might be goofy: TMBG at the Egg. Photo:
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, The Lustre Kings
Captain J.P. Cruise Line, July
It was one of those heartbreakingly gorgeous summer eves—rowing
crews chugging and huffing down the big old Hudson, the horizon
blazing orange—and guitarist Eddie Angel was rocking slightly
on the balls of his feet and letting tones rip, from sleazed-out
rumble to rippling liquid surf. Some might know Angel, born
and raised in Albany, as songwriter- guitarist for Los Straitjackets,
the internationally renowned purveyors of surf and rockabilly.
Unmasked, he was sitting in with the Lustre Kings, he and
head King Mark Gamsjager firing off leads at each other. Rocky
Velvet’s Graham Tichy was sitting in as well, playing bass
and later firing off a few rounds himself (on Eddie’s guitar)—seems
even young guitar masters need to do an occasional apprenticeship.
The ostensible headliner was SoCal’s Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite
Boys, who were gearing up for an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s
show the next night. The Lustre Kings stole the show, however.
Maybe it was because Mark and the boys had the upper (outside)
deck. Maybe it was because it was the 60th birthday of John
Tichy (father of Graham, esteemed professor and alumnus of
the legendary Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen).
More than likely it was just because we happen to have an
amazing collective of rock & roll players. (Any town that
has both the Lustre Kings and Rocky Velvet is blessed.)
Mark Gamsjager is an unparalleled player in his own right—throw
Eddie Angel into the equation and you have rockabilly manna
from heaven. The Kings and Big Sandy traded off sets, fans
moving up and down the stairs every half-hour or so.
All of which is to say that Big Sandy and Co. were pretty
incredible themselves. On any other boat they would have been
kings. The group’s approach is more cosmopolitan and swing-oriented
than the Lustre Kings, and Big Sandy—glowing olive complexion,
plump physique, shiny black hair and angelic voice—is a beautiful
site to behold. His tighter-than-a-clam’s-ass band, one of
the best in the world, can swing like nobody’s business (with
Jimmy Roy particularly glowing on pedal steel).
All in all, the event was a sort of like an antithetical Heart
of Darkness: As our boat cruised deeper and deeper
into the heart of the region, things just got happier and
lighter (and a fleeting image of the docked Half Moon
brought to mind a whole other boat ride). Swing dancers and
jitterbuggers wheeled around the decks. Folks waved and cheered
from the lush green shores. (The couple tête-à- têting on
the turntable railroad bridge had a bird’s-eye view of the
shenanigans and must have caught some golden blasts of sound
up in their roost.) Papa Tichy even jumped onstage, ushering
in his sixth decade in rocking style. (“My whole world is
spinning around!” he cried as the J.P. pulled a yewie to head
back north.) It was an amazing night of music: It felt great
to be a local music fan.
Might Be Giants, Jed Parish
The Egg, July 18
The Egg, being the unique building it is, has elicited many
humorous responses from performers gracing its stages. Moving
directly to the top of any compendium of those jokesters is
John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, who, near the start
of last Friday’s show in the Hart Theatre, remarked, “I can’t
believe they stole my design.”
They Might Be Giants are that rare band who appeal to several
generations simultaneously, without any of the younger ones
being dragged along against their will (“Awww Dad, I don’t
wanna see Crosby, Stills & Nash—they’re old fat guys!”).
Their CD from last year, No!, was released as a children’s
record, but it’s only partially tilted in that direction,
with the overall feel being pretty much like any TMBG album.
In fact, most of their earlier titles are equally inviting
to junior and missy. (“You’re Not the Boss of Me”, aka the
theme song to Malcolm in the Middle, put them on the
map in a big way a couple years ago, and has no doubt become
a number they need to take a break from performing, as witnessed
by its absence from the show.)
The duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell now have a 20-plus-year
history. They’re a complementary team, with Linnell being
the fractured romantic poet and Flansburgh the constantly
moving giddy prankster. After spending the ’80s playing to
prerecorded backing tracks, they expanded to a full and powerful
band, now in the exuberantly capable hands of the “three Dans”
on guitar, bass and drums.
The quintet emerged to the bright lights and blaring sounds
of “Carmina Burana” and proceeded to play 90 minutes of songs
from throughout their career, favoring the last couple albums
in particular. The opening strains of “Birdhouse in Your Soul”
never cease to induce chills of delight as the band members
jump up and down en masse. The Egg is not set up for audiences
to jump up and down, making for an odd match of venue and
artist, but a night with They Might Be Giants is always better
than a night without.
Opener Jed Parish also fronts the band Gravel Pit, and his
solo set impressed with songwriting and a big, loud voice.
He played his acoustic guitar in a manner which offered more
complex arrangements than folk strumming, shifting textures
with assuredness and playing eight songs with full-bore intensity.