One country, indivisible, with libertines and music for all.
Thursday, March 30, 2000
What''s Up, Chuck?
By God, it''s a weekend that makes a person proud to be an American.You want good roadhouse, rockabilly blues? The kind of music that made this country great? We got it this weekend. The Nighthawks, straight from the heart of Washington, DC.
You want weirdly indescribable music that has all the elements of a bluegrass band--but mixed with the artistic sensibilities of a lovechild born from an unholy tryst between Dr. Demento and Jerry Garcia? Yeah, we got that, too, with The Asylum Street Spankers.
Let''s start with the Nighthawks, a band that''s been rocking the DC area since 1972. Founding member Mark Wenner, on harmonica and vocals, delivers a soulful brew of original songs and covers of blues classics by guys like Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. The truth is, you can find bands with a more original sound than the Nighthawks, and you can find bands that revel more in musical artistry. But there aren''t many bands that rock with more good-time abandon. The closest thing I can come up with is the old Blasters, before Dave Alvin split the group. But that comparison isn''t really right, either. The ''hawks have more variety in their sound, veering much deeper into the blues and then slamming into a country-western groove. The rockabilly thing just the middle ground they cross as they swing from one sound to the other.
The Nighthawks are really more like an über bar band, serving up enough variety in their music to satisfy a broad cross section of drinkers and dancers. This is the kind of music that you''d want to find on a Friday night at a juke joint on the outskirts of town, the kind of place that seems a little on the dangerous side. The kind of place that has Harleys in the parking lot and tattoos around the bar. If it were a movie, these guys would be on stage and they wouldn''t lose their groove, even while the rowdies trashed the joint.
Think of it as hardcore party music.
The Nighthawks, Thursday, 9pm. Sly McFly''s, 649-8050.
If comparisons and descriptions for the Nighthawks are tough, trying to capture The Asylum Street Spankers is damn-near impossible--as anybody who saw them at First Night Monterey last year can attest. Let''s start with the easy stuff.
First, you won''t find any amplifiers anywhere near the Spankers. You will find a broad assortment of acoustic instruments--ukeleles, guitars, washboards, kazoos, mandolins, banjos, clarinets, musical saws, drums, woodblocks and vocal chords--wielded by the nine members of the band.
The Austin-based band describes itself as a "vaudeville riot...swaggering through woozy jazz, galloping country, wistful ragtime, martial blues, Hawaiian bliss and a couple of of genres apparently invented during the sessions." Yeah, that''s about right. They can also move from sensitively controlled renditions of something like "Summertime" to outrageously Dionysian romps in celebration of a certain herb.
In fact, the band''s latest album is titled Spanker Madness. (Think about it.)
Show producer Nina Kelly says she''s asked the band to "tone it down" for their Friday show at the PG Museum of Natural History. Remember, up until only a little more than three decades ago, Pacific Grove was a dry town--no liquor stores, no bars. Even with a "toned down" concert, the Spankers should generate enough energy to light up the whole town.
And, if you haven''t been Spanked enough by Saturday, you can check out a second show at The Dream Theater, where the Spankers will be providing the live music for a showing of the Charlie Chaplin classic silent movie, The Gold Rush. That ought to be a hoot and a half.
Asylum Street Spankers, Friday, 8pm. Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Central and Forest Avenues, PG. Saturday, noon, The Dream Theater, 301 Prescott St., Monterey. Each event: $17.50/advance; $20/door. Combined ticket for both events: $28.50. 372-5641.