Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DirtBlanche 2005

DirtBlanche 2005: The Dirtbombs;Blanche;Mike St. Jude & The Valentines
@ Beachland Ballroom
Cleveland, OH – November 26, 2005

How can it happen that two fairly unknown bands with small followings manage to turn a Saturday night after Thanksgiving in Cleveland into the biggest event of the year? By the small followings spreading the word and pumping up the energy for the most deliciously unexpected musical gig in recent memory. In the interest of full disclosure, I co-run two fan pages on My Space.com, one for the Dirtbombs and one for Blanche. In a limited tooting of our own horn, me and my partner in crime run fairly respectable websites, not simply sugarcoating the bands with praise but actually keeping up to date and serving as the unofficial resource for all things Dirtbombs and Blanche in the My Space.com universe and as a summary of news and info from the official sources.

Blanche and The Dirtbombs have very few things in common and none of them seem to be musically: They are part of the same, fairly small, Detroit Rock N Roll community. They play their different sounds with the same old-fashioned recording ethic as their Detroit cohorts. Dirtbombs leader Mick Collins and Blanche leader Dan John Miller are two of the more established rockers in this community, known to a significant number of Rock n Roll fans worldwide. And both bands happen to share a good deal of the same fans, not just in Detroit, but from without, spanning generations and the continent, and yes, even the globe. And, as already mentioned, they share the common authors of their unofficial My Space.com pages.

So how did the small following get this thing off the ground? The gig had already been announced in late August by those who do those kinds of things. But the small following did its part. For my part, I came up with, as far as I know, with the title of DirtBlanche. And when my partner came up with the first official poster, the year was slapped on it, giving off the hope that this would become something of an annual event. Other members of the small following starting using the phrase “DirtBlanche” in all their music communique. And sure enough, not too long after the DirtBlanche moniker was thrown out there, the official Blanche website used the term.
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So now we come to Cleveland. Why Cleveland? Again, that is for those who do those kinds of things, but there is at least a couple good arguments for Cleveland: It is not too far from Detroit, and shares that same blue-collar Rock N Roll love…so much so, that the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (which is kind of a disappointment for reasons not to be gone into here) is in Cleveland. And so DirtBlanche came to the Beachland Ballroom, a long time respected venue off the beaten path. A simple hall in a simple building, Beachland offered the exact simplicity and lack of hoopla that DirtBlanche needed to not become over hyped. Don’t ask me what I mean by that, I am not even sure that means anything. But I know it makes this paragraph fuller and helps emphasize that I thought the venue was damn good.

Opening act Mike St. Jude & The Valentines offered up gentle countryish pop-rock. Advertised as a new version of Squeeze and Nick Lowe, the band is actually more along the lines of Ryan Adams meets Credence Clearwater Revival. And that’s a good thing. But the sad fact is, no one cared about the opening act. No one was going to care unless the band was known to the small following that dominated the healthy but not overstuffed crowd.

Blanche came out to officially kick DirtBlanche off and boy did they ever. Dan welcomed everyone to DirtBlanche 2005 and throughout the set proceeded to call the night as such, tying it to the idea of it being a Saturday-After-Thanksgiving event, and giving the hope that this will indeed become an annual event. That set the buzz off into overdrive, and the fans loved every minute of it. Blanche introduced even more new songs than they had done all year, just one week off from recording the follow-up album to 2004’s Best Album of the Year, If We Can’t Trust The Doctors. Some of the very new stuff came off a little rusty but the band made up for it with skillfully playing their gorgeous old timey-country rock. Whether it was the now classic balladry of “Do You Trust Me?” or the newer Western Swing of “At Least I Didn’t Quit”, Blanche remains the most charmingly haunting band in America.


If Blanche was the concert, the Dirtbombs were the party. Starting off with “Trainwreck” before the now requisite “Start the Party/Get It While You Can”, Mick and company did what they always do, what they seemingly can only do, play funked-up, soul-driven punk garage rock. And even that term doesn’t do justice. Seeing the Dirtbombs for the fifth time this year, I expected the same set as all year long, but the band surprised this old dog with new songs and refurbished energy. It was a fitting culmination for a Dirtbombs year that included the ultimate compilation experience, If You Don’t Already Have A Look. As of right now, the next round of Dirtbombs touring, for the upcoming New Year, begins in Hoboken and Brooklyn next February. Start the party over again.


