their moves: (l-r) Boyskout’s Lewine and Satterfield.
by: Joe Putrock
Box, Sept. 6
You wouldn’t think anyone would go out Labor Day night, but
a more-than-respectable crowd turned out for a strange-yet-intriguingly
programmed evening of music at the Fuze Box. Strange, because
the three acts didn’t have much in common in terms of style
or presentation. Intriguing, because all were worthy of note.
San Francisco’s all-grrrl quartet Boyskout played a kind of
punked-out dip into early-’80s gloom-pop. Think Joy Division,
Lene Lovich . . . hell, you could even include the Cars at
their iciest. The lineup is guitar-bass-synth-drums, but,
unfortunately, it was hard to hear the synth and even harder
to hear the guitar; this made it hard to get the full impact
of their nifty, sex-and-doom songcraft.
That said, their stage presence and rhythm section more than
made up for the sound problem. Scene-stealing bassist Piper
Lewine stalked the stage in the classic manner, fixing the
audience with rock-star stares and trading half-ironic glam-rock
poses with singer-guitarist Leslie Satterfield. (Synth player
Zola Goodrich affected the air of a bored supermodel, which
was hilarious given the band’s matching Cub Scout uniforms.)
Lewine and drummer Alana King made it all work, however, and
were the main attraction, given that—not to beat that dead
horse any more than necessary—you couldn’t hear the guitar.
The audience reacted in the most sensible way: They danced
Albany’s own Brevator followed Boyskout to top off the evening.
Or, should I say, blow the top off the evening.
One knew something was in the air when the band lined up all
the amps on the stage, and set up their instruments in the
audience. The audience mingled with the members as they set
up, and vice-versa: Singer Joey Russo started his trance-style
vocal whooping and crying long before the rest of the band
donned their blank white masks and were ready to join in.
And when they were ready, it was like the carpet-bombing of
a small village, without all the grisly death. I’m 40 freakin’
years old, I’ve had my ears pummeled by everyone from Ronnie
James Dio-era Black Sabbath to the Clay People, but this was
the most outrageous thing I’ve ever felt.
Yes, felt. From my spine up into my skull, everything
vibrated. And the volume? Well, if my skull was feeling like
it was going to crack open from the insidious vibrations,
you can imagine how loud it was. The crowd loved the pure
sensory overload. The seemingly crazed audience members bounced
off one another in a kind of clumsy dance halfway between
the mosh pit and a George Romero zombie party.
The music itself was interesting, though hard to judge on
its own merits—Brevator are an experience. The playing was
undeniably intense; special props to drummer-of-the-gods Robb
Cole. I could not stick around, though, as my unsheltered
ears could not take it.
Pity the old fart for trying to save what’s left of his hearing.
I talked with an audience member the next day who wore earplugs,
and even he suffered after-effects.
Kitty Little’s Matto and Jesse Pellerin opened up the evening
with a brief, pleasing set of their beguiling songs about
love and candy. The guitars were plugged in, but they sang
without microphones. And the mics were missed.
Don’t Mess Around with Kid
Arena, Sept. 5
There’s an old saying that goes, “Don’t judge a book by its
cover, or a man by the company he keeps.” Technically, I’ve
never heard the two phrases attached to one another, but I’ve
definitely heard them used separately, and I don’t see any
harm in making the connection now. Sounds like a mighty good
country lyric, actually—kind of along the lines of “You’ve
got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” or “You
don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind.”
Kid Rock is the kind of guy you just can’t pin down. He said
it about himself in his song “I Am”—“You’ll never put your
finger on me,” he croons. One minute he’s the next Vanilla
Ice; the next, he’s got this whole steroid-rock thing going.
He writes a rap song about being a “Cowboy,” then he makes
an album that’s more than 50 percent country. Legend has it
that Rock spent some time hanging around in Troy’s antique
district on Sunday afternoon. They say he dropped some $6,000
in one store, buying up the entire collection of paintings
by one local artist and handing out free tickets to his show
that night at the Pepsi Arena.
This Kid Rock’s a walking paradox—heck, he’s in his 30s or
something, so he ain’t even really a kid. Part working-class
hero, part supermodel-banging superstar, Rock deserves credit
for achieving a crossover that was once unimaginable: He holds
the fringe of the modern country audience in one hand, and
the nü-metal hangers-on by the scruff with the other. He also
gets points for somehow making all these elements coalesce
onstage. Sunday night’s show was a true spectacle, an absolute
blast—and that’s not just referring to the pyrotechnics, although
there were plenty of those.
Rock knows what buttons to push, and he pushed them time and
time again. His nine-piece Twisted Brown Trucker Band teased
the audience with the opening strains of breakthrough single
“Bawitdaba” several times through the night before actually
playing it in its entirety to close the show. They got things
started revue-style, as DJ Paradime introduced the band members,
giving each one their own moment in the spotlight before Rock
emerged to showers of sparks, explosions, strobe lights and
towers of fire that made the temperature inside the arena
shoot up by about 10 degrees. It sure as hell wasn’t subtle,
but then his is a game of broad gestures, is it not?
Over-the-top in all the right ways, Rock’s performance was
heavy on the hits—both his and his heroes’. “You Never Met
a Motherfucker Quite Like Me” segued into—no joke—“Free Bird,”
as a Confederate flag dropped down behind the band. “Cowboy”
was introduced via a snippet of the Allmans’ “Midnight Rider”
and included a verse from Waylon Jennings’ Dukes of Hazzard
theme song; “Devil Without a Cause” was married to the riff
from “Back in Black.” It was a bit confusing, a live mashup
of sorts, but to look at the 5,500-or-so smiling faces in
the audience, it was right on target.
