Why I Love Humans In Their Contemptible Mortal State

The kid stays in the picture: Underage rockers Melodious Owl
Jayme Halbritter

You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a crescent wrench and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear--for the rest of your life--sound as if it's being performed by the band Alice in Chains. Would you swallow the pill?

That's the question Spin columnist Chuck Klosterman asks at a recent reading from his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (Scribner). After considering their options, the martyrs gathered to see Klosterman at Ruminator Books come together as a united front of pill-swallowers. As I leave the reading and venture out into clubland, the question haunts me. All week, when I return home from concerts, I can't help but hear Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley's voice buzzing in my head all night long with apocalyptic warnings about "the rooster" and "the man in the box."

Just when I'm starting to fear that I've gone insane, I realize something. That's really Layne Staley singing: Someone left VH1's I Love the '90s on, and it's playing in a marathon broadcast. Some grunge-obsessed TV producer must have already swallowed the pill. Can I still offer to break his collarbone with a crescent wrench?

Buckethead, Thursday, July 15 at the Quest
Ascot Room (7:30 p.m.)

Mötley Crüe's (cough, cough) "oral history" The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band warned me that most male metal-mongers just want to lay their greasy mitts on breasts and thighs. But until now, I never saw one who'd wanted to stick his whole head into the pail that holds fried chicken. Buckethead is special like that--and judging by the fact that he's strutting around the stage with a KFC container on his noggin and an animatronic severed head in his hands, the former Guns 'N Roses guitarist might be "special" in other ways, too.

"You humans in your contemptible mortal state!" says the little head, while the bigger Head picks up his guitar and unleashes the loudest, most complex finger-licking session I've ever heard. Five bucket-crowned clones headbang in the front row while the chicken man noodles through a 20-minute instrumental medley that includes "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," the theme from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Ringling Bros. Circus jingle, and an ambidextrous original solo that makes it entirely appropriate to use phrases like riff-tacular shredfest.

If the mute axman ever sings over his guitar, I'm convinced that nothing short of the voice of Zuul will spit fiery phlegm through the speakers. That is, until I talk to Joe Werner of local openers Bridge Club, who accidentally overheard Buckethead talking backstage before the show. Werner ruins my fantasy fast: "He sounds just like Marty McFly."

Melodious Owl, Thursday, July 15 at the Triple Rock Social Club (10:30 p.m.)

Every once in a long while a local band comes along that makes you want to do eight million consecutive triple-tiered back flips through a field of singing dandelions and land in a perfect-10 position right in a giant pile of wagging puppy tails. Or maybe that's just me. But somehow, every time I hear Melodious Owl play their new wave dance-party tracks, I get so excited about music that I feel like I'm back in high school--only all the fake IDs are free and all curfews have been extended indefinitely and school's out forever and I can jump up and down on my bed for days, weeks, and years on end, listening to my favorite record over and over and over again until I get old--really old, like, say, 21. Perhaps I feel like this because Melodious Owl are still a pre-collegiate band themselves, though they don't necessarily sound like one.

The last (and first) time they played the Triple Rock, their sophisticated synth-pop caused a member of the Brooklyn band the Fever to declare that the Twin Cities trio was "better than the Rapture." I agree. Tonight, as singer Wes Statler yodels, "the church is on fire!" they're better than the virgin birth, the Second Coming, and that oft-skipped biblical passage where Jesus declares that underage rock is the future of man. Let him who is without sin cast the first Rolling Stone.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Sunday, July 18, onstage outside Barbette

After a psychedelic storytelling session that stars an uptight spelunker puppet--who, I might add, acts like a hand might not be the only thing up his ass--Quintron likes to unwind with a little circus music. The New Orleans musician proves that he's not just an organist; he's a Rhodes scholar, expertly tickling the keys as if they could unlock some secret dungeon where all the evil clowns are being held captive. As his partner Miss Pussycat joins in, shaking her maracas, a giant mass of brightly hued balloons explodes over the audience members, who find creative ways to keep the birthday orbs from touching the ground.

The shaggy-haired gentleman next to me plucks two of them out of the air and stuffs them up his shirt. He fondles his new DD cups. "If I were a woman, I would do this all day," he says. I know what he means. I've been amorously caressing balloons since 5:00 a.m.


ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Start a People (Gymnastics Recordings/Graveface Records)

"The sun came up late. Tomorrow never came." So sings an eve-of-Y2K computer on Black Moth Super Rainbow's synth ballad "Hazy Field People," right before the song morphs into the down-tempo opening strains of "Smile Heavy." Time tends to move like that for these Philadelphia brethren to Boards of Canada. One warbling chord always melts into the next like a warped cassette tape left in a hot car. Drum beats quicken irregularly and human voices thicken into digital haiku, mumbling through their machine dreams: "I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too." You can scroll from that song back to "Raspberry Dawn" and on, or let the ticktocking keyboards count backward to black. But these lovely, lonely songs will still be sung blue.

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