All night long, before, during, and after their performances, Dan and Mick kept the crowd involved, through jokes and conversation. It could have been an empty echo-filled hall, or a packed, sweaty crowd, but either way or in between, the Dirtbombs and Blanche emphasized what DirtBlanche and Detroit Rock n Roll is all about. It’s about a community. It’s a community of fans and accessible down to earth artists. Though much of the praise from the bands’ following may sound like making these folks larger-than-life figures, the truth is these bands are beloved because they play their music so well and don’t let it get to their heads. It’s like if your own friends played music that should be on the radio. Even when it happens that a certain leader of a certain band has a major role in the Hollywood film about Johnny Cash’s life, Walk the Line, currently in theaters, you’d have no reason to think anything other than the truth: this is a community, almost a family, that loves to do one thing: get together and have a damn good time. The Dirtbombs are a little more well known than Blanche, and a lot harder, and they’ve garnered enough buzz that there are more reports of moshing at shows (the pattern repeats itself…if you know what I mean). So the future may be a little shaky, but the DirtBlanche community, the good time Rock n Roll community, will stay strong. A good community does that. That’s the spirit of DirtBlanche, and that’s why it’s fitting to have it on Thanksgiving weekend, and that’s why it needs to be an annual event.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Dirtblanche 2005 & The Rest of the Year

Well with Thanksgiving less than a week away, it's the first sign of yet another year of our lives coming to an end. And what a year for rock n roll. Yours truly has gone to a personal-best 36 gigs this year (blowing away last year's record setting 21 gigs). And we're not finished.

First up is the big one. The unbelievable one. Dirtblanche 2005 at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. It will be my first time in Cleveland, and the first time I am seeing a gig in a place that isn't the New York City or Philadelphia metro areas. And I am taking a 12 hour 770 mile road trip to get there from little ol' Springfield, Missouri. I will be seeing the American Heartland for the first time...Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. Or as I call it, Red State, Blue State, Red State, Fucked Up State. Ok no politics in this post, I promise.

So why is Dirtblanche so big? Not just because of the eclectic nature of the Dirtbombs playing the same gig with Blanche...but because these are the two bands I care so much about that I started My Space pages for them with my Roxxan of Freshgigs and Blanche Manual. I am glad to say both those pages have been well-received and are doing well. Dirtblanche 2005 will be a culmination of this Dirtblanche year (and who knows what next year will bring with a new Blanche album, and even more Dirtbombs shows).

As for the rest of the year, New York will be hopping straight through New Year's. Immediately after Dirtblanche, the Dandy Warhols will close out November at Webster Hall. Let it be said that I hate Webster Hall. It's hot, stuffy, and fucking expensive.

December is packed. Southern Culture on the Skids make their triumphant return to the Big Apple with two shows (Maxwell's and Southpaw). Iron & Wine will soothe the soul for 3 nights at Webster Hall. The Deadly Snakes will play Mercury Lounge then Maxwell's 3 days later with the Black Lips. And X - that's right - X....I will say it again....X....is playing Roseland Ballroom. Everyone and their grandma better be there. And all of those shows are within the first 10 days of the month!

The middle of December does not let up. The Sights are back to play Maxwell's before opening up for the Donnas at Irving Plaza the next night. I have never really been sold on the Donnas but having Eddie Baranek around will help the night out for sure. I won't be there because on the same night in Southpaw, Reverend Horton Heat returns to New York. The week finishes off with the Lemonheads playing two nights at Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn heroes Living Colour playing their biggest New York date in a long time at Irving Plaza.

The last week of December, and the year, feature a week-long residency at Maxwell's for Yo La Tengo. It's a Hoboken Hanukah this year! Also, not a bad way to spend Christmas Night, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Night too. Also on New Year's Eve so far, will be in their hometown of Brooklyn to play Northsix and They Might Be GiantsClap Your Hands Say Yeah is doing it at Irving Plaza (wow talk about a meteroic rise eh?).

And just to show you, things are still ticking into the New Year's, The Yarrows - who should be getting a My Space page if they listen to their smart, sharp drummer (yeah yeah, he's a long time friend of mine, ok?)...are playing the Charleston in Williamsburg on January 28. And just a few weeks after that?....you guessed it....the Dirtbombs.

Those of you in the New York area, if you can't make any of these gigs, or want something else to do in the meantime, go to Terra Blues on Bleeker St. by Laguardia Place, and catch hot, jumpin' blues nightly.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Well, Well

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about the travails of one Mark Sultan, AKA BBQ, and his efforts to get across the border from Canada to play rock n roll shows. He was thwarted by a jerk-off border patrol officer looking to bust balls like a overpaid, bored cop on the beat. Well, Mark made it after all, and thank goodness he did:

