Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Rock Shows of Note XLI
Playing catch up today! Coco and I took in several fun shows this past weekend, and I'd remiss not to comment on them before I leave for the CoF Roadshow.

Friday night, we returned to the Middle East Upstairs for a Kimchee Records CD release party celebrating new recordings by Seana Carmody and Victory at Sea. The two local bands were joined by two other quality acts, Suntan and El Guapo.

Suntan had an interesting lineup: drums, two guitars, and a keyboard that took on the bass parts. While I wasn't thrilled silly by their songs, I enjoyed their updated version of country/space-rock (their description, not mine), particularly the gut-wrenching undercurrent of keyboard-driven bass. It took me awhile to peg where the low end was coming from. Next up, El Guapo was much more my bag. A trio, El Guapo takes on two of the major sounds emanating from the DC scene these days -- post-hardcore art rock and relatively loose free jazz. I've yet to listen to their new Dischord record, but in the liner notes, they thank Trans Am -- so it's evident where they're coming from. Accordion, a spazzy drummer, electronics... plenty to wig out to. Hooray for El Guapo. Kimchee did well.

Seana Carmody's set was also impressive. With a new lineup -- I only recognized the drummer from the last time I saw her play, and I thought he was moving to LA -- Seana was joined by one of the tallest men in the Boston scene on bass (I've seen him at so many shows; it's good to know we're friends of friends) and Winston Yu, who has played fiddle with the Boston Philharmonic, Dormouse, and Solar Saturday. Their set was mostly composed of songs from the new record, "Struts & Shocks," and Seana played some of my favorites. Her voice is extremely dreamy, and the band's laid-back approach added to the wash and wave of sound. And sometimes, Seana surprises with a burst of noise guitar and space rock. A nice blend that reminds me slightly of folks like Mary Timony. Seana even sang a song about unicorns at her show at TT's not long ago.

Lastly, at the end of the night, Victory at Sea. I'm not the biggest fan of Victory at Sea, but I've been enjoying their new CD -- and their show Friday was one of the first I really paid attention to and appreciated. Comprising former members of Spore and the Swirlies (of which Seana is also an alumnae), Victory veers toward the melancholy. The songs, while couched in trudging rock, are sad, dark, and heavy. No surprise that they've co-released a CD with Helms. Listening to the CD now, I think Victory is better suited to listening at home than seeing live -- Mona Elliott's vocals are quite effective -- but I'll give them another chance to see just how wrong I am.

Media Dieticians can look forward to reviews of these two new CD's in the future, but if you're champing at the bit, you can order them online from the friendly folks at the Garment District in Cambridge.

You can also read Coco's review of the show.

On to Show No. 2: Diver Down at the Good Times Emporium. You might guess from their name that Diver Down is, yep, a Van Halen cover band. First-wave David Lee Roth Van Halen, to be exact. Check that, I mean tribute band. Cover bands merely play other people's songs. Tribute bands dress up like the band members, try to act like the band members, and otherwise pretend that they are, in fact, in the actual band to which they're paying tribute. Good Times is a skeezy Assembly Square entertainment complex in Somerville that combines video games, in-door basketball, sports bars, billiards, and other diversions all under one roof. The show -- which was sparsely attended -- took place in the "night club," and we (Jef, Jen, Chris, Em, TD, Coco, and I) were doubtful that the $10 cover was worth it.

Oh, it was. Three-fourths of Diver Down made a sad showing in the dressing-like-your-inspiration department, with the bassist being too tall, missing the mad hair, and merely wearing a jumpsuit in his attempt to reflect Mike Anthony. The other three tried harder. The drummer had a tangle of black hair, wore oversized sunglasses, and wore Alex Van Halen's trademark prison-stripe body suit. The guitarist, while on the pudgy side, made a respectable Eddie Van Halen, also sporting a mess of hair and wearing a red and white slash-mark overall getup. And the singer? He did his best. Floor-length zebra-stripe longcoat, a teased frizz of hair, more bandannas and scarves than I could count, and an acrobatic stage show that did its best to replicate the scissor kicks and sex-kitten posturing that David Lee Roth specialized in.

The music was straight-forward enough. They stuck to the earlier catalog, mixing up their set list with some tried-and-true favorites as well as some lesser-known songs from the first few records. And even though the schtick ran long and eventually loathsome, there were some bright spots. They closed with an encore of "Happy Trails," which was fun and funny -- and my shouted request when their request for such met little response from the accumulated townies. And... get this... Gary Cherone former front man for Boston hair-metal one hit wonder Extreme -- and then, for a stint, Van Halen proper -- was not just in the audience, he took the stage to perform a song with Diver Down.

This was perhaps the highest and lowest point of the evening. Why high? This was a historic, ironic juxtaposition. An actual former member of Van Halen -- albeit third-wave Van Halen, and even then for a short amount of time, all things considered -- joined a sad and slightly seedy Van Halen tribute band on stage. How historic is that? But it was also a low note because it emphasized just how sad it can be to be in a tribute band. If you're in a tribute band, it's doubtful that anyone actually likes you. They like the band you're trying to embody. And even though Jef speculated that people might actually have preferences for specific tribute bands -- a la Diver Down is so much better than the Top Jimmies or whatever -- it's got to be a hard row to hoe to play in a tribute band. Besides, as neat as it was to see Cherone take the stage with Diver Down, he was such a sport to do so. I'm not sure why he was even there, but after his time with Extreme and Van Halen, I hope he has more to do than make token appearances with cover and tribute bands on the bad-bar and state-fair circuits. He seemed slightly sheepish but made a good showing. Kudos to him for his rolling with the punches.

You can also read Coco's review of the show.

Sunday's "show" was hardly such. Coco and I went to Toad to see if the Gordon Beadle performing was the Gordon Beadle she went to high school with, but after a drink and a fair amount of time, Beadle hadn't shown up yet, and the backing band -- including Andy from Schwang and the Pee Wee Fist -- began playing without him. So we left. But there you go: Gordon Beadle, no show.

No comments: