The band enters from the back, marching single file through the crowd like they’re leading a New Orleans funeral procession. Sanford Allen is screaming something about “the book of the seventh seal” into a megaphone while the band (plus percussionist Enrique Comparan) bangs rhythmically on various objects, including a hopefully empty propane tank. The show never really makes more sense than it does now. Once he’s reached the stage area, Allen swaps his megaphone for a guitar and digs immediately into what musical scholars refer to as a “dirty-ass blues” riff. As the beat, most evident in bolo-tied bassist Patrick McManis’s knotty thump, builds, the abstract depression quickly transforms to proto-metal rage.
“One song in, and we’re already breaking strings,” Allen says. “This is just how we practiced it, too, man.” His banter sounds nothing like his “singing” voice — a guttural, throat-punishing growl of the Howlin’ Wolf school that steeps a phrase like “a night to kiss the baby” in undefined menace. The bouncing beat of “Hard Luck Case” battles the weirdness and loses immediately, resulting in something similar to Captain Beefheart covering “I Want Candy.” The instrumental accompaniment eventually bites back, rapidly hardening to head-banging intensity in the song’s second half. “Disarray” could describe the majority of the songs on tonight’s set list, but this one really lives up to the name. Sanford oscillates between spoken word and singing with a televangelist’s stage presence, then argues with himself in falsetto. He charges forward, guitar tucked under his arm like a lance, and attempts to joust with the front row. He gets no challengers.
“Fade Out” offers a tempo changeup; McManis makes like he’s playing an upright bass, and Sanford’s leisurely guitar lines and demented croon turn the song into a Satanic lounge standard before it subtly morphs into a Black Sabbath grind. “Beam me up to the mothership,” Allen says, and it’s almost surprising when nothing happens. “Switching Yard” speeds things up again. McManis windmills, and drummer Aaron Seibert guides the band through patches of hardcore and unadulterated racket. When it’s over Seibert cuffs his slacks to give his shins some air. The Mix swelters, but Allen looks perfectly comfortable in his shiny, dark mobster suit.
“Calamity Jones” features a particularly savage ritualistic drum pummeling and can be compared to so many disparate things the comparisons becomes meaningless. “This one’s from an album we put out in 1973,” Allen says before “Master of Sparks.” He’s at least 20 years off the mark, but the joke is believable: The song is as equally unlikely to have come out in this decade as any other. At the climax, Allen and McManis run to the amplifiers to generate feedback like two kids left unsupervised in a Guitar Center.
“This one’s by special request,” Allen says before “Feast of the Mau Mau.” “This has not happened in a long time, bitch.” The song is a rock-punctuated stream-of-consciousness rant that sounds a little like George Thorogood’s last-call monologue and a whole hell of a lot like the motivational speech the neighbor’s dog gave Son of Sam. “A person of the Mau Mau persuasion,” according to Allen, is “not going to order a Pabst Blue Ribbon. They’re not even going to go into the bathroom and buy cocaine.” They’d rather “peel the skin off your friend with a razor blade” and cook you in the soup du jour. Sporadically, Allen emits a primal howl as though he’s devolving into an ape, Altered States-style, mid-song. He solos in fits and starts and staggers like an off-balance windup toy.
The show closer is a cover: “Pumping a Line” by Australian post-punks feedtime, “one of the best bands that ever existed,” Allen says. “You know how everybody thought AC/DC was so fucking badass because they only played three chords? These guys had the balls to get rid of two of the chords.” He’s not really joking. McManis chugs a beer while he strums his part, and Seibert’s drums provide the only real variable. All in all, it’s probably the worst song of the night
Fri, Jun 25
2423 N. Saint Mary’s
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