The End Times Spasm Band, Irene & Reed
Aug. 26, White Rabbit Cabaret
Visions from another era filled the White Rabbit Cabaret Thursday night, courtesy of two bands perfectly suited for White Rabbit’s bar-that-time-forgot feel. Indy's own Irene & Reed, followed by Ft. Wayne’s End Times Spasm Band, exist in that fedora-and-opera-gloves ideaspace that’s equal parts classy and seedy — they're the kind of bands you might see at the beginning of a mob movie playing the high-end bar while the snitches are getting beat up out back.
Irene and Reed — erstwhile NUVOite (and former coworker of mine) Leslie Benson and onetime Form 30/Nimbus member Jason Milner and friends — is very much a 1950s torch-song piano band. Milner keeps his head down, obscured by fedora, as he thunders away at the keyboard, while Benson plays the frontwoman, a femme fatale caressing the mike as she croons away soul-searching lyrics and weaves tales of loss and hope.
End Times Spasm Band aren’t kidding with that name. With their manic take on 1920s couture, they’re like a gang of libertine flappers straight from the cast of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Lead singer Lyndsy Rae Patterson is a spitfire, a ball of energy endlessly prancing and kickstepping across the stage in a crazed fusion of jazz moll and rag doll puppet with half her strings cut off. And a washboard with a cymbal. You know, because.
But stagecraft aside, this is a seriously tight outfit that can make the harmony of guitar, bass, drum and, erm, kazoo make sense. Rae absolutely nails the jazz-age falsetto; she sounds like she should be coming out of a slightly scratching Edison phonograph.
The name is more apt than it may seem at first. It’s chipper stuff, relentlessly happy and upbeat, but reminiscent of a time when the world really was ending and the only way to stay sane was to celebrate the moment.
“This just in: you only live once!” Rae exhorted the crowd as midnight approached. “So if you wanna dance, go for it, and if you wanna holler, now’s the time!”