If for nothing else, I'd have gone to this show for the chance to see Atomic Mama again. They've been kicking some serious ass ever since they recruited their drummer, but I haven't gotten the chance to see them since their EP release party. On top of that, I'd heard great things about Delicate Steve from a lot of people around town.
That word of mouth persuaded me to get down to the VAC good and early. This proved a wise move...
I sat at the bar, read Dennis Lehane and watched the place fill up. Come showtime, it wasn't quite jam-packed but definitely good enough for a Friday night in the summertime.
First up this night was Reno, NV-based five-person group Buster Blue. This band certainly had talent: three members took turns singing, four members played different instruments as the set progressed and their songs mixed and matched bluegrass, swing jazz, dixieland, blues, folk and I don't know what else. They sure could work a crowd too: they had almost everyone in the VAC cheering, dancing and clapping to the beat. In spite of all this, however, I couldn't connect with these guys. Something about their genre mix-and-match stuck in my craw--seemed too facile, too postmodern. Granted, one of my favorite artists, Tom Waits, does something similar (the band cites him as an influence on its FB page). But Waits is so idiosyncratic that he can make everything he touches his own. From what I heard from Buster Blue, I just imagined that they've got some really diverse stuff on their iPods. Still, I can't deny that they were entertaining, and I did appreciate the moment when they unplugged, stepped down from the stage and sang a song from among the crowd.
It'll be nice when I get to bring an actual camera into more venues.
After Bluster Blue came Atomic Mama. Now this is what I call postmodernism done right: this band sounds like the lovechild of Led Zeppelin and Gary Numan (with a bit of Jimi Hendrix thrown in). Grinding, psychedelic riffs and high-powered drumming meet blaring synthesizer hooks, industrial beats and simple, catchy tunes. And not only does their music rock hard, it can be funny as hell. This group was in particularly good form this night, and a projection show featuring clips from Akira and various cheesy sci-fi and suspense movies knocked the energy level up to 11. And by the way, in case you're wondering: no, that's not a picture of a penis on the screen.
New Jersey-based, five-man band Delicate Steve closed out the show with a set that justified the hype around them. To my ears, their music evoked Hendrix at his most lyrical ("May This Be Love," "Little Wing," etc.). Rippling, stinging guitar work combined with funky drums, warm bass and Georgio Moroder-esque keyboard lines to create music that was all about uplift and joy. Their set featured a projection show as well, but it wasn't as intense or intimidating as Atomic Mama's was. Instead, the montage of movie clips and flashing lights seemed geared more towards coaxing people into the pleasures of the music. A fine finish to the night.
You can look up info on all of these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.