March 9th, 2011
I had a printed copy of the book (draft 25) with me because I’d been reading and editing one last time before sending it off to New York where it would hopefully find it’s way around the world. I’d been at Buckley’s thus for the span of a few beers and a few chapters, but as 8:00 rolled near, I paid my tab and went across the street to the Jewelbox Theater where local band Out Like Pluto was playing with newcomer Electric Villain. I’d written a piece last month that mentioned EV singer Karen Cheng, and in the subsequent emails we traded, she invited me to the show. I dug the Out Like Pluto tunes on their website so I said, “OK. Let’s do this.” I arrived thus just after 8:00 with my notebook and my pen and all the printed pages of my book.
True to it’s name, the Jewelbox is more of a theater than a music club. There was a projection room in the back for screening films, and the theater itself is of course dark, very dark, great for movies but not so much for taking notes. Thankfully there was a candle on each table. As I tried to decide where to sit, I looked all around and was surprised by the lack of a mixer. I saw a guy on stage fiddling with some cables and then he walked up the aisle and out of the room. I continued to look around for the mixing board until I saw something moving up in the projection room. It was the sound guy, the one who’d been messing with the cables. Up there? I had a bad feeling about that. I’ve run sound before, and I knew that being way up where he would not be in an ideal place to hear and balance the mix.
I sat at a table in the back and set my things down. The waitress brought me a Manny’s, and I leaned in over my notebook to use the candlelight to jot a few things down, but I promptly spilled the beer on the printed pages I’d been reading at Buckley’s. Many napkins later the table was dry, my glass again full, the pages still wet, and Electric Villain was starting. So much for collecting my thoughts before the show. EV got their origins as a Muse cover band as a way to have fun and to simply start jamming. And that’s what it all should be. Fun. On this night though, Electric Villain was finally shedding the cover band status. They played a few originals and were better for it. The first one began with a mellow riff that was slightly reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s “Hand of Doom” in its feel. It was cool. They’re a young band still finding their sound, but the originals they played had promise, enough so to make me want to catch their next (as yet unscheduled) show where singer Karen Cheng promised they’d play all originals and finally put Muse to bed.
A guy at the next table spilled a beer, and I touched my pages wondering if I should have put them in the car before coming here. I decided they were just pages though. They could be reprinted if more beer came their way, and well, beer and the written word go well together. When Out Like Pluto hit the stage, they opened with a song called “Papercut”. They’d played the video for it earlier in lieu of opening band Death’s Three Daughters whose singer was sick. Papercut is a cool heavy jam with a solid bass groove. The rhythm section is easily my favorite thing about this band. Bass player Mike Van Wie is smoking and is super tight with drummer Andy Tyra. That allows singer Kari Tarr and guitarist Mike Pesce a little more freedom on the top end and the blend is good solid upbeat heavy rock. Feet tap to this stuff.
Given the style and the pretty blond lead singer, the obvious comparison is to No Doubt, but No Doubt was bubble gum in comparison. Songs like “Are We There Yet?” (my favorite) show this well. It rocks and has a bass line that can only be described as “most excellent”. In the middle of the show, I was saddened to learn it was Van Wie’s last gig with the band. Ouch. Tough shoes to fill for sure. The band did a cool thing though and presented him with a mock gold record. It was the certified “aluminum” version for the mighty feat of selling more than 82 copies of their first CD, 9th and Virginia. 82? That number had to be low. 82? It made me wonder. If No Doubt can achieve success and fame, why not these guys? One of life’s great mysteries I guess, and one of the things that gets me out often to catch local bands as sadly so much that’s so good will never escape the likes of the Jewelbox for Key Arena.
OLP closed the show with the title track from the CD. It features a violin player (Tyra’s girlfriend), and I would later find out that the idea behind the tune was to write a rocking Irish drinking song. It was a little reminiscent of Flogging Molly for sure, but it was lively and of course rocked. And well, it celebrated the spirit of drinking. Cheers for that! I only wished the sound man up in his projectionist’s booth could have balanced the mix more. In the Jewelbox, the violin didn’t sit well in the balance of things, but that wasn’t the band’s fault. In a more music-oriented venue, I was confident it would sound better, and the thing is, like any good band, they were good enough to overcome the inadequacies of the sound. The music was too energetic to be bothered much by a few imperfections in the mix. The crowd loved it. I did too. They were fun. And like I said earlier, above all else, it should be fun.
After the show, I drank wine and beer and more wine with Tyra and Tarr and talked into the wee hours about all things music, and it would be a full twenty-four hours later that I realized I left the beer-stained pages of my book at the bar. Good music and the good musicians who make such will do that though. They’ll make one forget all else, make it seem like music is the only thing that matters.
And every so often, it is.
Photos and violin playing by Lindsay Kohler