by Nick Spacek
If there were any doubt as to the power of rock 'n' roll, it was erased on Friday night. The Jackpot played host to those pirates of the Salton Sea, Throw Rag. From the moment Sean Doe and company hopped on stage, launching into "Swingset Superman," the audience went crazy.
Now, Throw Rag has a tinge of country to them, as well as a little rockabilly. However, those are just tastes -- bits of seasoning, if you will. It was the focus on the band's first album Tee-Tot, but in the years since that release, Throw Rag has gone from incarnations as large as six or seven folks onstage on once to the lean, mean, four man rock machine that was on display Friday.
Much like a live and in-person version of the video for "She Don't Want To (She Don't Care)," by show's end, Doe was down to a pair of briefs and a sailor's cap. In the intervening time, the band went through a tunes from all of their albums, with Dean McQueen pulling out guitar licks that should be illegal. "The Beast In Me" tied for highlight of the show with "Lady Boo," with the audience singing "whoah whoah whoah woo whoah woo hey" as loudly and lustily as they coul.
The band's encore, after much fussing and yelling from the crowd, ended up being a cover of Merle Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down." The bottle was actually pretty good to the band, because I saw women dancing in the crowd, men flailing about as if possessed by the Devil himself, and at once point, I had my head on the monitors, doing nothing more than throwing horns while the room spun around me.
As precursors to that spectacle, the Spook Lights and the Big Iron were spot-on. The Spook Lights supplied the spectacle and country raunch with their garage rockabilly, while the Big Iron laid down thick slabs of rock 'n' roll.
Of the Spook Lights' new tunes, "Discomfort Zone," is my current favorite in their set, as it takes full advantage of the Meld's drumming, as well as Zepellina Mystery's bass work. "Discomfort Zone" has an honest-to-goodness low-end rock thump to it, as opposed to the more high-end garage the band has focused on since their inception. If this is where the Spook Lights are headed, I like it. The band hasn't lost a step with their regular setlist, however, as Curvacia Vavoom and Jet Boy trade licks back and forth on "Nudie Watusi" like nobody's business, while Scary Manilow writhes and yelps like a man on fire.
The Big Iron is a band that I'd not seen in years. I'd had it in my mind that they were a dark country band, not unlike Ghoultown or someone like that, so imagine my surprise when they started knocking out tunes that were more akin to the cautionary tales done by acts like the Murder City Devils. It's like Jeff Pendergraft is attempting to exorcise demons, the way he shouts out the lyrics. The look on his face is equal parts rock 'n' roller and fire and brimstone preacher. Both guitars destroy, and a band like the Big Iron, bringing the rock such as they did, is exactly the way you want to get a Friday night rock show going. You just blast the hell out of everyone's ears, and wake them the fuck up. This is a band that I've slept on for many years, and I've got some serious catching up to do. Damn. It's certainly conflicting to see band, love 'em, and feel totally pissed off at the same time because you'd never bothered to check them out.