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Concert reviews: The Empty Hearts and Heavy Trash

I was there, man


From my balcony perch at Sticky Lips Juke Joint during The Empty Hearts' positively packed show last Tuesday night, it was as if I was staring into a boiling, balding caldron of Scorgie's remnants and black-clad bon vivants. And this was a fantastic show; a memorable show; the band's maiden voyage on stage anywhere. As this quartet continues to grow and time goes by, the amount of people that were at that show will grow, like all the people — "I was there, man" — who claim to have been at Woodstock.

This was an event to be remembered and filed under "tough sh*t" if you missed it. The sound was big, beautiful, and loud, and the band rocked boldly between sniper precision and a swaggering stroll. The Empty Hearts has staggering rock star pedigree and a collective pile of instantly recognizable hits that, when wedged into the band's mostly original set, made the influence of The Cars, Blondie, and The Romantics a little more apparent. The Chesterfield Kings weren't represented sadly, but I did what I could, kids, and screamed "Richard Speck" half a dozen times.

The Kings' Andy Babiuk held the bottom end admirably while bounding around proudly; Blondie's Clem Burke swung mightily at the drums with a thundering blue collar ethic; The Cars' Elliot Easton was the master of classic big tone and lumbering cool; and The Romantics' Wally Palmer wailed and crooned while leading the charge. If you had just strolled in off the street you would have thought "Hey, what a happenin' scene. Rochester is pretty cool." And I was there, man.

If you couldn't slow down and go down to the Heavy Trash low down throw down at Water Street Music Hall, then I'm here to rub it in. You missed a mondo killer rockabilly shock transmission from the very heart of primal rock 'n' roll. Direct from New York Cit-ay, Heavy Trash heaped on the sleaze just swimming in grease and reverb.

Like I've said before, Heavy Trash is more about the spark than the flame. Coming on like an Elvis Christ carnival barker, front man Jon Spencer proved to be essentially the same microphone-eating, wild-ass personae as when he fronts the Blues Explosion — it's just that the Blues explosion is all about the detour and pioneering fresh mayhem. Heavy trash is a lot more rudimentary, drawing from the period when the stitches that held R&B, blues, and hillbilly boogie together still hadn't completely healed. Matt Verta Ray, of Speedball Baby fame, wielded his big guitar like a savage and show opener Bloodshot Bill danced with his upright bass like a drunken prom date. The whole show was sweltering and swinging culminating in Spencer raving and testifying from atop the bar. Have Mercy.