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Man Dances, Back Goes Out!

Plus, skittish SUVs and nearly inaudible tuning


Last Tuesday, there was a "The" band sighting at Tremont Music Hall. Locals The Talk were opening for The Sights, who were opening for the headliners of the whole affair -- a great band called The Greenhornes. The whole "The" band thing is a bit ridiculous, both in media coverage and in the number of acts that've changed their names and styles in an attempt to get signed. Thankfully, the bands on this bill had been playing their favorite kind of music -- energetic, feedback-drenched rock music with a historical tip of the cap -- for a while now, and all of them are pretty damn good at it. So good, in fact, I hurt my back at the show. I know what you're thinking -- especially any of you who've seen me "dance." How does a guy hurt his back by doing nothing more than a couple of knee bends accented by the odd (off-time) head nod? It's a good question. And no, it had nothing to do with hoisting those big cans of PBR they had on special.

I think I'm just getting old. Our country has fought three wars since I left high school, for crying out loud. I've seen the entire career trajectory of Axl Rose. I'm old.

It's a young man's game, the rock music, and this show proved it. The kids, I'm happy to report, are still alright. But my friggin' back's killing me.Sometimes things work, and you're not even sure why. Cinnamon in chili, for one. But reggae and bluegrass? Leave it to Peter Rowan to come up with that wacked out idea. This is the man, after all, who has called his backing band the Free Mexican Airforce and who sings of the romanticized exploits of a character called "Panama Red" (You don't get Pete's brand of Buddha-like, beatific visage without a little smoke-curing now and then).Rowan, who played the Neighborhood Theatre last Thursday, said that a trip to Jamaica inspired him to see that the roots of bluegrass and reggae lead back to the same tree. Of course, he made no mention of why he decided to call the music Reggaebilly instead of the more logical Reggaegrass, or even Blueggae (which would be a bitch to pronounce) but one imagines it has something to do with another kind of tree popular in Jamaica.

Rowan came on a bit late, saying that he and some other motorists had to take cover at an Exxon station to avoid the hailstorm that hit town at happy hour. "It got pretty crowded," Rowan smiled. "All those SUVs avoiding the elements."

After a few minutes straightening out some sound problems, Rowan and Co. proceeded to lay waste to the audience, making even the stiffest necks bend like willows in the breeze. All of a sudden, Reggaebilly sounded less like an unfortunate idea and more like the music of the future. Don't get me wrong -- I doubt that Ralph Stanley will start feelin' Irie anytime soon, but it's a start.

I was still in a bluegrassy mood (whatever that is) Saturday night, so I wandered over to the Visulite Theatre to check out their "Bluegrass Showcase," featuring the bands F-150, Sassagrass, and the Brown Liquor Pickers. As local and regional bluegrass bands go, it was a solid enough lineup. However, acoustic-based music isn't always the best fit for a loud rock club full of people tossing down Citron and Red Bull. Bluegrass music works best where it's quiet. One's front or back porch, maybe. A quaint bluegrass festival, certainly. A church? Perfect. Do a flashy G-run in a rock club, however, and you run the risk of being drowned out by a loudmouth at the bar talking about his new job in commodities trading. The Visulite's sound was fine, when you could hear it, it was just that kind of crowd. Hey, Saturday. . .rock club. . .guess bluegrass sounded like a good idea at the time. A quick word about tuning. People don't mind a little tuning between songs. People do mind when the wait between songs is longer than the songs themselves. All of which led our photographer to suggest that a bunch of musicians should take a hint from dadaist painter Marcel Duchamp and get together to do a show where the tuning is the show. When everything sounds good and ready to go, they will get up, take a bow, and exit stage right. With all the doo-doo masquerading as rock these days, a little Dada sounds pretty good by comparison.

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