A healthy dose of irony can go a long way towards fun, a goal of music that tends to be obfuscated by its other, more lofty aims. Sometimes, when I press I play, believe it or not, I’m not really looking to lose myself in some transcendental soundvision that takes twenty minutes to get going. And it’s not always necessary for me to be brought to the edge of tears by the universal lyrics of a lionized songsmith. Sometimes, most of the time, I want to laugh and smile, and maybe sing along, to a fun tune that tries to invoke nothing more in the listener than just that.
That’s why I love the Electric Six. I recall the moment they rooted themselves into my brain. We were smoking cigarettes in an empty lot overlooking Lake Champlain, black water doubling the city lights on the horizon. ‘Jimmy Carter’ tested the limits of the car’s speakers (backstreet’s back all right), a song meant to be funny, but one equipped with sufficient cleverness to amount to more than just a laugh. I love Electric Six, I remember yelling over the maxed volume. Tonight, they were coming to Daniel Street.
Nor I opened. The song was ‘As Time Turns,’ fitting, I suppose, for their first show in five years. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an opening band receive such genuine and energetic applause.
By the time they played ‘From Here to There,’ they had established a fine, hardy groove. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, but I liked what they brought. Highhats ticking away, bass carrying, rhythm rolling; I nodded along. An unexpected darkening during the breakdown built up a creeping tension that exploded into a short, triumphant reprieve of the dancey chorus.
Then, a galloping helping of rock and roll. Then, a song as much punk as pop. Then, a ballad of sorts, sustained by the soaring, precise singing of Joe Jules. The ballad built and blew up in the end like a good one should. Then, a simple bouncy number that a fifth of the audience (the fifth closest to the stage, of course) had no problem bouncing along to. I would be amiss not to point out Phil Conine’s funky bass that made the bouncing possible. Then, cheers normally reserved for headliners. I hope to see Nor I again, as soon as possible.
“Life starts tonight!” the grizzly front man yelled at the start of the next set.
Township, all long hair and unpretentious rock, wiggity-whammed right out of the gate. The place felt dingier while they played, in a good way. These gnarly dudes from Boston were bar-band to the core (wisping, knotty locks, blown out sideburns and itchy beards; leather). They did not disappoint.
I was singing along though I’d never heard the song before, a good sign. Simple lines can be golden; they’re inclusive, which is a fine way to describe Township as a whole. They were a cover band (ZZ Top, Zeppelin, ACDC, Aerosmith, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Audioslave, Atomic Bitchwax), except they played original music, and were awesome, to put it plainly.
They sang lofty, metal lyrics, coarse and on key; they beat out beefy arterial bass lines; ground 9 gauge strings into memorable riffs; and hammered it home with primal, hard rock drumming. They were so metal, in fact, they looked like cavemen. A member of the audience was, at one point, coerced into a set of pushups, which he was all too eager to provide for the cause of testosterone. The lead singer, Alex “Side Salad” Necochea knew how to have fun with a crowd.
As soon as I thought I had them pegged, they played ‘Eye,’ a shred heavy epic that I will surely play the next time I’m beating the shit out of dragons with a lightsaber. The final song of their set, ‘Burnin’, was a comfortable jam that summed up their sound and energy into an easily digestible, memorable goodbye. A meandering whammy bar interlude culminated in a high-metal, wig-out two man solo. Wicked.
And somehow I managed to miss the start of Electric Six. Dancing was underway. Electric fever.
“This is a song of public and political activism,” said Dick Valentine, wise man and lead singer of the band, in preface to ‘Future Boys,’ a high hat orgasm and favorite of mine. The crowd did not resist the call to move. It was a small crowd, but I won’t hold that against them.
‘The Future is in the Future’ made me want to karaoke all night long and Macarena till the break of dawn. Mr. Dick Valentine took the liberty of a 3 minute breakdown during this song to riff on Stonebridge, the packed bar across the street. He lamented his inability to love any number of “49 year old women” that doubtlessly awaited his company at the bar. He made it clear where he’d rather be, if not for his “contractual obligation” to entertain the pesky fans that undulated and cheered before him. We stood in his way and were happy for his comedy, which ran throughout the night and through all of their music.
A track off their new album replaced funkydisco with discometal, inciting a mosh pit among the boys who were hand pumping and hip humping (totally in jest though, totally) moments before. Gay Bar brought the pit full-term; it was the first gender neutral mosh pit I’ve encountered.
And then, to prove to me that the night was completely awesome, a beautiful woman emerged from the ruckus of the audience and approached Dan and I, who were tapping our feet along the margin of the crowd. Maybe we looked like we needed to loosen up (I was scrawling madly into a notebook). Maybe we were the first two people she saw. Either way, she gave us a pair of mostly full beers. The plastic cups were slicked by a recent spill; I assume she decided dancing and drinking was not going to happen at the same time. I drank both, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the nameless woman. This is how I had always pictured an E6 show should go.
“Electric Six is a motivational seminar. We have the headsets. We have the bagels. Randy’s hot tonight!”
Among the crowd, through my beer colored glasses, I’d never seen a happier group of dancers. Pockets of bald spots and big girls twisted like 1962. Sleeveless crew cuts, emblazoned baseball caps, branded T-shirts and pristine cabby hats cheered and jumped along unselfconsciously.
Fists pumping, crowd pulsing, Valentine donned a visor and told the crowd to applaud themselves. He informed us that the next song was written in 2005, which, for whatever reason, was cause for celebration. We obliged, laughing, cheering, eating from the palm of his hand. I count myself lucky to have seen these guys in a club half filled by people who really wanted to be there. As soon as I scrawled this thought into my little green pad, I decided to stick it in my pocket and forget about it. I’m not going to bother with the names of any more songs or trite observations. I’m just going to say that, no sooner was that notebook in my pocket, I threw myself into the middle of the crowd and danced like I was drunk at a wedding. I love Electric Six.