Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pet Sounds

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2006 at 5:46 PM

OK, that was weird.

Basically, what I witnessed last night was the complete conquest of Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club by punk kids from Nashville.

Here's what happened.

My buddy Highball and I went to the Grand Emporium around 9, hoping to catch all three bands on the bill: Ad Astra Per Aspera, Awesome Color and Be Your Own Pet. As has been my fate of late, we missed the first, our own local heroes. Boo.

Awesome Color was pretty awesome, though, despite repeated attempts on the part of the guitarist and singer, Derek Stanton, to make his axe sound louder to himself and the audience. A huge testament to the band's badassery is the fact that even though we could barely hear his guitar through the mix, we were still rocked pretty damn hard. AC's deals in the kind of pounding-groove, one-chord psychedelic garage rock with lots of soloing that few bands attempt these days. I spent the entirety of at least one of the songs watching just the drummer, the underage-looking Allison Busch, pound the fuck out of fill after fill, keeping metronomic time, her jaw open in a Calvinlike triangle-smile and her hair swung down over eyes. I seriously think she might have been born into the world at the exact moment when Keith Moon died.

Credit: Stephano Giovannini

Awesome Color keeps it pretty chill most a' the time.

Another testament to the awesomeness of Color was that the band members didn't look all cool 'n shit. They may live in fancypants Bushwick, but they don't look it. Stanton wore a Lee Renaldo flannel shirt and velcro high-tops; Busch sweated through a guy's t-shirt; and bassist Michael Troutman looked normal and small in a solid black tee and unflashy jeans. Could it be that the mind unenslaved to fashion is more free to contemplate the truer essences of rock?

The next band probably thinks it has the answer, which they'd give as not necessarily. Be Your Own Pet, like Awesome Color, is signed to Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label, but this band ain't nothin' but punk. Not mohawks-and-leather, but rather skinny-legged-Ramones punk -- I mean seriously skinny-legged. Some of the pantlegs I saw that night would burst if you stuffed a wiffle bat down them. Maybe I'm just jealous because I'm too fat to be punk.

They were screamingly hyper, too. Teensy lead singer Jemina Pearl twisted, jerked and screamed as though in a sugar-induced, autistic tantrum, but she managed, for the most part, to retain a stage presence befitting a good rock frontwoman. Between songs, however, she fired repeated, full-throated and disgusting hacking coughs into the air, depositing a large glob of saliva somewhere on the stage after each fit. Perhaps it was because she's asthmatic and there was lots of smoke and she's a rebel and so on, but it was kind of obnoxious and gross. So was the bass player, as an entity. Tall, rail thin, and with a giant afro and braces, his playing was inaudible even when he wasn't hurling himself down into the crowd, sometimes with the singer on his back. Saving the show from absurdity were the guitarist and drummer -- tight and creative. Dont' get me wrong, however -- this isn't a writeoff. BYOP makes some pretty exciting, authentically don't-give-a-fuck punk rock. I just wish all its members showed equal regard for the music itself.

Any hope of such an eventuality burst into flame at the afterparty at Davey's. Evidently, before playing the Grand Emporium -- which, by the way, was not the most appropriate venue for either of these bands -- BYOP bassist Nathan Vasquez had gone around to a few local joints asking if his band(s) could set up and play afterwards. There was nothing going on at Davey's, so the bartender figured what the hell. Curious as to what was planned, Highball and I followed, making short work of a Pancho's burrito on the way down Main Street.

Basically, what we ended up seeing were three permutations of BYOP, a couple of them utilizing musicians who were apparently just part of the band's entourage. The first ensemble, which called itself Turbo Fruits, consisted of Pet guitarist Jonas Stein and drummer Jamin Orrall. They set up right at the end of the bar because the main hall was closed off and played some really fast shit that I don't remember too well because I was pretty drunk by then (sorry, America). The next band, Cheap Time, featured a random dude on guitar, Jemina Pearl on bass and, I think, Vasquez on drums. Random dude failed to successfully tune his guitar a couple of times -- or, maybe he was retuning it to a different key? It was hard to tell. Pearl didn't know how to tune her bass at all, so random dude reached over and did it for her. Thus equipped, they played, falling down a lot.

The last band took the cake. It was my hero, Vasquez, on guitar, and an impossibly tall, skinny, broad-shouldered random guy #2 on bass, with Orrall or someone on drums. They were the shittiest and the wildest. Someone sloshed a pitcher of water on them, and the resulting piso mojado claimed its victims repeatedly, reducing this final act (I didn't even bother getting the name), to a seething pile of bony torsos, flailing broomstick limbs and feedbacking guitars.

Not accustomed to such spontaneity and hospitality (thanks, Davey's!), the local artpunks were way into it, shaking and jerking their joints arhythmically to the noise. Meanwhile, Awesome Color hung out in the back. I tried to convince Derek Stanton to get up on guitar, but there really wasn't a way for that to happen -- too many kids in the way. I got an interesting tip from AC bassist Troutman, though, who grew up in Minnesota and approved of Davey's framed monument to George Brett. Earlier that day, he'd been to Broadway hippie supply mart It's a Beautiful Day and said it had a ton of cool used books and records in the back. I was surprised because I used to walk or drive past that store every day back when I lived in Westport, and I never even thought of going inside. My loss.

In the end, I left with the feeling that these bands would be back. We all had a pretty good time, even though those Tennessee pups got a bit ridiculous. Next time, I'd put Awesome Color at the Brick or Record Bar and BYOP at whichever basement, loft or animal shelter will have them.

That's not a diss, mind you -- the world needs dedicated young misfits. But sometimes we relatively hung-up old regular folk would prefer them be seen rather than heard.

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