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Making their moves: (l-r) Boyskout’s Lewine and Satterfield. Photo by: Joe Putrock

Bring the Noise
By Shawn Stone

Boyskout, Brevator
Fuze 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 with abandon.

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.

You Don’t Mess Around with Kid

Kid Rock
Pepsi 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 lights.

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 be well-decorated.

—John Brodeur

The Votes Are In . . .

American Idols 3
Pepsi 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. So there.

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 network show.

Damn it was good. Can’t wait ’til next season.

—Paul Rapp

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