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And Lucinda takes the gold


After you've been in a band for some 20-plus years, you learn how to make an entrance. Rob Halford used to take the stage on a Harley to start Judas Priest shows. U2, no stranger to grandiose entrances, sometimes began their show by descending from a giant lemon (no, we're not talking about Rattle and Hum). ANTiSEEN's Jeff Clayton, possessor of a bottle-scarred forehead, professional wrestler physique, and a growl somewhere between a grizzly bear and a chain saw? He prefers the George Jones-approved riding lawn mower.

After the rest of his bandmates hit the stage Saturday, Tremont Music Hall's soundman turned down the house music. "Where's Clayton?" people asked each other. Soon, the unmistakable tones of a Husqvarna were heard, and out rode the singer, clad in a Captain Beefheart-esque purple-feathered hat and confederate flag face wrap. As the band launched into song, Clayton parked the beast in front of the stage, stood on top of the seat, and let it rip.

I brought along a buddy of mine whose preferences usually lie more within the "jam band" field. Despite the fact that ANTiSEEN might be the ultimate non-jam band -- most songs clock in at a crisp two minutes or so, with an equal amount of chords used -- my friend was enthralled throughout, as was I. Sure, the band's shows have gimmicks -- Clayton breaking a beer bottle on his head is almost as much of a sure thing as Southern Culture on the Skids tossing out fried chicken -- but the real draw here is physical release, a blowing off of steam that ANTiSEEN probably does better than any local band in history.

An hour (and about 30 songs) later, we made our way to the exit, tossing our empties in the trashcan, causing a crash of glass. My bottle had broken in half, leaving a perfectly broken half-bottle, a menacing streetfighter's weapon. I picked it up, cradled it in my hands, and thought of Clayton before quickly talking myself out of it. The essence of punk rock is that anyone can play it, charging it with their own, particular enthusiasm. No need to copy everything, though.

Olympic Interlude: Man, are the Olympics everywhere! Saturday night, eating at a restaurant, I saw some fencing (actually more interesting than it sounds. To aid scoring, players must wear a mechanized helmet that closely resembles Boba Fett's). Sunday morning I had brunch, and the US is playing Puerto Rico in basketball (and losing, and making me almost lose said brunch). Sunday night, I visited a sold-out Visulite Theatre to see Lucinda Williams, and there on the television was Olympic men's swimming. I stood near the back for most of the evening, and you'd be surprised how many women lingered at the bar after receiving their drinks to watch Speedo-boys while their husbands and boyfriends were catching the show. Which leads me to. . .

The Show. Last time Lucinda Williams was in town, she had to cancel her show due to the death of her mother. That show was rescheduled -- first at Queens University, who apparently thought a piano sale would be a bigger draw than a multiple-Grammy winner -- and finally came off Sunday night at the Visulite, which was packed tighter than Olympian Michael Phelps' swimming tights.

It was an older-skewed crowd, and surprisingly gay-positive. I saw loads of same-sex couples, a demographic that I wasn't aware Williams drew. But why not? Williams' love songs aren't gender-specific, they're packed with stories of love and loss, and, well, the old lady still looks pretty good to boot, even if in a Sturgis motorcycle rally kind of way.

With the exception of one dreadfully flat hip-hop style number (Jay-Z doesn't do twang for a reason), the show was one of the best gigs I've seen in some time. By the time Lu hit the stage for an epic-length series of encores, folks had abandoned the Olympics for good, shouting out requests and paeans of love to their favorite performer with Britney Spears/Backstreet Boys-like enthusiasm. The only dancing Lucinda did all evening was over to her beer bottle and back, but folks appreciated her sincerity (Lu thanked the audience, her sound man, her light man, her tour manager, her bus drivers, and -- I'm not making this up -- the guy that brought her coffee) and returned it in equal measure. As shows go, it was a gold-medal-worthy performance. Unlike our NBA ballers, at least someone showed up to play on Sunday.

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