by Jason Harper
I was miserable for most of last night's KRBZ's Buzz Halloweenie Roast at the Beaumont. I felt like an alley cat -- friendless, weatherbeaten, a scavenging creature of the night. I had a bad cold coming on (whose intensification today accounts for the lateness of this review) and, what's worse, I had a rock in my shoe. There's nothing like a bad cold and a rock in your shoe to remind you that the life of a man is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Because the mini-fest started so early, I missed two of the most buzzed-about bands: Missourah-bred indie darlings White Rabbits and the soul-funk-slaying Black Joe Lewis, who had horns, apparently. I missed the horns!
Lots of people were in costume. My costume: Anti-Social Bastard.
Yes, for the better part of three hours, I was feeling like a scornful wretch -- and it was no one's fault, really. I do not blame the Buzz, nor the Beaumont (though admittedly it's not a good venue to be depressed in) nor any band, woman or beast. My heroes Adam and Johnny of Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company (pictured above) couldn't cheer me up after I ran into them, all smiles and fancy suits after their mega-early 5:30 gig. It was just that kind of night.
And then Jet came on.
More on that in a minute.
First: the Raveonettes. This Danish band, comprised at its core of chesspiece-matched duo Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, plays the kind of music that sounds good if you've been smoking cigarettes and fucking all weekend. (I imagine it's even better if you replace the cigs with ganja, but I'm not much for the herb, so I wouldn't know.) It's mellow but distorted, smooth but frazzled, catchy but angsty. And its inner, echoing heart-shaped box contains sweet pop rocks, just like the group's main sonic influence. Unfortunately, PA problems -- which seemed to be connected to the way the half-acoustic/half-digital drumset was rigged, resulting in staticky bass drum sounds -- plagued their set. That would become a nightlong theme for the Back Yard stage, where the big bands on the night's lineup played.
After the Raveonettes finished off a friendly set featuring songs from their new one, the favorably reviewed In and Out of Control, it was back inside the club to get rocked by local metal band Thunder Eagle. As the night wore on and got colder and the ground outside in the yard got increasingly muddy, the local bands on the inside stage had an increasingly better arrangement -- except that very few people at this concert gave a shit about local music. Later, when the outside entertainment ended, most people decided to leave rather than go in and warm up to the Architects and the Calamity Cubes. Their fucking loss.
I had been most looking forward to seeing '80s new romantic legends A Flock of Seagulls, so when Thunder Eagle brought their satisfyingly loud and mischievous set to a close, I waded through terrifying Port-a-Potty Alley to the outside stage. Only to find Flock singer, once so famously coiffed, wearing a ballcap with a ponytail issuing out the back. And, even more perplexing, an Ed Hardy shirt! People were talking shit on that shirt, let me tell you. I was disappointed, too, because in the '80s, Score's fashion sense perfectly prefigured the look that would later be not only adopted but perfected by corporate receptionists in 1991. That, my friends, is an accomplishment among accomplishments.
Flock o' Gulls' set was even more hampered by sound issues than the Raves' set had been. There were some all-out speakerfarts. Score, to his credit, stuck to the programme, delivering seasoned new wave synth-hooks that have aged surprisingly well over the years. "Are you ready to go way back?" he asked the crowd before shuffling into set closing megahit "I Ran (So Far Away)." But even for a crowd as young as the one last night was, the song couldn't have felt that stale.
At the conclusion of Seagulls low-flying swoop, everyone in Westport convened upon the bathrooms inside. Women were in the men's room, and meatheads had demolished the paper-towel dispensers and tracked in mud. It was Gehenna-like in its abomination. This only compounded my feeling of illness. I was about ready to give up the ghost, but I was curious about Jet, a band I had pretty much dismissed from the get-go because of their ridiculously derivative 2003 hit "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," a song that defined advertising executives' pristine, neutered vision of rock and roll.
But last night, shit. Motherfucking Jet was so motherfucking charming, tight and flat-out good-sounding that I even enjoyed that song. Not to mention "Seventeen." Have you heard "Seventeen"? That song is the cream cheese. If there is something in you that allows you to hate "Seventeen" by Jet, then get the fuck away from me, man, I don't need you bringing me down.
Jet's music may rip off everything from Great White to Iggy to AC/DC, but they're genuinely having a good time doing it -- no negativity, no cooler-than-thouness. Frontman Nic Cester gave the nicest shout-out ever to Cancun Fiesta Fresh saying that even though he was Australian and therefore his opinion on the subject didn't count for much, the taco he had earlier at the little Mexican place across the street was the best taco he'd had in a good long "wholl."
Other bands could learn from Jet, for Jet appealed to all. I saw respectable local musicians getting down, and I saw people of Wal-Mart getting down alongside them. Folks were getting muddy and crowd surfing, and the perpetually shellshocked-looking Beaumont security guys appeared even more aghast than usual at the sight of people having a good time in their citadel.
I'm not saying I'm going to go out and buy every Jet album now. OK, maybe I am. This Halloween, I am going to be a walking Jet in-store display. That oughta be worth, what 60 Aussie dollars to Jet's PR people? And what does that come to -- $13.65? Alright, put me down.
Epilogue: As I said before, most people jetted after Jet. Wuh-huh. I really wanted to get down with the Architects because I hadn't seen Kansas City's hardest-working band play live in an embarrassingly long time -- not since The Hard Way came out, at least. And though I was in a state where a part of my consciousness was in tact enough to enjoy songs like "I Carry A Gun" and "Bastards at the Gate," I was fading rapidly. Looking lean from a summer spent on the road, the band ripped it up for a crowd of about 60, the remnants of what had easily been over a thousand earlier in the night. But I was feeling increasingly unable to enjoy it and had to slink out in disgrace. Sorry to you, Calamity Cubes.
Celebrity Brush: Sune from the Raveonettes was wandering around during the Architects' set. I offered to buy him a drink, but he politely declined. Friendly chap, though.