Speaking of targets, the band hit on nearly all of the singles,
including the lumbering “Jackson, Mississippi,” last year’s
“Picture” (drummer Stefanie Eulinberg played the role of Sheryl
Crow), and the giant hit ballad “Only God Knows Why.” On that
one, Rock sat at an all-white baby grand and revealed a steady
croon that made that vocoder effect from the recording seem
even goofier. Oh yeah, then a bunch of half-naked girls walked
out and began dancing in cages. You really never know what
to expect with this guy. One minute he’s talking about starting
“an escort service for all the right reasons,” the next, he’s
strumming an acoustic guitar and discussing his proposed political
platform (which apparently includes Skynyrd, Monday Night
Football, and weed) while bathed in red, white and blue
For every fist-pumping, lighter-raising, salute-the-flag moment,
there was one of total balls-out abandon—for instance, the
Bocephus-esque “Son of Detroit” (a reworking of David Allan
Coe’s “Son of the South”), and an impromptu run-through of
“Cadillac Pussy” (originally a duet with Hank Jr.) that came
complete with a sing-along-encouraging light-up sign behind
the band. On “3 Sheets to the Wind (What’s My Name?),” Rock
took his star turn at almost every instrument onstage.
You see, Kid Rock knows where he comes from, and he knows
what makes his blue-collar constituents tick. He’s no dummy,
despite the outwardly lunkheaded appearance. He likes Johnny
Cash and Grandmaster Flash, he makes Southern rock and mixes
it with hiphop, and he’ll forever be the Kid Rock. And if
he’s somehow elected president, we know his oval office will
Votes Are In . . .
American Idols 3
Arena, Sept. 2
This show is my guilty pleasure. For two years I’ve been completely
sucked in, addicted. I could blame my kids, but this shouldn’t
be their burden. For a long time this was something we kept
in the family. I hid my obsession from friends and colleagues,
plagued by embarrassment and shame. Then, last spring, Quentin
Tarantino showed up on the show as a guest host, a spot previously
occupied held by such luminaries as Neal Sedaka and Barry
Manilow. Tarantino displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of
each contestant’s progress, and a passion and empathy for
what they were going through. He had a blast, and I figured
if he could come out, so could I.
I hate reality TV because most of it just isn’t. For all of
its faults, American Idol, with it’s winnowing arc from auditions
to finals, is all about the thrill of victory and the agony
of defeat. Every contestant gets beat down, humiliated, sliced,
diced, and laid bare on live TV. Some crawl back, some get
dumped tragically by a fickle, stupid, and racist public,
and one gets the prize.
While you’re scoffing, you might be interested to know that
Bob Dylan has expressed interest in being a judge, as has
Paul McCartney, and rumor has it that Prince has as well.
The show at the Pepsi, featuring the 10 finalists from this
year’s model, was sweet and fun. Ten kids, simply nobodies
a year ago, taking the big stage. And what mades the show
so special is that we all watched them quickly grow up. In
that horrible TV celebrity culture sort of way, we believe,
we know that we know them well, we own them. And here
they all were, one more time singing for us. Lord help me.
A bunch of them have real futures. Jennifer Hudson, who was
left twisting in the wind week after week, tore the roof off
the Pepsi every time she was given the chance. Wilson Picket-style
soul shouter George Huff lifted the crowd repeatedly. Red-haired
Buffalonian John Stevens was allowed to do what he does best,
which is to croon like Perry Como, which is ridiculously cool
for a 17-year-old. Somebody get this kid a smoky jazz trio
and send him out to clubland. He’s priceless. LaToya London
is so composed, and soulfully accomplished you’d swear she
has been doing this sort of thing on this level for all of
her 25 years.
Of course, there was plenty of mediocrity to go around, but
most of it was fun. John Peter Lewis, clearly the little girls’
favorite, brought nothing to the table other than his considerable
dorky white cuteness. Other than that, he had none of what
we in the talent business call talent. Runner up Diane DeGarmo,
a pudgy little 16-year-old former child beauty-contest perennial
gnome, was god-awful. She disgraced “River Deep-Mountain High”
and then followed a stunning five-song run of Prince songs
by the other contestants with an inexplicable Nashville-Vegas
rendition of Bob Seger’s dismal “Old Time Rock and Roll.”
You could almost hear Simon Cowell opining that her version
would have been perfectly acceptable at any trailer trash
wedding reception anywhere in the country. Her future resides
on second stages at small county fairs in red states.
Winner Fantasia Barrino is a superstar, derivative of no one,
and almost miraculously unique in voice and stature. She dominated
the stage and commanded attention by sheer force of will,
in the manner and of the magnitude of Tina Turner or Bruce
Springsteen. Really. She’s got it, and she possesses an innate
sense of how to use it. Move over. Fantasia’s comin’ in.
The first half of the show consisted of solo turns, and the
second half was primarily ensemble pieces. These were surprisingly
sophisticated, musically facile and interesting, and largely
devoid of the hideous “Up With People” vibe that pervades
the group work on the TV show. The kids were allowed to stretch
and be themselves, and the evening was peppered with contemporary
hits (like from Black Eyed Peas, OutKast and Alicia Keyes)
that would never be allowed to surface on the tightly formatted
Damn it was good. Can’t wait ’til next season.