A last-minute venue change takes the Colt of Us from the laid-back, open-air Farm to the claustrophobic, dimly lit Tequila Island, but the swap is probably for the best. Not that this bizarrely named band — it took a few visits to their MySpace page to finally accept that the flyers were right and it’s Colt, not Cult — wouldn’t have sounded just fine in the warm autumn breeze, but something about their sound (maybe it’s the blues elements, which suggest they’ve listened to actual real-deal blues) seems to dictate the Colt languish underappreciated in a tiny, obscure club, on a makeshift stage, 5 feet from the men’s room.
Their untitled instrumental opener, all warm-color post-rock fuzz, plays like a setup for a sucker punch. Jake Olson’s guitar shimmers with no sharp edges, while drummer Wil Pacheco lets the beat build and build and build … until it breaks a few minutes later and the percussion dwindles to dramatic spurts. But it’s a false ending, letting up just long enough for frontman Zane Doe to hop on the checkered tile that signifies the stage area and pound the living hell out of his tambourine. From then on, it’s Doe’s show. His stage presence — even without a stage — combines that too-rare mixture of absolute unselfconsciousness and complete artistic confidence. He dances across the band space, flailing his limbs with an awkward grace reminiscent of Michael Stipe in the “Losing My Religion” video (though I’m pretty much convinced you couldn’t mimic that on purpose) and forcing all the bar patrons cutting through (yes, the band set up in the middle of a hallway connecting two parts of the bar) to move quickly and apologetically, because there’s a show going on here, dammit.
“The Nature of the Wire” gives Doe’s hysterical yelp the chance to whip the rest of the band into a frenzy, and the result is pretty awesome. The Colt of Us sounds like the kind of band you discover on some obscure late-’60s garage-rock comp and then spend months tracking down their Japanese imports. In internet-age terms, they’d be a Pitchfork buzz band in some alternate universe where meat-and-potatoes rock acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iron Butterfly, and the Toadies are considered respectable influences for indie rockers.
“Slept in Fists” rides a gentrified swamp-funk groove into paranoid nightmare land — a noisy place where Doe’s bleating harmonica reigns supreme, but Olson’s distorted guitar-solo coda lets in a little purple-hazed light. “Underdog,” the Sly and the Family Stone cover that follows, probably says more about the Colt’s influences than my blind stabs in the above paragraph, but with skronky bass and guitar fills replacing the brassy horn sections, it’s virtually unrecognizable until the “yeah, yeah, yeah”s.
Closer “The Frequencies” gets a little self-important in the lyrics (which, admittedly, I’d have understood little of if Doe hadn’t copied them down for me before the show). “She says you play guitar like a first-time fuck,” the song begins, “…In this invisible art … blood for paint/ Your guitar is your brush.” Doe, though sells the words with nearly enough conviction to make you believe. He whacks a cast-aside stool with a drumstick and reaches up for the ceiling like he’s at a tent revival, but the Colt of Us is meant to be heard in a smoke-filled dive bar. — Jeremy Martin