live show summary
Date: July 27, 2005 (Wednesday)
Review by Steve Gisselbrecht
At long last, it's that Scamper and Voodoo Screw Machine bill I've been waiting for! Playing Beatles songs, of course. Thermos X. Pimpington is a huge Beatles fan, and he's put together this awesome tribute night for us. Now, there were really two different bands called The Beatles, when you think about it. There were the adorable mop-topped rock 'n' rollers: "Help," "She Loves You," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." That band. And then there were the band that they became when they discovered the serious drugs and started to invent almost everything pop music would do for the next thirty or forty years. Myself, I like the early tunes just fine, but it's the later, weirder Beatles that I feel reverence for. A true fan, Thermos has ensured that both periods will be well represented tonight. First up are Gene Dante & the Future Starlets, who draw mostly on the earliest of the psychedelic stuff. ("Nowhere Man," "Eleanor Rigby.") Gene is a very charismatic performer; he stumbles a bit on lyrics, but he sells it, and his voice sounds great. He also has this odd English music hall accent that he often does that fits this material beautifully. The band is not flashy, but the backup singer is heavenly on the harmonies and the bowed upright bass sounds fantastic. When they run out of Beatles songs, Thermos joins them for an unplanned "Paperback Writer" that works better than anyone expects.
Next up, Scamper lean (characteristically) toward the straightforward early pop songs. They do "Please Please Me," and "I Saw Her Standing There." These are great songs, and they give us energetic, faithful versions. So much so that, even with extended setup time to get used to unfamiliar amps, they're done with the five songs they've prepared way before their scheduled time is up. (Those early songs were short!) So they give us one of their songs, jokingly reimagined as homage to Yoko.
The Buckners reach even further back, to some songs that are actually kind of obscure. The guitar is tasteful but interesting, and their voices sound beautiful on the harmonies. (The drummer is also singing harmony, but he's mixed so low I can't really hear him.) They finish with an intriguing choice: "Back In the USSR," a late-career outing with a very early-career sound to it. (But the goofy lyrics fit right in on the white album.)
Finally, I figured I could count on Voodoo Screw Machine to return us to the drug-addled latter days stuff. They start with the Beatles cover that's a regular part of their set, an appropriately freaky version of "I Am the Walrus" with Dark Mark returning his upright bass to the fray. (He apparently guests on their album on this song.) Then (after a confusing excursion into Billy Idol, mercifully cut short) they surprise and delight me with "Glass Onion." They're pretty much playing it straight, so far, and the musicianship is stellar. Next they play "Sun King," only venturing to screw around here with the faux Italian parts. ("Domo arigato"?) It seems too much to hope for, but they segue smoothly into "Mean Mr. Mustard," and just keep going. This series of songs is one of my favorite compositions ever, and they do a beautiful job with it. At least half of the audience is singing along at any given moment, and there are some sections that offer Stony Curtis (who's been very good, never pushing it beyond what's appropriate to the material) an opportunity to step outside his cage and show us a hint of the guitar wizardry he's capable of. It ends with a silly, foot-stomping "Her Majesty," and I suppose it really ought to stop there, but enough people are psyched to keep going that most of Scamper climbs back onstage and they all bullshit their way through "All Together Now" and "Hey Jude." It's an appropritely silly, fun ending to the night.