Yesterday evening, my colleague and friend David and I headed for Real City to enjoy an evening of Chinese food, used books, and loud music. The first place we hit was the restaurant, with the somewhat nondescript name of Flaming Grill Buffet. It appeared to be a family-friendly sort of place — numerous kids with balloon sculptures, several TV sets, that sort of thing — and a vast array of steam tables greet the visitor, along with the grill area at the back.
The service was prompt and reasonably attentive, even though David and I both drank water. The food, however, was as nondescript as the surroundings. While there was a fair amount of seafood, the staple junk Chinese (the widely served lost province of Chinese food) selections (egg rolls, fried rice, dumplings, and the like) were devoid of kick and a bit limp. Again, I chalk that up to the “family-friendly” end of things, but in the long run, Flaming Grill is going to need more fire before I return.
Afterward, we hit the used bookstore up the street. I grabbed John Wain’s Johnson bio, which I read in my Ball State days, but didn’t previously own. I also picked up a freestanding John D. MacDonald book from the freebie bin outside the front door.
We got to the venue (occasional Berries haunt ArtBar) about 4 minutes before the doors opened, and killed the better part of an hour before Baby Baby opened the show. Their brand of rock was eclectic and energetic, with moments that reminded me of a scaled-down Fishbone. Frontman Fontez Brooks is highly charismatic, and the entire band seemed to be having a great deal of fun. A running joke about “Rachel, the Asian waitress in the sundress” popped up throughout the set, and the band set a nice tone for the evening to come.
Next up were The Head, the surprises of the night. These guys are very young — early 20s — but have been working together for seven years or so, and it shows. They brought a sweet set of power pop that is perfect for summertime cruising, and the smooth flow from song to song belied their youth. They would have been a great fit on the late, lamented Rainbow Quartz label, and wouldn’t sound out of place played next to The Contrast or the terrific first album from The Singles. In a better world, these guys would be in heavy rotation.
After a workmanlike, nicely received set from The Magnetic Flowers (marred by the mix and a wash of guitars — but props for doing a ballad in 11/4), it was time for the evening’s headliners, garage revivalist legends The Woggles. Friends and neighbors, this was rock and roll. Although all four guys are at least my age, their set offered enough energy to warrant a cap-and-trade deal. We’re talking serious cardio here. This was hyper-danceable in the tradition of the best mid-60s R&B-styled party music. Think of it as Mitch Ryder with a southern accent, or Roy Head on espresso. The crowd was appropriately exercised, and went into a full-on frenzy of frugging and occasional frottage. It was the best 60s fraternity party you never attended. Frontman Mighty Manfred whipped through dance steps, mike-stand gymnastics, and crowd invasions that would have put lesser entertainers in the hospital, and his cohorts Buzz Hagstrom (bass), Flesh Hammer (guitar) and Dan Electro (drums) more than held up their end of things, with Hagstrom and Hammer following Manfred into the crowd as far as their extra-long whirlwind cords would allow — which was quite a way, thank you.
But what it comes down to is this: For an hour-plus, the Woggles tapped the primal frenzy of real rock and roll, calling down a burst of exuberance that (to cop a line of theirs) “made the old feel young, and the young feel unnecessary.” The Woggles played like it was the last chance they would ever get to rock, and the crowd joyously responded in kind. They even made today’s return to Gradeapalooza all right.
When I grow up, I want to be a Woggle.