This show excited me for two reasons. First, it marked my first time seeing The Ratings Battle in about a year (I think). Second, it marked my first time going to a show at the Shredder. Over the past couple of years, I'd noticed a good number of fliers around town advertising some very promising shows there. I didn't see any of them, unfortunately, partly because I may have been working on some of those nights, partly because I can be a rather timid fellow and partly because I simply wasn't sure where the Shredder was. The fliers had listed its address, but the nondescript warehouse that I'd found there just looked like... well, a nondescript warehouse (they only added the marquee seen below this year). "If this is the right place," I'd think, "what would happen if I tried to go in? Would I get branded as an intruder and beaten up?" (Like I said, timid.)
Anyway, now that I've been inside, I imagine that I'll be checking out more shows there in the future. The Shredder kinda reminds me of the Red Room back when it was on the corner of 6th and Main: not too dirty and not too clean, it's definitely not a bad place to watch some bands, drink cheap beer and hang out with some buddies. I liked the modest skateboard ramp and the 90's arcade games (NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat II) along the right-hand wall. Near the end of his band's set, Tony Bones of Viva Le Vox told the audience that this was a special place. "Keep it safe," he said. He had a point.
Godcrotch kicked off Saturday night's show with a much rootsier-sounding set than is its norm. This incarnation of the Josh Gross project featured the leader on electric guitar, kick drum and hi-hat, a bass player, my friend Keesha Renna on tamborine, maraca and backup vocals and some dude who jumped onstage to play drums for one song. After seeing him/them this night, I've come to regret slightly my calling Godcrotch "one really good joke" in a previous post: Gross may intend this group as a goof and a lark, but he still plays, sings and writes better than some of the putatively serious bands that I've seen around town. Personal highlights of the set: a blues-dirge "You Are My Sunshine" that was actually quite effective (honestly, have you ever noticed how depressing that song is?); "Battle Hymn of the Fence-Sitter," an original about how hard it is to write a rousing anthem about evenhandedness and political compromise; "Ghosts," a no-joke original about all the people who died; and a respectable "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)." "We wrote that one," Keesha said after they played it. Uh-huh. Sure.
After Godcrotch came The Ratings Battle, who powered through a couple of flubs to deliver a more-than-respectable set. They admitted that they'd only played a handful of rehearsals recently, but they still offered plenty of proof that the chemistry between Josh Gross' drums, Matt Wildhagen's bass and Matt Hunter's guitar is intact. It felt damn good to hear their songs live again and even better to see other people getting off on them. And I'm still amazed that Matt Hunter can scream/sing like that without blowing out his voice.
After the Ratings Battle came Joe Buck Yourself, whose solo set was one part Misfits, one part Robert Johnson, one part Johnny Cash and one part Iggy Pop. Sporting a mohawk/mullet hybrid that drooped down over his face, leering and glaring with ghoulish menace, pounding his kickdrum like he wanted it to punch a hole in your chest and slashing at his guitar so hard that I'm amazed he didn't tear its strings out, he looked and sounded like the devil to whom Hopeless Jack sold his soul to learn to play. He crooned and growled songs about drugs, murder and the devil coming to make you pay. The crowd moved in close and ate it up, myself included.
It's a pity that more people didn't stay to watch Viva Le Vox's night-closing set. Their demented, fever-dream take on blues, rockabilly, swing, jazz, surf and R&B didn't remind me of anything so much as the "Brawlers" disc on Tom Waits' 3-CD set Orphans (i.e. the one that's devoted exclusively to twisted blues/funk-rockers). Because that disc has always been my favorite, I mean that as high praise. Tony Bones hacked out the riffs and solos on his guitar and howled, groaned and belted out the tunes with his gravelly baritone. Joe Buck Yourself stoically plucked, slapped and twirled his stand-up bass. Antoine Dukes' drums handled the mind-bogglin', body-movin' time changes without stumbling once. Joe Buck Yourself wasn't jiving when he called his bandmates a "fuckin' bunch of young kids tryin' to wear my ass out."
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