Welcome To My World
Every 12 months, my mom calls to wish me a happy New Year. "Have a safe and healthy 2004... and have fun tonight!" she advised last December 31. Twenty-four hours later, pumped full of cheap champagne, I had harmonized with a band of naked men, narrowly escaped getting arrested, and spent the rest of the night in an emergency room with a frat boy who'd been beaten by a drag queen with a baseball bat. I figure two out of three ain't bad. So in accordance with the only resolution I can keep--to have fun tonight--I've started this new music column, to appear two or three times a month, where I'll return from concerts and clubland with a full report of what went down. Or at least the part that happens before I black out.
"Drinking with Ian," Sunday, January 11 at the 7th St. Entry Someone should change the title of this public access program from "Drinking with Ian" to "Drunk with... What'sYerNameAgain?" Because no matter how well you know Tubby's Bar and Grill's former punk karaoke host Ian Rans, after countless gulps of dubious liquor, you'd be lucky to remember your own name, much less his. Rans kicked off this live recording session for the first few episodes of "D.W.I." by asking his assistants to pass out a free "shark attack" (Blue Curaçao, vodka, and...was that human blood?) to each member of the crowd, then prompted everyone to pound the concoction in unison. ("It tastes like a swimming pool!" exclaimed one audience member, whose red eyes suggested that his skull was already fully chlorinated.) Three shots later, we'd watched Rans interview local arts and music icons (Dillinger Four frontman Paddy Costello and Let's Bowl creator Rich Kronfield). We'd listened to him introduce live music performances (the Fuck Yeahs, Red Satyrs, Bridge Club, Baby Grant Johnson). And we'd viewed locally produced film shorts, including "a word from our sponsor"--not so much a product endorsement as a desperate plea from an AA advisor. I admit that I can't relate much about my own onstage time with Rans, since it was blurred by one (okay, maybe 20) too many gin and tonics. But considering the fact that I half remember a very tipsy Rans humping my chair, I think it's best not to recall the details.
Zebulon Pike, Wednesday, January 14, 7th St. Entry When I heard that this instrumental prog-metal quartet was planning to unleash their wizardry-of-Ozzy yawp on a crowd of unsuspecting indie kids at First Avenue's annual Best New Bands Showcase, I half expected Stonehenge to pop up from the stage with a dozen dancing midgets. But as soon as guitarist Erik Fratzke, moonlighting from his jazz roots as Happy Apple's bassist, ignited a '70s stomp that burbled and blasted like he'd thrown a hairdryer into a hot tub, I raised the flame level on my Bic without irony. Steve Post's basslines were as thick and unruly as his mop of curly, Slash-era hair, which undulated on every one of drummer Erik Bolen's neck-snapping downbeats. But it was psychedelic guitarist Morgan Berkus, looking like a banker and rocking like a proverbial hurricane, who proved to be the night's most pleasant surprise: He played like he could make birds suddenly appear...and then crush them in his fist.
"Hipshakers" 1960s Dance Night, Wednesday, January 14 at Jitter's at the Times I could smell tomorrow's hangover creeping into the air. All night, the speakers surged with the best R&B, northern soul, and Stax classics. The dance floor was freshly powdered for slippery Motown spins. Even so, when the last half-hour before bar close arrived, the crowd slumped back to their seats. For a moment, no one moved. Then a few stood up to look for their car keys. That's when the DJ got an idea. When the needle came down on Outkast's "Hey Ya!" it was like finding a $100 bill in the middle of the street. An indescribable noise--some instinctual wail that rose from shock to glee--erupted from the room. People dropped their handbags right where they stood. And everybody danced.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Valley of the Giants, Valley of the Giants (Arts&Crafts) Yul Brynner was the original paranoid android, a robotic cowboy wandering through the desert in search of human life to extinguish. Last year, six Ontario musicians watched him disappear into dust in Michael Crichton's 1973 cult classic Westworld. When the credits rolled, they dragged a four-track recorder into an old farmhouse and wrote the best tribute to his performance since Stephen Malkmus serenaded Brynner's bald head on "Jo Jo's Jacket." But the music sings its own story, too--a tale of wasteland wanderlust--and the album stretches out like manifest destiny: country-blues ballads, spaghetti-western sound bites, warped folk dirges, gypsy strings, and mariachi melancholy. A new myth of the old West, blowing through the ghost town between your ears.
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