Nothing makes me want to climb a tower with a rifle quicker than premature holiday music. The first set of yuletide yahoos I plan on admiring through my crosshairs and blowing apart like bowls full of jelly will most assuredly be the pagan programmers at WBBF. All Christmas, 24 hours a day? Already? Are you kidding me?
Two Saturdays ago it was John Mayer and Teitur at Blue Cross Arena. Teitur played folky with a hint o' Gaelic and a shy, sincere demeanor. He won over countless new young female fans who fall for that whole shy, sincere demeanor bit.
In clothes that looked like he had slept in them, Mayer took the stage next. He was barely audible above the screams. He's clearly not The Beatles, but he plays simply and convincingly, especially when he leans into his electric guitar. I thought he would simply hide behind his guitar and strum occasionally. But, man that kid can twang. His stage set lacked the standard pomp and fluff, so the responsibility of a good show fell on the band's shoulders instead.
Later that night NYC jammers ULU warmed up the Water Street Music Hall bandstand for tow-headed Allman newbie Derek Trucks. Centered on the honk of their mondo cool sax player, the band grooved steady through a funky all-instrumental set. They didn't set the joint on fire but got it good and warm for Trucks, a man of staggering talent who doesn't move a muscle. I've seen cigar-store Indians with more animation. However, Trucks' pill-bottle slide guitar attack was incendiary. The rest of his band kinda bored me and I could of tolerated a full dose of Trucks à la carte.
As with most bands, The Sadies have to be seen live. This Toronto outfit's records are alt-country-garage gems and are an accurate portrayal of their sound. But you've simply got to be a part of it for maximum impact. However sweet each tune sounded at their Saturday night Bug Jar show, the overall sound emanating from the stage was ominous. Every tune churned out was epic and exquisitely placed in their set list. The band obliged with three encores before begging to be "left alone."
Mohawk Place in Buffalo hosted The Supersuckers the following Saturday. I rolled up with some friends to see a tight, tight rock 'n' roll show. The band played favorites off of every album. Toward the end they paid tribute to the big rock they come from by beautifully covering Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song." Loud and rockin', the band was incredibly down-to-earth despite their collective over-the-top stage persona as the greatest rock 'n' roll band on earth. Hey, it ain't braggin' if it's true. The Mohawk seems to have new and improved sound, but the lights still make it look like the set of All In The Family. C'mon, dim the lights. I need some atmosphere.
From Super to Supa at the Bug Jar. New Orleans' Supagroup rocked the modest Tuesday night crowd so hard, you'd swear it was 100-times bigger. This Lee brothers-fronted outfit rocked like all the quotable, imitable longhairs we all long to be... or at least hear when we're in need of a boost. Guitarist Benji Lee stroked the snot out of his battered burgundy SG with just enough finesse. You could still hear his fingerprints across the strings.
Chicago's The Dishes opened the show with a loose and loud set with an apparently accelerated, compensatory vigor. It seems they lost their bass player along the way, but it/he/she wasn't missed.
San Francisco's The Husbands, who never had a bass player to begin with, closed the night with an urgent set of garage-tainted raunch. Endearing one moment, intimidating the next, they reminded me of the mother I never had. Read into that however you'd like.
What really amazed me about this particular, predominately rocked-out evening was the slight, smiling gentleman from Alabama. Dan Sartain placed a single mic stand in the middle of the dance floor, strapped on a beat-up Kay archtop and began to croon. That's right, croon --- all warm and sweet and sexy. Folks almost immediately gathered around him as if he were a prophet, showing us rock 'n' roll's weakness. No histrionics. No pyrotechnics. For roughly 20 minutes, I was blown away. The guy is on Swami Records. I suggest you check him out.
Endless car commercials may have worn out the band's welcome, but The Barenaked Ladies are a lot of fun live. The band rocked the sold-out Auditorium audience last Wednesday with their borderline adult-contemporary rock: very safe, but very funny. The band even poked fun at the fast ferry from their decidedly Canadian point of view.
The Legendary Shack Shakers once again wowed the admirable Thursday Bug Jar crowd with atomic wedgies, double-jointed num-chuck horseplay, snotty, raspy, bloody, rusty harp blowin', and the rhythm and speed of a rapidly derailing locomotive. And the train kept a-rollin'... all night long.