From Iceland — 15 Great Minutes

15 Great Minutes

Published June 2, 2006

15 Great Minutes

It was my deep respect for Palli, guitarist from the pop band Maus, that led me to restrain a section of the audience from launching a surprisingly heavy ashtray (note to Nasa, remove heavy ashtrays when you have shit bands scheduled) at his head as Palli strummed out the most mundane of repetitive light rock melodies over the rapping of an atonal band mate in the band that officially qualifies as an aberration, Fræ (Seeds). How do I explain how bad Fræ are—the most obvious description is this, they sound, look, and have the stage energy of a Christian rock band trying out hip hop. They even have those kind of dance moves.
The experience of showing up to see tricked out rockabilly and getting Christian rock is such an unforgivable bait and switch, again, especially when the people causing you the pain are friends or acquaintances.
Fine, fine, fine. You make it through Fræ. You figure it’s like a kidney stone. Easy breathing, try to clear your head and think of nothing, kind of like the band members and lyricist, and you get through it. But to be given Tremelo Beer Gut immediately after that. Damn.
Tremelo Beer Gut have a great name and a big fog machine. And they play surf rock. And they seem really annoyed that nobody gets how great they are. Surf rock. Not good surf rock, I mean, come on, these guys are called Beer Gut, you aren’t expecting Maestros. No Dick Dale here. No, just adequate surf rock. Like Dick Dale played real slow. And mixed badly. With fog. For an hour. With a bunch of Danes in the audience. In ski jackets. Doing the twist.
Then we got to Powersolo, who have a decent CD, Egg, and who came to last year’s Airwaves and gave a great 15-minute performance. In fact, they pointed this out as soon as they got on stage, that they played for 15-minutes and now would play a long set. A very long set.
Powersolo, made up of Spencer’s Heavy Trash bassist Kim Kix playing guitar, obviously his second instrument, along with two friends, is not the kind of band that pulls off long shows. Bass players shouldn’t play guitar for a long time. Not when they don’t have a bassist or lead guitar player playing with them, or when they don’t have lyrics, or songs, or dynamics. Kim Kix seemed like a nice guy. Helluva guy. But coming on 2 am, his music just made you think of the joy of silence.
And then, finally, our man Jon Spencer came on with Heavy Trash. Hallelujah. He started out, and he was going strong from his new album. But, almost immediately, something was wrong. The music from the album sounded like the new album. EXACTLY like the new album. Spencer’s take on rockabilly was to play live like you’re in a studio, keep the solos under four bars, keep the mix right, stay exactly on beat. And it all sounded extremely restrained and tired.
Sure, the Danes danced, but the rest of us, especially when we realized that the sound guy was playing back-up guitar and keyboards to fill out the sound while Spencer posed, we got annoyed. And this went on, until 2:45, when the last few dozen of us were left, and Spencer ran out into the audience.
And that’s when Jon Spencer woke up. And suddenly we had a show. As it happened, I was standing next to the sound guy, giving him dirty looks, and he stopped playing because the set list was done. And Spencer started finally getting into playing music instead of doing manual labour, and Matt Verta-Ray finally let his perfect tone and fingering take off. And at 3 am, they were done, and I had seen what Spencer could do. And I have this to say: fuck off, Mr. Spencer.
Fuck off, Mr. Spencer, for your May 26th show in Reykjavík. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, we got the tickets, we bought the CD, we wrote about you, we told our friends to come, we swore up and down about your integrity, and you made us sit through 5 hours of absolute hell before we finally got what we wanted… at 3 am. Mind you, at 3 am, you, Mr. Spencer, were a God. With Matt Verta-Ray taking off on his massive hollow-body guitar, and you screaming out rockabilly like a preacher who stumbled into a Southern California prom in need of salvation, I mean, that was something. And Kim Kix, the man on the double bass, the ghastly skeleton who could add a slap note to damn near anything, that was just perfection. But that was at 3 am, mother fucker! 3 am! We showed up at 10 pm. And it’s not like we waited in silence. That would have been fine. Maybe sitting in chairs full of glass shards or something to prove our devotion. That would have been fine. But no, we, music lovers, fans, had to listen to pale imitators, (in both senses of the word), and the worst hip hop/ light rock band this side of an Orlando, Florida megachurch, to get to our moment of Spencer. So fuck you. I’m done. I’ll buy your CDs. But I don’t need this shit.

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