Last Friday night, I found myself at the Bug Jar getting jostled to and fro — well actually, more fro than to. The joint was sold out to the walls. The crowd had successfully shoehorned itself into the venue to dig New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Screaming Females — a ferocious band that punctuates its music with full-throttle vocal vibrato and howlin’ guitar.
But I was initially caught off-guard by when my ears landed on the opening act Dusk — an absolute blessing to the world of organized sound.
There was so much going on with this Appleton, Wisconsin band, but the lap steel and organ, working in tandem, stood out. The steel painted the walls with lonely swathes of big-sky vistas. The organ strode velvety and underground. It was country meets the streets. All thriller, no filler.
Screaming Females’ music is the sound of violence, wrapped up in a rock ’n’ roll backbeat you can’t lose. As lead vocalist, Marissa Paternoster roared savage and sweet. As a guitarist, she was amazing as she skirted around riffs that were both agitated and sublime. What a friggin’ wild show.
It was a surreal Sunday night over at Lux Lounge, as if a honky-tonk had taken over the place. And I’m not talking about sawdust floors, longnecks, or shitkicker stuff, either. Honky Tonk Henry was at the keys just a-pumpin’ away as Danny “Knuckles” Sullivan waited his turn at the 88’s. A drummer and a harmonica player were there, too.
A sing-along was brewing on classic songbook staples such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and everybody was wearing a hat — provided at the door, for those who weren’t already chapeau-ing. It was all in an attempt on Lux’s part to fill the Sunday with mirth, monkeyshines, and beer.
It was clearly an homage to the late Betty Meyer’s Bullwinkle Cafe; the eclectic, electric bar on Lake Avenue where Meyer paraded around the place with her accordion, leading the patronage in song. It closed in 2007, and Meyer passed away in 2013 at the age of 90. I hope Lux keeps this going. ‘Twas deluxe.