt), giving
the Chess King employees a hard time, riffling the stacks
at Record Town.
A last look from outside the store, from the mall thoroughfare,
offers a compelling sight: that classic behind-the-stage shot
of the band members’ backs, still rockin’. But in this case,
a huge white banner with giant red letters looms over their
heads, facing the mall entrance: “Clearance Center,” it declares.
I’m sure several parents would agree with that sentiment.