Freakout Hell Ride

Getting on board the love train with Al Green, Blonde Redhead, and the Owls

As beat icon Neal Cassady used to say, you're either on the bus or off the bus. Of course, what the electric Kool-Aid acid fanatic really meant was, you either indulge in psychotropic chemicals in the soothing company of fellow mass transit junkies, or you'll be forced to ponder the splendor of Jesus' florescent exoskeleton by yourself at home. Still, with the Metro Transit strike still in full swing, even those of us who don't regularly deep-fry the cauliflower feel sad to be "off the bus."

So when I walk past the ghost-town bus stop by my house this week, I'll take solace by humming Wesley Willis tunes--inspiring odes to public transportation like "Get on the City Bus," "Hell Me on the Bus," "Freak Out Hell Bus," and my personal favorite, "Fit Throwing Hell Ride." I'll take comfort that the streets are clear of the rolling hazard that Beck once denounced for spewing exhaust over your grave ("The driver tried to swerve/But he just didn't see ya/Now you're buried 'neath the wheel/Just like a tortilla"). And if that doesn't help cure my rattletrap craving, I'll turn up the Who's "Magic Bus" on my car stereo, strap a random loony into the passenger seat, and pretend I'm riding the great carpool lane to freedom.

 

Al Green, Monday, March 29 at the Guthrie TheaterMy mouth is stuck in a gaping grin so wide-mouthed and rigid that I feel like I just had a marathon kissing session with glue spokesmodel Elsie the Cow. And it's all because of Al Green, who is such a charismatic showman that anyone who doesn't reach out for the roses he tosses into the crowd either has no heart or no arms.

"We're letting our hair down! Can I talk some?" the reverend asks the audience, beaming. Replying in the affirmative, his congregation of ultra-competitive rose-hunters looks like they're willing to "let their hair down" by ripping out someone else's extensions. And so talk he does, about Jesus and blindfolds and money and San Francisco and mothers and saints and Carnegie Hall and loneliness and love, love, love. When his band threatens to eclipse his sermon with a subversively soulful "Amazing Grace," Green warns Shhhhhhhhh! So they hush while he sings: "Let's Stay Together," "I Can't Stop," "Love and Happiness." The reverend dances with rolling shoulders, tearing off his jacket and putting it back on in a fit of rapture that seizes him every three minutes. He's having such a good time that when a man signals that it's time to end the show, Green replies, "I ain't goin' nowhere."

So we stay there with him, even after he disappears backstage. We clap and hoot for what feels like hours just waiting for his encore. But it never comes.

Blonde Redhead, Thursday, April 1 at the FineLine Music CaféAmedeo Pace is staring so intensely at Kazu Makino, you'd think he could see through her clothes, her skin, her bones, straight through the back of the bar and into the parking lot, where a group of naked joggers holds try-outs for the women's 10K. And from behind her shaggy hair, she's staring back at him. As the two guitarists swagger their way through "In Particular," they maintain eye contact, pulling each other into a coolly reserved dance: He struts forward, she steps backward a miniscule distance away, their torsos twisting as if they're moving a ghost's body across the floor without using their hands. Their fizzling chords sound surprisingly flat, but whatever is transpiring between them, it's more than just a song. "I have to tell myself it's only music," Makino sings in her taffeta falsetto. "It blows my mind when it's like that."

Amedeo's twin, Simone, watches from behind the drum kit, bruising the skins with such fervor you can hear all 17,000 words of The Tempest thundering from his mallets in Morse code. The siblings smile at each other, raising an eyebrow and playfully racing to the end of the song. Simone wins, but Amedeo gets the girl: On "(I Am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off" Makino twirls a finger around a lock of his curly hair. "I can seem to be alone so long as you are gone," she cries. And as he walks away, her hand is still outstretched, waiting for him to return.

The Owls, Saturday, April 3 at the 7th St. EntrySitting in the same venue where employees have been known to blast the Dwarves' "Let's Fuck," "Motherfucker," and "Fuckhead" over the speakers before a show, Brian Tighe looks up at the audience and asks politely, "Are we allowed to say hell in here?" The crowd keep their soap-rinsed mouths shut, so Tighe leads his bandmates into the delicate strains of "The Apocalypse," a wistful, finger-plucked melody that drowns in Maria May's honeysuckle vocals as she coos cruelly about the end of the world. The avid Owls fan next to me smiles and nods his head to the tune. "Their songs are so pretty," he says delightedly, "and so evil."

 

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Askeleton,Angry Album--Or Psychic Songs (Goodnight Records) With faked student abductions, nasty partisan squabbles, random acts of terrorism, and the end of the current run of America's Next Top Model, April truly is the cruelest month. And in the muddy sludge of the season's dead land you can hear ominous songs of spring: dead birds plotting to disfigure men's faces, trees growing into forests of silence, singers who may never see summer because they won't get past today. Askeleton's Knol Tate has seen all of this before. But as his cold, machinelike vocals detail these prophecies, his Casio keyboard woos his laptop with fantasies of a humanless world, peeping and giggling and gasping like an amorous teenage robot. As they ring out like DNTL dirges, these crystalline sci-fi pop melodies feel somehow optimistic. The future may be tonight, they warn. So dance like there's no tomorrow.

 
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