On the rock 'n' roll road to ruin, you'll pass by plenty of bands that came close. Bands that tasted the sorbet but never made it to the big kids' table. Bands whose legacy is prefixed with an "almost" or suffixed with a "so close."
Rochester hard-rock outfit Hard Rain is a prime example of a group that made it -- as far as I'm concerned -- when the band came together to play its brand of incendiary hard rock in the early 90's. And the band made it again Saturday night to a packed, borderline frenzied crowd at Nola's BBQ on Lake Avenue. It was the first time in almost 20 years that Hard Rain -- John Akers, Paul Akers, Erik Welsh, and the now-living-in-Deutschland Rudy Valentino -- had stood on stage together.
Despite the icy conditions and the, well, hard rain outside, the place was a sardine tin, nut-to-butt, floor to the ceiling, jammed up by the stage and swinging from the balcony. The band came out blazing and played as ferociously fun as ever, the only difference being the radical change in the amount of hair on stage. Back in the band's initial launch onto the scene, it was hirsute Hard Rain that banged its head under wavy locks. Those waves of hair have since waved goodbye, replaced by three shaved-clean chrome domes up front. Honestly I thought the new look gave the band an ominous presence even more suited to the music.
The band played virtually everything off "Peace is not a Fashion," and vocalist John Akers never had to sing alone as everyone in the joint (bartenders and bouncers included) knew all the words. The band was in fine form, never missed a beat, and came on big and loud. There was a hint of nostalgia and a collective reminiscent tear shed when a toast was made to the late, great champion of local music, Unkle Roger. I can't believe it has been 10 years without Unk. What a fantastic show, what a wonderful night.
I love seeing bands play at The Beale on South Avenue, as they shoehorn themselves onto the windowsill the restaurant calls a stage. I braved the ass-chapping cold this past Thursday to catch Genesee Johnny and the River Rats. The last time I remember seeing Johnny, it was solo, foot-stompin' Delta style with a cross-section of Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt and so on. It was the same thing this time around, except Johnny had a band this time around to stomp and flesh out the man's finger-picked, lo-fi slide and electrified country blues.
As it was also Son House night at the joint, musicians got up to add to the jam, including Washboard Dave. Dave's rag-tag assembly of pots and pans and assorted cymbals and things that he whacks at with thimble-covered fingers gave the show the feel of a garage sale come to life.
Friday night was a blast at Abilene -- unless you were under 6'5". The Hi-Risers completely sardined the joint to the delight to those who could jockey for a look-see, and all who could hear. I imagine the crowd was no big deal for guitarist Greg Townson as he just returned from a gig in Mexico City with Los Straitjackets where the band drew 50,000 rabid fans. That's 50,000, baby.
It's hard to get out to get down on a cold Monday night, but thankfully I did just that to catch one of the best shows I've seen in a long, long time. Pennsylvania punkers Moistboyz packed Lovin' Cup and painted the walls with the enthusiastic crowd's brains. It was an incredibly tight set of angry, breakneck sing-along, anthem-esque rock.
Shirtless singer Dickie Moist -- a la Henry, a la Iggy -- was a tantrum personified as he seethed and raged and wallowed about the stage, all the while defiantly chain smoking cigarettes. The band, which also included guitarist Dean Ween (Ween) and bassist Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), played tight and furious, without overshadowing its reckless energy, false starts and all. And with MDG at the board the sound was incredibly big and loud. It made me moist...
This is a band so new, it ain't got a name yet. It got slapped together after Denver, Colorado, strummer and crooner Eddie Clendening sat in for an impromptu jam at Abilene with The Lustre Kings. Clendening is here on business. It just so happens that rockin' is his business, and business is good. He's performing as part of "Good Rockin' Live: A Salute to Sun Records," now playing at the Winton Road location of Downstairs Cabaret Theatre. So on his nights off he's plugged into a locomotive rhythm section with Hot Rod Mike Graham (Electro Kings) and Jason Smay (Hi-Risers, JD McPherson) to make up this killer nameless combo. They rocked The Record Archive's Black Friday house on, well, Black Friday.
You may recognize the name from when Clendening played the part of Elvis Presley as part of the hit Broadway sensation "Million Dollar Quartet," which came to the Auditorium Theatre a few years back. But salutes to the King and all the King's men on the Sun label and beyond are just a mere whisper of what this mile-high rockabilly cat is capable of, especially in this line-up.
Clendening knows the great American rockabilly songbook inside and out, as well as the more obscure names like Johnny Powers, Joe Clay, Ronnie Dawson, and Mickey Baker (of Mickey and Sylvia fame). But it's when he digs into his own material off his killer album "Walkin and Cryin'" that the man truly shines with a period-correct reverence and contemporary sting. Clendending's guitar has teeth, with a naturally nasty tone driven by his bare hands. His thump-and-scream leads remind me a lot of the late Paul Burlison's work with The Rock and Roll Trio. It's some of the best rockabilly I've heard, ever -- and I listen to a lot, man.
Don't blame Danielle Ponder. She can't help it. No matter what kind of band you put her in front of, the soul is there. You can't hide genuine soul. That's not to say she was trying to hide anything with her grooving set following Clendening's trio at the Archive, but her new band, Tomorrow People, is abbreviated and a little more straight ahead -- a little less r&b than Black August and a bit less angular than Filthy Funk -- and it comes off sweet and rocking. What remains is Ponder's passion. She doesn't just sing the notes, but rather wrings the blood and tears out of them. She is an incredibly gifted singer that is felt as much as she is heard.