Another late night at work had me leaving the garage a little before 9pm on my way straight out to Lawrence. On the way out I ran into co-worker and pal Andy who was on his way in. No one should be going into work on a Monday night at 9pm so I convinced him to be kidnapped and together we headed over on I-70 to Lawrence.
We arrived a bit early and the club was pretty empty. I paid an unfortunately $7 cover and then we went over to play some pool. For once I was the victor winning three of four games (though two on technicalities rather than my own merit) which is odd since when Andy is on, he is quite the shark. 45 minutes later the club was not much fuller though a few friends did show up. None of the indie rockers were through however, which, as Greg Franklin pointed out, means my The-Bottleneck-isn't-a live-music-venue-but-a-social-gathering hypothesis needs to have a caveat added to it. So here it is: when it is a social occasion (ie not a Monday night) the indie kids just hang out at the Bottleneck, they wont go there to see a band if isn't a social occasion. I still stand by my data that very few of them travel anywhere else to see shows but I suppose that's a different issue.
Anyway at nearly 11pm two gals got up on stage and so I went up and stood in front of them. Typing it out it all seems silly, but anyway, yeah when a band plays someone should show they are interested. They evidently have a drummer boy named James in the band, but they decided not to take him along. Boys in BACK -- way back, like back in Olympia.
The duo opened with Hang 'em High originally recorded solo by Star Athena for the Selector Dub Narcotic compilation album but now done with Star on bass and vocals with Brooke playing drums. The live drums were only for the first song, after that a cheap drum machine was used and Brooke moved to guitar for the remainder fo the set.
[Note: Be careful when doing a search for "Star Athena" on the internet, as "Athena Star" is the name of a eighties porn star. Don't get them confused when looking at work when your boss is around, I found out the hard way.]
The band's music is a jangly loose pop thing that you might expect from a grrl-duo from Olympia -- somewhat grrly like Heavens to Betsy, but with more of a classic pop feel. The bass lines lead most of the songs (I imagine Star wrote most of the songs) and the guitar played simple alternating chords for the most parts. Star's vocals are deep and somewhat lazy while Brooke added accent bits that were the riot grrl signature high baby-doll squeal -- if you know the genre, you know what I'm talking about. Brooke performed a few songs that seemed to be her own as the bass lines moved to supporting roles and the guitar became strategic. Although their songs do have a slightly dark feel, the pop formula is never far behind, and the DIY ethos always present.
Star chatted the small audience (around 20) during the set and which can always be scary, especially in such an intimate setting. However she was charming, witty & very gracious which endeared her immediately to everyone in the club and they were begged to play another after they finished the set. Star declined saying she didn't want to impose on Dub Narcotic. Now isn't that sweet?
Earlier in the evening I had been spying the unfamiliar kids in the club to see who might be who on the tour. When Dub Narcotic came go the stage I was a little disappointed to see the band touring as a three piece with Calvin Johnson on acoustic guitar, Heather Dunn (Tiger Trap, Lois) on Drums and Chris Sutton on bass. Without a dedicated guitar player how will Calvin dance with us?
After Calvin introduced the band, the long jamming set began. Of course the bass lead most of the night while Heather's drums plunked along. Calvin seemed content to play a single note repetitively, then add in another note and play that to death, then add in a third until four minutes into the song he was doing a string of four of five notes. Quite a shift from the hyper strummed funk sort of guitar we're used to. It made the set a little more heady, a lot less dancy & a little more painful (in a good way).
All this string picking not only left Calvin with no time to dance, but very little time to sing. Only once did he sing while playing guitar and then only after the guy next to me kept hollering out "Calvin sing a song for us!" Only for one song did he hand the guitar to Heather and pick up the microphone to free him up for some crazy-leg dancing, although it wasn't his usual incredible (and incredibly bad) dancing where he throws his whole being into it for better or worse... he seemed subdued. The crowd on the other hand did a pretty good job of picking up the dance floor slack; it seemed the harder the band tried not to make their show a danceateria, the more the twenty or so dancers lurched, bounced, gyrated and stumbled about in front of the stage. Some very dedicated fans tried to pick up the vocal duties for the very few recognizable songs, but that turned out to be less of a success.
Unlike their previous Bottleneck show, the band ended their set without much incident. Last time there was a frenzied finale with dancers invited on stage to hop around until everyone ultimately collapsed in a sweaty heap, this time the band finished the song, the fans pushed their moist bangs out of their eyes and everyone stopped by the merch table on their way out the door. There is no such thing as a bad Dub Narcotic show, but this one seemed to be a little less of the one thing the band brings that no others do, the music that gets sober punks and indie kids out on the dance floor to uninhibitedly shake their asses, and that is sad.