King Khan & BBQ Show
@Magnetic Field
Brooklyn, NY – November 11, 2005

Responsible for one of the best albums of the year, the Montreal guitar/guitar & foot pedal duo King Khan & BBQ Show reflect what’s best about the stripped down minimalist retro movement when it takes different roads. In this incarnation, it’s old time 50’s rock n roll and doo-wop with a twist of hardcore punk. Opening up with a surf rock/Chuck Berry-ish wallop, Khannie & The B drive right into a bevy of hard driving but foot stomping good rock n roll. “Fish Fight”, arguably the single best song of 2005, is the ultimate garage rock anthem while “Shake Real Low” maybe even surpasses it’s dance-craze ancestors of rock n roll yore. Forget maybe. It blows “The Twist” away, that’s for sure. In between, songs like “I Love You So” and “Outta My Mind” reflect the skill with which the duo ferry between hard and soft. If there was one problem this night, besides instrument problems (which seem to haunt BBQ every time he comes to Brooklyn) it was the venue. It was too small in its anticipation of a crowd for King Khan & BBQ as well as headliners the Black Lips. The stage was too small and was obscured from all in the bar except for the handful of people right upfront.

The Black Lips; King Khan & BBQ Show; DC Snipers
Hoboken, NJ – November 13, 2005

I caught the Black Lips this time, at the much more comfy Maxwell’s, but I didn’t stay. It sounded like good rock n roll fun. But once again, King Khan & BBQ ruled the night. With more room to wiggle (and Khan to change into his girl outfit, before spitting beer all over my fedora), the makers of the year’s swingin’est rock n roll record had the whole place jumpin’. Utterly flawless. Openers DC Snipers had an offensive name (it’s like having a band called The 9/11 Hijackers, ya know?) and played marginally good hard punk n roll.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

The Black Keys; The Mighty Imperials
@Irving Plaza
New York, NY – November 9, 2005

For all my praise and love of Detroit bands, one band that rivals this love when it comes to consistent studio work, and especially on stage, is Akron, Ohio’s The Black Keys. Guitarist/lead singer Dan Auerbach defies the mind when his light speaking voice turns into a soulful, blues, dare-I-say…black…growl and melodic cadence. The guitar work is stellar to say the least, mixing it up and chopping it down like a blues scythe. Drummer Patrick Carney pounds it out with rhythmic fury despite his seemingly emotionless persona. The Black Keys are the ultimate nexus between blues, garage, and arena rock (the best of Zeppelin gone garage with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters). Talk about a bang for your buck. Openers The Mighty Imperials are a professional funk-rock jam band. If you like that sort of stuff, then you’d like these guys.

The Black Keys; Nathaniel Mayer with Troy Gregory, Matthew Smith, and Dave Shettler
@ Warsaw
Brooklyn, NY – November 10, 2005

Another night of absolutely flawless rock n roll and blues. Warsaw is an excellent venue, which only helps the vibe of the night (you can’t beat an intimate show with cheap booze and kielbasa and potato pancakes and perogies). This night, however, featured a flawless opening act as well – the one, the only Nathaniel Mayer, an aging old soul and blues rock n roller, who scored a couple hits in the Golden Age before being resurrected by Fat Possum Records. Dressed in funky kung fu attire, Mr. Mayer aims to please…especially the ladies. Kitschy? Yes but so what? Nathaniel Mayer has earned it. And with this kind of band, he can do whatever he wants. That’s right, another Mr. One-and-Only, the unstoppable, unfailing, ubiquitous, humble Mr. Troy Gregory on bass. Outrageous Cherry leader Matthew Smith wailing away on guitar…he seems to surprise himself at his ability to play in a powerhouse rock n roll way, rather than his usual psychedelic pop ease. Drummer Dave Shettler, formerly of the Sights and Nathaniel’s regular band the Shanks, is as solid as they come, and he also carries a disarmingly charming pop singing voice to help the gruff, scorched voice of Nathaniel along. And that’s the thing about Nathaniel Mayer…his voice is by all means gone. It sounds like a robotic voice box when he speaks. Years of booze, cigs, and god knows what else have taken their toll…but when the music begins, that voice is something from another planet. Whether it be a rockin’ blues number (especially the unbelievably impressive opener “What’s Your Name?”) or a touching ballad of old, that voice is stunningly on track and full of what every inspired rock n roller wants…soul.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Holy Hell

Demolition Doll Rods; The Choke, others
New York, NY – November 4, 2005

One of the older, and certainly more distinct, Detroit garage acts, the Demolition Doll Rods come on stage barely wearing anything at all, and when they do, it’s something akin to a whorehouse meets Flash Gordon. Yeah that’s about as good as I can come up with. The Doll Rods, featuring Dan Kroha of the legendary Gories, serve up hard rock n roll, a little punk, and a big helpin’ of soul. That streak of soul is the defining difference between the Doll Rods and the other bands of the night. The Doll Rods lead female singer wails like she’s taking you to church in her banter between songs – a sexy church at that. While the other bands played soulless hardcore punk, the Doll Rods summon the gods of old and rock out on “That Spoonful”, the Howlin’ Wolf classic. Now that’s how you’re supposed to do it.

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