The Vulgar Boatmen
Saturday, Aug. 19
Two or three songs into the set, Dale Lawrence, lead singer of the Vulgar Boatmen, leaned into his microphone to say, “Can everyone hear everything all right? Then why aren’t you dancing?”
The Boatmen originally formed in the late ’80s as a postal project between Gainesville, Fla., college professor Robert Ray and Lawrence, an Indianapolis resident and former auteur of Hoosier punk-rock legends The Gizmos. Rock and roll was an artform at that point in history. Ray and Lawrence crafted a band from equal parts irreverent punk and classic, dance rock.
Releasing four albums (one of them the 2003 compilation Wide Awake), all mildly successful and well-respected, the band has been firmly canonized as an underground favorite.
In Indianapolis, however, the band’s status exists not so much on these legends, but on the Lawrence-led live version known to burn out two-hour live shows, the last of which took place this past Saturday at Zanies Too, on the far Eastside of town.
Though the band hasn’t necessarily existed consistently over the years, which makes the term “last show” a little dubious, this is certainly the end of an era for the Vulgar Boatmen. Bass player Jacob Smith (also of Mysteries of Life), whom Lawrence has credited with reviving the band, is moving his family to England at the end of the summer.
Thankfully, Lawrence and Smith avoided a tear- and ballad-drenched goodbye, and just did what they’ve always done as the Vulgar Boatmen: played a two-hour set of lean, danceable pop.
It’s hard to relate to a song advocating driving around these days, but the band reached a moment of melodramatic clarity on the song “Take Some Drugs and Drive Around.” Shouting out the title imperatives and to “twist like a moron,” most in the crowd couldn’t help but stand and bop in reverence.