Electric Six at First Avenue, 3/21/13
with Mark Mallman and Carroll
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Electric Six are stupid. But this isn't new information, nor should it be surprising that a band which named their debut album Fire simply because the word appeared in nearly every song on said album is viewed as such. It's intentional and the disco/Devo/Detroit garage-rock mish-mash is foolish in a way that's so maddeningly clever all you can do is laugh to yourself and lament, "I wish I would have thought of that." Thursday night at First Avenue likely had many people wondering why they hadn't thought of something so simple before E6 got to it but just as many likely showed up simply to dance.
Beginning, oddly, with a somehow transcendent cover of the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses," the band soon was in full Electric Six mode with "Electric Demons of Love" from their 2003 debut and "It Ain't Punk Rock" from 2010's Zodiac. Soon after, they got "Gay Bar," their most popular song (and one of the most hated by the band itself) out of the way early and followed that up with their response to it's popularity, "Gay Bar Part Two," from 2008's Flashy, which bashes on it's counterpart and a few other tracks from their approaching-legendary debut.
There was much noise from the crowd between songs from the seemingly very drunk crowd in the way of song requests and general "You guys are awesome!"-type praise. Lead singer Dick Valentine finally addressed it about six songs in, pointing to an very tall man in the crowd and offering, "You, my friend, are fascinating. I would love to watch you fuck," which raised a deafening roar from the audience.
The set was moving along nicely, if a bit formulaic. Much of Valentine's between-song banter, while mostly funny and -- at minimum -- entertaining to listen to, was clearly canned which eliminated a little something in the way of surprise. "Improper Dancing" quickly drowned out any negative thoughts, however, with Valentine himself improperly dancing during the chorus and humorously standing statue-still during the guitar solo. "Gridlock!" soon followed along with "Formula 409," which is literally (and hilariously) about the magnificence of the cleaning product, and "I Buy the Drugs," which may possibly explain why "Formula 409" exists.
The set ended with a protracted version of "We Were Witchy White Women," from Flashy, the band bringing the song to a slow roll as Valentine made the crowd sit down on First Avenue's less-than-spotless floor and "conserve your energy, like the big European countries do," finally imploring everyone to jump to their feet for the song's end, which created a floor-wide, riotous mosh pit for a couple of minutes, before they left the stage and kept the crowd genuinely wondering if there would be more.
Valentine and company returned after a few minutes and after a quick tune-up and run-through of the intro to, of all things, Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" by keyboardist Johnny Na$hinal, they churned a little more disco-fueled garage metal (or whatever) with "Down at McDonnelzzz" and finished with the ferocious "Dance Commander."
There was, unsurprisingly, little nuance or subtlety to show, but that's how it was supposed to be and nearly every second of it was joyful and made you want to do one thing: dance. It's always the one and only goal of the band and the mission was accomplished.
Critic's Bias: Though I've not followed Electric Six as closely in recent years, Fire and, to a lesser degree, Señor Smoke, their first two albums, remain in rotation on my stereo. I enjoy them immensely live and was glad to see that overall, they still put on a good show.
The Crowd: I'll say this about the crowd: there was a guy in his 50s wearing a camo military hat and a white denim jacket and a girl in her early 20s so drunk that she could hardly stand up by herself by mid-set. Fill in the blanks for the rest.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I love this band! Wait, who are we seeing again?"
Notebook Dump: Dick Valentine is just the right amount of weird that he is endlessly charming.
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