When I first saw Link Wray in Chicago in '98, I was pretty sure it was gonna be the last. He was scarecrow thin and shuffled when he walked. His wife was this loud, overbearing Danish battleaxe (the kind that drive men to drink or to sit in their idling cars with the garage door shut). Link was an old man who had lived 69 hard rock 'n' roll years. He seemed pleasant yet somewhat timid and fragile.
That was until the man took to the stage and struck the opening chord to "Rumble" reeeal slow and reeeal loud until it was a solid wall of wailing multi-octave feedback.
It's this rock infusion, I'm sure, that's kept him alive, in order to play his head off like he did last Monday, May 9, at Milestones with The Priests.
The Priests played a hot set dialed back to a slow grind. With buckshot eyes and a borrowed organ, the quartet won over a crowd that by the looks of it was unfamiliar with The Priests. Their set was short, so the audience didn't get to witness the slow winding descent into the shadows and broken gear, where most of their shows wind up.
Link was loud. LOUD. The volume from the stage was almost to 120 decibels. And he kept asking for more, his bony finger jabbing upwards between chords and whammy bar yanks. Link --- dressed in black --- slinked ominously across the stage and blazed through all his hits like "Jack The Ripper," "Ace Of Spades," "Run Chicken Run," and "I'm Branded." It was a sweet departure when he crooned "Mansion on a Hill," where he somehow worked Charles Bronson's name into the words.
The Assault --- three women from NYC --- helped shatter my recent girl-band skepticism last Saturday at The Bug Jar. Sure they were cute, but the music they played was cocksure and mean --- a little grunge-y too. I like rock kinda ugly. I'll get my cute and sweet from magazines, thank you.
The Staggers followed with a really loud hard rock set that starred John Campbell's massive drum kit and his massive playing. He was pounded like a rabid locomotive and the band kept up. When I left, I could taste blood.
Monday the 16th and Clarksdale, Mississippi's Jimbo Mathus and Knockdown South was the first big act at the recently re-opened Montage Grille. Though the audience was rather sparce, the new PA was fantastic. So's the stage. Full of southern charm and muddy water blues, Mathus casually called out a loose set (apparently off the top of his head) and jammed with mucho boogie and soul. Mathus' blues has a mean streak disguised nicely by his gold-toothed smile and shaggy good looks.