Star Power

Keanu Reeves's band, Dogstar, isn't very good--but since he's in it, who cares?

Of course, my thorough review of every article and Web page devoted to His Dreaminess prepared me for the possibility that the anticipation of talking to him might be better than actually doing so. In past profiles, he's responded to questions with cordial aloofness, quirky one-word replies or, most distractingly of all, additional questions that helped him avoid answering the ones already put to him. I hoped to do better--to elicit rare and witty examples of Reevesian insight--but I was prepared to be disappointed.

And I was!
Reeves, who was a couple of hours removed from playing a show in Pennsylvania, sounded for all the world like Ted "Theodore" Logan, his character in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In fact, when he was asked about the current tour, "Excellent!" was the first word out of his mouth. "It's going really well," he went on, "but we've had little goblins along the way. When we departed from L.A., our bus broke down not once, but twice. Generators have been breaking down. In the middle of a show, my bass amp just punked out. Robert now no longer wants to play on risers, because he's bounced off a couple and had near-fatal drumming accidents. And Bret's wah-wah pedal is just a nightmare. It works, it doesn't work, it works, it doesn't work." Suddenly, he segues into a display of poetic gibberish that only his nonexistent twin might understand: "It wah. It just wah-wahs. It wahs, we wah over the wah that we wah." Then, as if some Ritalin had just taken effect, he's back to normal. "But those have been good tests--kind of fun, kind of wacky. We've had some really great shows and met a lot of great people. We're halfway through the tour, and all systems are go."

By the same token, even Reeves recognizes that as a bassist, he's no expert. He admits to having taken only one bass lesson; otherwise, he's self-taught. "I play by accident," he says. "I've been playing for a little bit longer now, so my facility's much better. I just have to start playing songs and learning more about different ways to make different kinds of feels on the bass. I'd say the bass sounds from Joy Division are probably the closest to what I instinctively come out with."

In truth, none of Reeves's thumpings on Visionary call to mind Ian Curtis's art-gloom; the closest he comes is an evocation of the Cure's bass style on "Goodbye." Keanu also takes credit for spawning the title track and "Breathe Tonight"; he refers to his contributions as "Reeves's riffs--as in, they were the root, the earth of the tree. Once in a while, I'll just play something and Bret reacts to it. You know, he'll get excited by it and play off of it."

Because of this improved musical chemistry, Mailhouse vows that Dogstar's playing is "a hundred times better" than it was two years ago. But that doesn't mean that the throngs coming to see the outfit are there to have a mind-blowing sonic experience. "We've been having chick fights lately," the drummer reveals. "Just a lot of hair-pulling and stuff. This one time in Texas, Bret had to stop the show because one big girl was punching this other girl in the face. They were fighting hard--and they weren't even on Keanu's side of the stage." No doubt that was part of the problem.

As the interview wound down, it became abundantly clear that Reeves had little of interest to say about Dogstar. About the best he could manage was a list of items the performers could not live without on the road, which he delivered in classic Ted fashion: "Poker chips, cards, food, Play Station, CDs. Oh, God, we have every CD ever made. What else? Bobby and a couple of guys in the crew like to smoke cigars. But I think the essentials are snack treats, videos, movies, music, Jack Daniel's, beer, water, Gatorade--you know, bodily-like fluids. So you need eye candy, hard candy, stomach candy and, of course, the gambling, which is for all of those fiendish desires."

Desires like being in a rock-and-roll band. It's a common fantasy, and fortunately for Reeves, he has more than enough big Hollywood bucks to make it come true, at least for a while. He's not dependent on the group for his livelihood: "Dogstar bassist" is just another role to him. And as awful as his portrayal can be, I'll be there this week, happily tolerating every minute of it.

Dogstar, with Silver Jet. 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24, Starlight, 167 North College, Fort Collins, $15.25, 1-800-444-SEAT; 8 p.m. Friday, July 25, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, Denver, $16.25, 1-800-444-

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