February 15, 2009

Keep Dancin' (You Ain't Dancin...)



One week left of Conan, so I thought I'd bring back a classic.

Only it's not just about Conan. On Saturday I trekked up to Columbia, MO to see the Eagles of Death Metal. I have mixed feelings about their new album (although I love the wink-wink verbal pun of the title), but I figured I hadn't done much for fun in Missouri that wasn't sports-related so I decided I'd do something for once. I was in Jefferson City anyway (for the district wrestling tournament), and Columbia is across the Missouri River (plus 20 miles) from Jeff City so it made perfect sense.

Openers Monte Carlos, a Columbia-based band subbing for the originally scheduled Living Things, were garage rock in the same vein as EoDM. They looked as mild-mannered as the Jonas Brothers but had dirty riffs and nasty mouths to compensate (sample lyric: "I'll be your daddy/ Let me tap that ass," followed by some other pseudo-pornographic nonsense I can't remember). I saw Jesse Hughes and Dave Catching rocking backstage. Enjoyable, but ultimately disposable: I took two bathroom breaks and two cigarette breaks during their set.

The place began to fill up for EoDM. J. Devil seems to have ditched the hard-ass rockabilly singer look for more of a pretty-boy Hell's Angel look. I'm not sure why it strikes me differently, but it does. He came out with long, well-kept hair, a nice handlebar-ish mustache, and an utra-tight black tee-shirt. He used the aviators that sat upon his head as a rock shield: when talking to the audience they stayed up, but whenever a song started he made very certain to place them perfectly on his eyes. Maybe it's easier for him to act like a badass with shades down.

Flying solo, as is the case for me these days, I got to walk around and take it in from all areas of the theater. The Blue Note, aside from being a classic indie venue, used to be a real old-timey theater. The lower-level is gutted of seats but the balcony still has a full compliment and they're all quite inviting - cushy and low to the ground.

I know this because I got tired about a third of the way into the show and elected to sit and soak it in. I realize EoDM aren't really conducive to sitting. I think I must be getting old.

Still, seeing the whole stage from above allowed me to better watch the crowd sway below. Maybe there's a whole group of University of Missouri students that had similar freshman-year love affairs with EoDM, because they all pined for the classics. Two girls sitting in front of me on the balcony screeched for "Miss Alyssa" at every break in the action.

For some reason I'd always fantasized (quite selfishly) that EoDM was a niche band, and that the eight people who inhabited Koon Dormitory in 2005 were their only demographic. But here were these two girls I'd never even seen before, yelling for a song that we listened to hundreds of times, among ourselves, in college.

I realize now that I haven't yet talked about the quality of the performance since we last saw them four (was it four? five? damn...) years ago. While I don't think anything can quite top the feeling of that night at the Magic Stick, J. Devil is still spot-on. The place was packed, and unlike that Detroit show, I get the sense that he's become more of a showman (if that was even possible). EoDM was made for that kind of thing.

At one point he demanded that the house lights be turned up so that he could see "his adoring fans on the balcony." We sang happy birthday to a girl in the front row. He told us that because it was the night of love he could feel the love pulsating throughout the audience more than any other show he'd ever played. He kissed the guitar player.

Overall the music sounded as raw as the records, but I'm still wary of the bass. I mean, it's fine on the newer Death By Sexy tracks, but on the Peace, Love, Death Metal songs it seems to take away from the minimalist magic of those songs on record. Maybe I'm just so used to hearing them over and over sans-bass that it's a personal problem. "Speaking in Tongues," as we know from the Narrows, sounds fine with the low-end in full force. But "Whorehoppin," "English Girl" and "Kiss the Devil" sounded too full, almost muddled when bass comes into the equation. (This video tells me that they still play some songs as a two-piece with Joey Castillo on drums...which begs the question of why they decided to add bass in the first place, since newer songs sound just fine without it...)

Still, they're still a sight to see and it was obvious that everybody in the theater was just having fun, and I'm not complaining there. And sometime during "Whorehoppin" I realized how lame I felt sitting down on the balcony while the rest of the crowd was shaking ass on the floor, so I made my way down in time for "The Boy's Bad News."

That turned out to be the last song before the encore. I was distressed that they hadn't yet played "I Only Want You" or "Speaking in Tongues," but the encore delivered. Two audience members clad in red proposed to one another onstage. Then J. Devil played a solo electric version of "Midnight Creeper" at the behest of a female in the front row ("I have no idea why you'd wanna hear this song on Valentine's Day, baby, but anything for you"). Then a straightforward cover of "Brown Sugar," staring solo followed by the full band halfway in and then by three drunk guys who began grinding on him.

Finally, a trifecta: "Kiss the Devil," "I Only Want You," and a six-minute indulgence of "Speaking in Tongues."

The final verdict? Not the best show, but still pretty good. Enjoyable Peace, Love, Death Metal songs despite bass, the first five songs from Death By Sexy and no more than three songs from Heart On. However: no "Bad Dream Mama," "Flames Go Higher," "San Bernadino Sundown," or, despite the pleadings of everyone in the audience, no "Miss Alyssa." Fun times all 'round.

I didn't buy a shirt, although I thought for about ten seconds about buying a baseball-style tee that had a big "68" on the back with the cursive sub-script: "How about you just blow me and I'll owe you one?" Humorous, but doubtlessly a waste of money.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tony Gonzalez said...

No band has ever drawn such disgust out of my two dumb brothers. I can't remember if I had just recently read about EODM in Rolling Stone or if the name simply caught my eye in the late night TV listings, but I recorded that Conan performance and played it a lot. My brothers thought they sucked and were stupid (at least then).

But what an epic discovery.

Reminds me of my first flirtations with the White Stripes. I wanted "Fell in Love with a Girl," but accidentally bought their self-titled debut instead. I wanted to return it, but I gave it a listen and became a proponent of bare bones rock 'n roll.

February 16, 2009 at 9:36 AM 
Blogger PAREVOLUTION said...

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February 17, 2009 at 11:22 AM 

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