What the hell's going on in there? I remember wondering.
I tried to attend Summer Breeze last summer when it was held at RecordBar, but the place was overflowing by the time I showed up around 10 p.m., and we bailed. I was surprised at how festive an event it seemed to be, though: Half the crowd out on that narrow smoking patio was done up in sailor outfits and goofy, pseudo-'70s garb.
. I guess we always knew there was something kind of funny about that type of music, but certainly there was never anything ironic about our love for it. The songs were good, and the fact that everybody else thought they were lame just seemed to be evidence of the purity of our endeavors.
It was the same scene, same vibe this past Friday when I rolled up to Crosstown Station. I attended the event with an old friend who shares my enthusiasm for the breezy and easy sounds of the '70s and early '80s. For the past 15 or so years, we've spent a considerable amount of time digging through old record bins and discussing bands like
I have conflicted feelings about the mainstream embrace of this stuff. I'm glad that the music has found a younger audience, and that these artists are being recognized a second time around. But the parade of silliness and irony that tends to accompany the appreciation of the music brings out the old crank in me. On Friday, we posted up at the Crosstown lower-level bar and took in the crowd -- black-and-white-striped shirts, leisure suits, sailor hats. Not everybody was in costume mode, but there were enough that there was always some kind of yacht/sail theme in your line of vision. I leaned over to make a comment about it to my friend, but before I could open my mouth, he said exactly what I was thinking: "I wish everyone was taking this more seriously."
As the band took the stage -- most of them in costume as well -- I feared that they, too, might lean too heavily toward the jokey end of the spectrum. I was relieved to discover that they did not. The evening was a party, and they were participating, but their set revealed that they have an obvious love of the genre and the musicianship to learn it, practice it, and pull it off live.
The band -- Chris Sieggen, Billy Brimblecom, Allison Brimblecom, Chuck Whittington, J.D. Warnock, Greg LaFollette, and T.J. Fletcher -- opened up with the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" after the song won the most votes in a Facebook question that they'd posed earlier in the day. It's a classic of the genre, and they nailed it. I really dug the way Sieggen played the back-and-forth guitar line on the chorus -- very workmanlike and precise, but with a quiet swagger. They followed it up with Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes," another can't-miss. Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together," featuring Allison Brimblecom on lead vocals, was given a more contemporary touch, with modern-rock guitars and a key-change sing-along at the end.
"Baker Street" featured a sizzling, monster sax solo -- a highlight of the evening for me -- that went so long, it didn't seem like there was another progression of notes that could have possibly come out of that sax. "I Keep Forgettin'" naturally included a verse from Nate Dogg and Warren G's "Regulators." And the McDonald backing vocals on "Ride Like the Wind" were so on-point that it was impossible not to laugh. I mean, the guy's got a ridiculous voice.
It was pretty remarkable the way the hits just kept coming. By the end of the night, I had moved beyond relief that the band was sincere and skilled, and I was just flat-out impressed by their devotion to detail.
"Jesus, look at that chord," my friend said, as we watched Sieggen's fingers spider-web across the fretboard for a wildly difficult jazz chord on "Peg." We were down on the floor by then, right in front of the stage, right in the middle of the party. Everyone was dancing, and we were busy studying. It was sad, in a way. I sipped my Pabst and nodded. "Yeah," I said. "These guys are legit."
MOSTLY COMPLETE SET LIST:
What a Fool Believes
Love Will Keep Us Together
Baby Come Back
You're No Good
You're the Biggest Part of Me
Just the Way You Are
Tell Me Something Good
Queen of Hearts
Dance With Me
Ride Like the Wind
I Keep Forgettin'
Don't Go Breakin' My Heart
The Pina Colada Song
Takin' It to the Streets