Column 31: Battle of the Bands; Ladyfinger plays cheap-beer night

Category: Blog — @ 12:18 pm June 30, 2005

I noticed the strange darkness as I approached Sokol Underground last night for the Bettie Serveert show. Then I saw that the lot was empty. “Power out” said the sign on the door. “Moved to O’Leaver’s.” I pondered this for a moment, remembering that the band drew around 150 when they came through in February, remembering that 100 is close to the limit at O’Leaver’s, and decided to pass if only to preserve the comfort for those who purchased advanced tickets (two words: I care). Plus, it was already almost 11. On top of that, I totally forgot the Teenage Harlots/Bombardment Society show at The Brothers (I’m an idiot!).

Half of column 31, below, is a rehash of last Thursday’s blog entry/review of the June 22 Ladyfinger show (cleaned up slightly). You can catch Ladyfinger tonight at The Olympic Lounge with Bombardment Society (these guys play a lot) and Fromanhole. Tix are $10, but pitchers of PBR and Busch are only a quarter ALL NIGHT LONG. Don’t know when The Philharmonic are playing again, but it’s not soon enough.

Column 31: The New Breed
Two new bands elbow their way to the front of the line.
Getting tired of that ol’ indie-rock shtick?

You know what I’m talking about — all those bands that have cornered the market on jangling guitars, warbly off-key vocals, shuffling snare rhythms and bad posture? The bands whose songs are studies in introspective navel-gazing by guys who can’t seem to get over their last break-up?

I am. Seems like we’ve been hearing that same ol’ song way too much lately. Even yours truly — Mr. Indie Rock himself — is beginning to yawn and nod off during long sessions with his i-Pod. Really, how many low-fi, low-energy, introspective, pseudo-folk, sons/daughters of Pavement, REM and Sebadoh can a person stand before blacking out on an overdose of ennui?

As cheesy as this sounds, sometimes you just wanna rock. And this past week I saw a couple bands that did just that.

It started Thursday night. Ladyfinger was at O’Leaver’s playing at their coming out party of sorts, even though they’ve been out for quite a while. Too bad I didn’t get to see much of it. Oh, I heard it all, the whole blistering set, but I couldn’t see it because the place was stacked from “stage” to railing with people standing to watch the sweat fly. It was a crush mob, the type of O’Leaver’s crowd usually reserved for a Simon Joyner or Tim Kasher show.

And why not? Word is out that these guys are the next “it” band. Consisting of Ethan Jones, bass/vocals; Pat Oakes, drums; Chris Machmuller, guitar/vocals, and Jamie Massey, guitar, Ladyfinger’s style is pure throwback, buzzing and howling to a beat that’s distinctly mid-’90s agro-punk a la Ritual Device; ratcheted minor-key buzzsaw guitars bordering on metal planted atop a throbbing bass line. Listening to Ladyfinger is like putting a couple feral cats in a cardboard box, shaking it up, and dropping it down a tumbling flight of stairs. Once it comes to a stop, open up the carton and put your hand inside. Static aggression. Anger and energy. Simultaneously frightening and exhilarating, but with a beat.

Sure, you won’t remember a single melody when you get home and take out your ear-plugs, but you’ll remember it was tight; you’ll remember they were good. Repeated listenings are a must if you want to figure out what in hell it all means. I don’t know how they’ll do it in the studio. Rumors have circulated for months that labels are sniffing around these guys. Thursday night’s crowd will keep the rumors buzzing.

Then there’s The Philharmonic — a company of hard-rocking degenerates featuring guitarist/vocalist and chief pouter Chris Esterbrooks (or just “Brooks” for short) and once-handsome bassist Marc Phillips — both formerly of the rockabilly-gospel-firebreathing-freak-out act The Carsinogents. Add second guitarist Mike Saklar (No Blood Orphan, Mal Madrigal, ex-Ravine), and out-of-control drummer Jeff Heater (ex-Men of Porn, whether he likes it or not) and you’ve got yourself a bomb ready to explode.

I’ve heard them described as a cross between The Wipers and The Hot Snakes — and still don’t know what that means. I liken them to edgy ’70s guitar punk meets edgy ’70s bombastic heavy metal — brash, fast and ready to pose for the cameras, boot-up-your-ass music without a hint of ennui. Brooks, held back as a sideman for years with the Carsinogents, lets it all hang out with classic rock ‘n’ roll panache (Spitting out a burning cigarette before screaming into the mic; doing the ol’ stand-on-the-chair-during-my-solo routine).

Like Ladyfinger, don’t ask me what their songs were about. I don’t know, and I don’t care. And neither did a standing crowd at The 49’r Saturday night that looked like they were ready to pounce when Brooks said there was no more.

As the scene begins to tire of all the flaccid indie posing, these two bands stand at the forefront of where it’s all headed next. Don’t get in their way.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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