Friday, Oct. 6
Last Friday night, a goddess took over the stage at Radio Radio. Sure she looked like she just woke up, drank a little hair of the dog and kicked open the trailer door, screwed the neighbor’s husband and stole his car to get there, but she was a goddess all the same. Her name was Rachel Nagy and she had to do little but open her mouth to have the crowd firmly under her control. She was a blonde testament to all that is righteous and decent in rock and roll.
Beside this white-trash vision of perfection was a demon named Mary Ramirez who played guitar like Angus Young and who led the band called The Detroit Cobras through some tight and perfect garage rock. And by perfect I mean sloppy and dirty. This is probably the best cover band in the world right now, turning obscure songs from bands that history has long buried into instant, timeless classics. Running the gamut from straight-up R&B to country to soul to flat-out rock and roll, Ramirez and her Cobras could do no wrong.
And Rachel sang every song like a crazy mixed-up Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin, never once letting her magnificent voice come down from the heavens and never once getting too far from the PBR can. On tunes like “Slumming The Slum,” “Midnight Blues” (NOT the Lou Gramm song) and particularly “Bad Girl,” she came off as the epitome of what a rock lead vocalist should be. Confident, muscular and lean, The Detroit Cobras had it all and they gave it to us. Probably the first and last time I’ll ever say this about a cover band, but God, I can’t wait to see ’em again.
More Animals of the Arctic, Conner, Wolfy
Saturday, Oct. 7
It’s Saturday night and I am freezing in a gutted old porno house in the Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis. If you haven’t figured out where I am yet, it’s probably because you never leave the bars to check out the all-ages shows. With its exposed rafters, old paneling and a popcorn machine by the entrance, there’s only one Irving Theatre. Still undergoing renovations, the Irving is easily the biggest all-ages venue in town and, except for the smattering of Goodwill plaid couches and recliners, it’s all standing room.
So make friends.
Tonight’s three-band lineup is opened by More Animals of the Arctic, a local band with the vocal chops of Neil Young and the subtle musical flavoring of Gomez. They make the soundtrack for wandering aimlessly on a sunny day. With lyrics like “It would take just one strong wind to push me over the edge,” the trio plays on that line between regret and contentment.
On a completely different side of music, there is Conner, which is second to take the stage. This is dance rock to the core. They are a four-person band from Kansas that churns out one sweaty number after another. With a fast and poppy rhythm that gets the kids off the used furniture and bopping on the concrete floor, Conner is The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand balled into one heart-pounding good time.
If Conner was the band that got the kids off their seats, then Wolfy is the band that gets them in the air. As they launch into their set, the gaggle of girls closest to the stage abandon their self-conscious dancing and giggling and resort to the more adrenaline-charged jumping and shrieking. Ah youth. It is through the unique magic of a live performance that this local trio that blends a U2 foundation with Keane topnotes and the catchiness of Wilco has tapped into the emotional volatility of the audience tonight.
And we’re still screaming for more when they politely decline, but say that they would love to see us after the show.
I guess we’ll have to take what we can get.
Punk Rock Night Music Awards
The Dockers, The Randies, State, J.J. Pearson
Saturday, Oct. 7
When a $10 cover buys spectacle, beer spewing, instant uppers and punk music, $10 goes far. At least it did at Melody Inn’s Fifth Annual Punk Rock Night Music Awards. Every Saturday is Punk Rock Night at the Melody Inn and the lineup last weekend featured PRN’s most popular bands.
The Dockers don’t take themselves too seriously. They wore fez hats and bow-ties and sung of oatmeal. The music falls between a sort of psychedelic punk (if that’s possible) and power rock. The combo makes for a catchiness that got some songs stuck in the noggin. The distraction of an attention-demanding singer, however comical, detracted from the music. The Dockers are still crowd favorites, as they won the award for best new band. But these guys are visual entertainers. It’s OK. The objective was to have fun.
The Randies played a set full of layered guitar melodies and some beautiful compositions in minor while delivering a punk-esque punch. The song “Socialite” seemed a reference to their native California. Three female guitarists stood at the forefront of the stage. Initially this was too uniform. But the display didn’t last as their obvious friendship bunched them together. They played their best pieces nearly joined at the hip. Good opportunity to spew beer on each other, possibly a reason they won the award for sexiest band.
Forget the Jolt Cola, local band State was a shot of adrenaline. By far the most self-assured performance, State centers on beat intricacies that can only be accomplished by a fortuitous band-ship, or 24-hour practice. “We are founded on comradery,” said singer and guitarist David Barajas. Barajas stared wide-eyed into the crowd as drummer Dagan Thorgerson contorted his faced to the severity of the music and pounded as if he and instrument had a lustful affair, or personal vendetta. State took home the award for best local band.
Finally, punk rock
J.J. Pearson stepped on stage to receive, at this point, a loose crowd. Lead singer Pearson charmed his way through a rowdy set with between-song banter and a shirt peel-off. The band’s casualness signified familiarity with audience and venue. But don’t confuse casual with boring. Pearson’s high-pitched vocals were commanding. The band played more punk than anyone else, which made their Ramones cover of “Commando” most appropriate. The night ended with the crowd reciting “Commando’s” well-known lyrics. “First rule is — follow the government,” sarcasm of course.