BAD EXAMPLES 1/4 & 1/5, FITZGERALD'S I was never a huge fan of the Bad Examples--front man Ralph Covert's sappy streak might not have been as baby-butt naked as it is on the solo album he dedicated to his daughter, but couched in Beatles-esque melodies it's in some ways worse. Quite a few people were, though, and the band certainly went out of its way to reward those folks: in 1999, Covert pulled the members from various lineups into a studio in an attempt to capture all the tunes the band had played live but never recorded over the past dozen years, and in 2000 he put on a farewell show whose three sets featured three of the band's four major lineups. Since then Covert's cultivated a nice little solo career, writing plays and releasing a well-received kids' album, but these reunion shows are billed as a record-release party for the live album culled from last year's farewell show--a cycle that could theoretically never end. VON BONDIES 1/4, EMPTY BOTTLE Sometimes it seems like all these Detroit kids must be saving up their pennies to get a giant bronze statue of Iggy erected in front of the Renaissance Center, but the sound on the Von Bondies' Lack of Communication (Sympathy for the Record Industry) goes outside the Motor City for inspiration as well. It's got some twang to its swagger, with nods to Link Wray, the Seeds, the 13th Floor Elevators, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins; cool, switchblade-slow numbers like "Cass & Henry" balance out the hot thrash of, say, the title track, which opens with a well-done "I Wanna Be Your Dog" rip. It's hardly original, of course, but that doesn't mean it's not good. VULGAR BOATMEN 1/4, SCHUBAS This semilegendary roots-pop act was never especially prolific in the studio, and with personnel in Florida and Indiana, it operated for much of its life as two mostly different bands playing the same songs to different geographical segments of the fan base. As the Boatmen entered a period of relative dormancy in the mid-90s, members went on to form or play with other critically adored but popularly ignored bands, among them the Silos (whose Walter Salas-Humara was a founding member of the Florida branch), the Mary Janes, and the Gentle Readers. Lately, though, a revived Vulgar Boatmen headed by the Indiana auteur, Dale Lawrence, has been gigging up a storm in the midwest. Lawrence also plays keyboards in the band that opens this show, Mysteries of Life, with the husband-and-wife team of Jake Smith and ex-Blake Baby Freda Love, which has started its own label, No Nostalgia; it will soon be presenting a Vulgar Boatmen best-of compilation. That might seem a little gratuitous, since the band released only three proper albums--but at least two of them are out of print, a fact No Nostalgia intends to remedy further down the line. HENTCHMEN 1/5, EMPTY BOTTLE Detroit's clean-looking, dirty-playing Hentchmen are something it's very difficult to be in modern-day indieland: a singles band. They've cranked out almost 20 of what folks used to call 45s, for their main label, Norton, as well as Estrus, Front Porch, Get Hip, and others, since '93. And once upon a time, when there really was such a thing as regional radio--one of the many faces of "justice in this world"--they probably would have scored a few genuine hits and done the midwest proud on a "Pebbles" or "Nuggets" comp or two. (Instead, they get to tour Europe and fraternize with the White Stripes.) They have four albums, too, all on Norton--but the too-much-of-a-good-thing factor aside, there's something about an album that says "living room," and the Hentchmen's scrappy guitar-organ-drum sound screams "meet me in the garage, and bring beer." The giddy local synth-pop duo Happy Supply, who have a new single on Hyde Park's Dutch Courage label, headlines; opening are the Afflictions, among whom are members of Lozenge and Hoodoo Hoedown, two bands I never thought I'd mention in the same sentence. HYPNOFUGUE 1/5, DOUBLE DOOR House DJ Eddie Vasquez is the undisputed star of this local trio--the activities of guitarists Roger Dexter and Ian Brown definitely qualify as "backup" (and even Dexter's coyly campy singing is generally unobtrusive). Though at times the metallic riffing around the beats pushes the "industrial" button, their self-released first album, All Over You, is mostly scary-cute in that I-watch-too-much-anime-while-I'm-stoned kind of way, especially on, say, "Bunnies and Spiders." BLACK JACK JOHNSON PROJECT 1/9, METRO Rapper Mos Def told Billboard a while back that his intention with this band (yes, band) was to show those stiff young rap rockers how it's really done--and he couldn't have picked a more qualified cast than P-Funk keyboard whiz Bernie Worrell, Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish, and Bad Brains guitarist Dr. Know. A New York Magazine article from the fall reports them at various times playing Bob Marley covers, Jimi Hendrix's "Who Knows" interpolated with Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours," and an old Bad Brains tune.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Calabazitaz Tiernaz.