Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Last Friday at Southpaw...

...Homestead's roster circa 1987.

To promote the release of their 3CD retrospective Supercluster, Big Dipper reunited for a handful of shows bring with them fellow Wailing Ultimate contributers Great Plains and Antietam.

In front of a crowd featuring many men who wore thick glasses out of necessity rather fashion and many women who bore a resemblance to Joyce Brabner, Great Plains opened the show. I've written about Great Plains' snarky but unpretentious punk rock before and they did not disappoint me. Singer/guitarist Ron House had easy, natural charisma but commanded the stage with the energy of someone half his age. The band was sloppy at times but lack of precision couldn't detract from from the overall experience. Hearing them knock out songs like "Dick Clark" and "Our Love to the Third Power" was a joy to say the least. Mr. House was sitting at the bar for most of the show following his performance and I had to resist the urge to go up to him and yell "You and Mike Watt are my punk rock heroes!"

Antietam's records never really moved me one way or another but seeing them live definitely raised my opinion of the band. That guitarist Tara Key is a skilled player is no secret but this night she played the guitar hero role to the hilt, dropping to her knees a couple of times to deliver some seering solos. The rest of the band bashed away without restraint in a way their studio recordings (at least the one's I've heard) never captured. I read somewhere that Antietam always had trouble holding on to a drummer but whomever was on the skins tonight was more than capable of driving a mighty rock machine.

I have to admit that by the time Big Dipper took the stage I was fairly spent which is pretty pathetic considering I was probably among the youngest members of the crowd. I know I'm feeling my age when I think to myself "Why can't rock shows ever start on time?" They were a lot of fun though, running through most of their "hits" and climaxing with the whole crowd singing along to "Ron Klaus Wrecked His House" before closing their set with "Mr Woods." For an encore they were joined by a couple of the Great Plains to sing "A Song to Be Beautiful." With its (tongue-in-cheek?) chorus of "The artist must be free!!" and singer/guitarist Bill Goffrier goofily holding up signs ala "Subterranean Homesick Blues," it capped off the night with an appropriately gleeful smirk.

Now when is Phantom Tollbooth getting back together?


Bob Bannister said...

Antietam did have several different drummers in their early years, but the current occupant of the seat, Josh Madell, has been with them for 17 years!

PB said...

Looks like somebody in the Unblinking Ear research department was asleep at the wheel. Heads will roll!!

nyctaper said...

Big Dipper recording is up on my site (Merge approved and posted on their blog!).
I also recorded Antietam which will be coming soon.