I had made it into the In Crowd. Only a select few had scored tickets to the show. People were packed in like cattle. One could barely breathe or squeeze past the compressed silicone. And there I was. Little old me. I possessed the answer to that most perilous of moral quandaries: WWJD. What Would Junior Do? Quaff cold beverages and watch Perry Farrell dry-hump speakers, that's what. Before I could join H-Chrizzy in a cold one, he disappeared into a back room where I imagined there were dwarves with bowls of coke on their heads. Voluptuous groupies draped over the furniture. Rock stars tap-dancing on dead hookers. You know how the Star gets down.
Alas, my consolation prize was a hell of a show, Farrell strutting coquettishly as the panting sardines wearing feather boas jostled for position and the salacious singer led the sweaty mob in rowdy sing-alongs about sex, drugs and other such tomfoolery. A delirious success.
By contrast, the Puddle of Mudd show on December 10 teetered on failure. The sparse Memorial Hall crowd was considerably more entertaining than the opening acts. At least one minibrawl and one chain-reaction vomit session erupted in the stands before Puddle took the stage. The whole atmosphere was the difference between Westport and KCK, between the Beaumont and Memorial, between NASCAR and Formula One. Fans wore Jeff Gordon apparel, Jackyl shirts and trucker hats, but nobody was being ironic.
"I don't give a fuck what the critics say about me or this band. Fuck them," embattled homeboy Wes Scantlin said, clearly giving a fuck what the critics say about him and his band.
But Scantlin's fervor outshined his bruised ego. He rocked, rolled, crawled, screamed and basically put in a performance expected of somebody trying desperately to have a triumphant homecoming. Was it the somewhat overwrought histrionics of a conquering hometown hero? Sure. But it still worked. Particularly when Scantlin howled "Blurry" in its entirety within the sweaty clutches of an adoring crowd.
Finally, there was Conner.
The Lawrence quartet shared the headlining duties for the KJHK Stop Day celebration at the Granada on December 12. It was supposedly the last real day to par-tay before finals, but things were tame. Most of the music-loving frat boys and sorostitutes seemed to be elsewhere in the winter wonderland, sucking beer bongs and slurring "Brown-Eyed Girl." Instead, a dedicated handful of music geeks shuffled toward the stage as Conner laid into its first song.
Lead singer James Duft, deep in the throes of influenza, could barely keep his eyes open. But intermittent sips from a mysterious brown bottle managed to keep him upright long enough to give Old Man Winter a solid boot to the sac with fuzzy garage-blues-rock in a Strokes/White Stripes vein, only without the bitchin' haircuts and color coordination.
"Thanks. I'm sorry. I feel like shit," Duft offered weakly as the band ended its set with a head-bobbing snarl barely thirty minutes after it had begun.
Local MC Approach finished the night with presence, skills and energy. Which isn't to say I was feeling it. I couldn't shake the notion that he was Shock G from Digital Underground. When I didn't hear anything about doing it in a Burger King bathroom, I started to get testy. Maybe I was tired. I had worked all day. It was nearly 1 a.m., and my chicken-scratch notes read, "When he's rhyming, he hits it; when he does the sing-song shit, not so much." I was getting snarky. Nastier by the second. I was in danger of ruining a good week. I pulled the cord. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. I walked out of the Granada early. I wasn't going to see a bad show. Not this week.