… and the title works either way you read it.
It was time for observable Berries activity last night at Art Bar, as we were third on the bill for a rare Friday night show at the venue. (It was supposed to have been tonight, but an accidental double booking bumped us up a night, and fortunately, all four bands were flexible enough to make the show, so it worked out fine for everyone.) The Mad Dog came into town as well, and the two of us took the drum hauler down to Real City, arriving at 8, when the doors opened.
The show had run into one of the small controversies that one finds in local music scenes. A few miles away, 90s hitmakers Local H were playing a show at the New Brookland Tavern. That’s cool — there’s plenty of music for everyone, and those guys are a legit national act who have been doing this for more than 20 years. The problem (such as it was) was that a previewer for the local alternapaper decided to pitch the two shows as rivals in some sort of musical cage match, and in what amounted to a “tale of the tape” segment said that while our show offered more variety, it lacked the “visceral impact” of Local H. It’s not a previewer’s job to write puff pieces, but it seemed a little odd to promote some sort of throwdown between an established major act and four local outfits. It also seemed something less than accurate; no show including Pig Head Dog can be said to lack for impact, visceral or otherwise. (Full disclosure: The booker gave me the freedom to put our bill together, and the other three bands are all groups I like a lot, both artistically and personally. I think every band on the bill is a good group, and deserves positive attention from the local press — but I’m not in the alternapaper biz anymore, and the local apparently thinks this sort of “Pick ’em” featurette is a reader service. So be it, and as the saying goes, at least they spelled our names correctly.)
We ran into 3/4 of Pig Head Dog on the patio — Bubbles was inside. As the openers, they had loaded in earlier and waited for the sound guy. And waited. And waited. Apparently there had been a miscommunication of some sort, but eventually we reached stalwart soundman/band wrangler Alan, who told us he’d be there ASAP. And he was, but the show was running almost an entire set late by the time everything was ready to go. This put us in the position of having to buy back time during the setup for other bands, and by cutting some performance time. Alas, Pig Head Dog bore the brunt of that, and only got about half their set in before having to leave the stage. However, in that time, they did nothing to shake my conviction that they are the sonic equivalent of being forced to dig your own shallow grave and then being beaten with the shovel. Visceral impact, indeed. They also got off the funniest line of the night, when drummer Festus confessed that recently his employers had found urine in his THC sample. This is the second time I’ve seen the guys with their new lineup, but new bassist Brian has claimed his space in the group quite nicely, and they perform with effortless brutality each time. Your weapons are useless against Pig Head Dog. Accept your fate.
Next up were Greenville’s Italo and the Passions, who brought their brand of soulful blues-rock to the Midlands. The band is aptly named, mixing 60s soul shouting with early 70s boogie intensity, never lapsing into gotta-gotta cliche. They’re charismatic and fun to watch, which audiences up the East Coast will learn later this year when the band does a tour. Those folks are in for a treat.
We were up next, and got in a 15-song set with two new tunes and one that was new to Columbia audiences. Although from my position on the back line I can’t see very far into the crowd, what I saw and heard indicated that folks were having a good time, and so were we, so that’s a success in my book.
After our set, we made way for the mighty New York Disco Villains. I love these guys for several reasons. Several members are about my age, and it’s always nice to see my demographic getting up there on the stage with original music — I know they’re committed and doing it because they love and believe in what they do; we’re all too old to harbor illusions at this point. It also helps that they’re smart, skilled players with songs that both rock and are genuinely funny, providing an affirmative answer to FZ’s question, “Does Humor Belong in Music?” They’re often compared to the B-52’s and They Might Be Giants, but I think a more apt comparison might be to the Bonzo Dog Band. NYDV has a cult following around here, but they deserve to grow at least to the level of a sect, and they’re worthy of your attention.
So after all that, it was about 1:45 when I picked up our pay envelope and the Mad Dog and I headed back to Mondoville, while I held forth on the history of the 13th Floor Elevators. (The fact that the Dog is willing to listen while I do this sort of thing may be why we’re best friends, but maybe you’d have to ask him.) We got home about 2:40, which means that between teaching, hanging with the Mad Dog, and the gig, I had completed about a 21-hour day. So we got up around 10:30 and hung out until a little past 3 p.m., when the Mad Dog headed back to Knoxville and the Mad Doc, and I… well, I took another nap, getting up at 5. But I had to get up eventually, so I did, and here we are, aren’t we?
See you soon, and in the words of a radio station back home in Cincinnati, I hope you’ll “Support local bands — even if they aren’t from around here.”