Thursday, October 24, 2019

The F Word: Mirth, monkeyshines, and beer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Last Friday night, I found myself at the Bug Jar getting jostled to and fro — well actually, more fro than to. The joint was sold out to the walls. The crowd had successfully shoehorned itself into the venue to dig New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Screaming Females — a ferocious band that punctuates its music with full-throttle vocal vibrato and howlin’ guitar.

But I was initially caught off-guard by when my ears landed on the opening act Dusk — an absolute blessing to the world of organized sound.

There was so much going on with this Appleton, Wisconsin band, but the lap steel and organ, working in tandem, stood out. The steel painted the walls with lonely swathes of big-sky vistas. The organ strode velvety and underground. It was country meets the streets. All thriller, no filler.

Screaming Females’ music is the sound of violence, wrapped up in a rock ’n’ roll backbeat you can’t lose. As lead vocalist, Marissa Paternoster roared savage and sweet. As a guitarist, she was amazing as she skirted around riffs that were both agitated and sublime. What a friggin’ wild show.

***

It was a surreal Sunday night over at Lux Lounge, as if a honky-tonk had taken over the place. And I’m not talking about sawdust floors, longnecks, or shitkicker stuff, either. Honky Tonk Henry was at the keys just a-pumpin’ away as Danny “Knuckles” Sullivan waited his turn at the 88’s. A drummer and a harmonica player were there, too.

A sing-along was brewing on classic songbook staples such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and everybody was wearing a hat — provided at the door, for those who weren’t already chapeau-ing. It was all in an attempt on Lux’s part to fill the Sunday with mirth, monkeyshines, and beer.

It was clearly an homage to the late Betty Meyer’s Bullwinkle Cafe; the eclectic, electric bar on Lake Avenue where Meyer paraded around the place with her accordion, leading the patronage in song. It closed in 2007, and Meyer passed away in 2013 at the age of 90. I hope Lux keeps this going. ‘Twas deluxe.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

The F Word: Our Lady of the Blessed Three Heads

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 2:45 PM

I fired up the jalopy and loaded it with the Australian contingent here in town to celebrate Mrs. De Blase's 5-0 a couple of Fridays ago. They wanted to hear some live music and down some righteous bar-b-que. After plowing through the majority of a pig at the Dinosaur, we rolled over to Abilene to see roots rock sensations Smooth Hound Smith do its roots rock thing.

Direct from East Nashville, the band — featuring singer Caitlin Doyle-Smith and her guitar-slingin' ball and chain, Zack Smith — rocked it right all night with plenty of ballsy blues and sweet harmony. Everyone's defying genres these days, and SHS is no different, especially when they broke into what can only be described as disco Americana.

Next, it was off to Iron Smoke Distillery to dig the whiskey-soaked fun of The Cool Club & The Lipker Sisters. It was like a USO concert gone off the rails, with a relatively packed dance floor full of rug-cutting jitterbugs. The Cool Club kept it cool, while the Sisters kept it hot. I could feel the heat all the way to the street as I lindy-hopped back to the big blue mariah, and agitated some gravel as we headed west.

***

Last Thursday was the night for exceeding expectations. Now I had heard Amy Helm's new-ish, Joe Henry-produced album and liked it a whole lot. It was competent, it was resilient, and the songs quickly took up residence in my head.

Well the music didn't do that for me at her Three Heads Brewing show, since she blew the top of my head off and scattered its meager contents all over the ceiling. Incidentally, that's where Three Heads has smartly chosen to fly the mains in order to achieve optimal sound distribution and spread.

Like I said, the record was great, but the live show was sizzling with bass, guitar, and drums. The music was full of happy soul at Three Heads Brewing. Helm sang like she was singing in a church that was on fire — Our Lady of the Blessed Three Heads.

She dug into the back catalogue in her brain, which included the Boss, Tom Petty, The Band, and Sam Cook, along with her own stuff. Her trio was tighter than hipster corduroys, and she gave each band member ample turns in the spotlight. Great show. 10 out of 10.

***

If you're a fan of classic burlesque — which actually offers more than just pasties and G-strings — you still encounter the same question. Is it exploitation, or is it empowerment?

I decided to (ahem) get to the bottom of this. So I beat feet to Anthology last Monday night to dig the SuicideGirls and their Blackheart Burlesque show. What I know of the SuicideGirls is their tattooed punk aesthetic. I figured It was gonna be more twerk than classic bump 'n' grind — and me, with an open mind.

In a word, the show was double-wow: a hip-shakin', torso-tossin' wow-wow. It was clever and up-to-date, including a "Star Wars" stormtrooper send-up and a "Stranger Things" striptease. It was really engaging.

There were a few quick nods to the burlesque of yesteryear, with some Rusty Warren-esque humor recounted by Little Bo Peep, and a trio of dancers that shimmied with nothing between them and the audience's eager, bloodshot eyes but three green ostrich feather fans. The well-choreographed routines all had the same, well, routine ending, with the dancer wearing next to nothing except for pasties fashioned out of electrical tape.

Now for the question I posed: Is it exploitation, or is it empowerment? Please tell me what you think. F has left the building.

Frank De Blase is CITY's staff music writer. He can be reached at frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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