Detroit Cobras, Super 400 and Yerkish Friday, May 9 The Falcon
You'd never know that Yerkish was missing a guitar player. Down an axeman, Nate Huisgen pulled double-duty -- not an easy task considering the band's complex song structures that border on math-rock. But with his creative approach, Huisgen relied on more textural approaches in his playing to fill up the room with his unique sound. With a bevy of guitar effects at his disposal, it seemed as if he switched from sound to sound like a painter choosing from a well-stocked palette. Things never got boring.
And if it did, there was the video show. Off to the side of the stage, Yerkish set up a video screen and DVD player, showing the band's homemade videos. The videos consisted of vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons, sprinkled with images shot by the band. Then there was the mock news broadcast, featuring the band members as anchors, in monkey masks. The prevalence of chimp imagery came as no surprise since the band's name refers to a fabricated language designed to allow chimps to communicate with humans. All in all, it made for a perfect match with the music -- a complex, cerebral, thinking man's rock that could never be labeled predictable. Yerkish's songs veered close to the dark, metal edge of Jane's Addiction and at times resembled the multifaceted eclectic style of The Mars Volta.
Next up was Super 400. "I've never seen this band before, but I can't wait for them." I heard this from at least three different people as the three-piece from Troy, New York set up. And the trio didn't disappoint. By the third song, "Green Grass Inn," the members’ roots were showing -- the Southern soul and Chicago blues of the old Stax Records artists. But that was the slowest song. Overall, Super 400's sound was heavy, like molten lead, a '70s-era Zeppelin-esque bomb of no-holds-barred rock-and-roll. The set was a 45-minute string of lean, growling songs that drew shouts of approval from the gathering crowd.
The highlight of the show was bassist Lori Friday, who roamed the neck of her instrument during a handful of solos, laying down heavy riffs that evoked the Viking-attack marches of John Paul Jones. She stepped up to the microphone to join guitarist Kenny Hohman for several choruses. The interplay between their voices, one soulful, the other angelic, was outstanding. But watching her sway to the rhythm of the songs -- in high heels no less -- was equally as captivating.
And there was hair everywhere. Each member sported a shaggy mane that enhanced the distorted, fuzzy '70s sound. While the scented smoke of incense surrounded the band and wafted throughout the room, Super 400 blew the crowd away with songs off its latest album, 3 And The Beast. Guitarist Hohman squeezed warm but aggressive tones from his amp and at times launched his voice to surprising highs. It not surprising to discover that the mayor of the act’s hometown established a "Super 400" day to honor this group.
The Detroit Cobras closed the night with a set of vintage rock-and-roll songs, covered and rearranged with the group’s own garage-rock sensibility. Led by the sexy and charismatic Rachel Nagy, who crooned with a sultry ease that won over the packed Falcon. The Cobras' selection of songs represented an homage to an American musical legacy. Never delving for a moment into the bland mediocrity of an average cover band (and certainly not any form of tribute band), the Cobras infused each song with festive fun and raucous energy. Tunes like "You Don't Knock," "Hurt's All Gone," "Leave My Kitten All Alone" and "Mean Man" got the crowd up front and dancing.
Nagy's a master frontwoman. She's gorgeous yet humble and her charm was disarming. When she found out that the man who pretended to work for the venue had been stealing the band's beers backstage -- and causing a ruckus in the crowd -- she dedicated a song to him. Later, though, she kicked him out the back door.
"Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)," an original song from the Cobra's 2005 album Baby, was mixed into the set list and fit in perfectly. Guitarist Joey Mazzola plucked out the song's melody, a rollicking riff that may have had your grandparents dancing back in their day – that is, if they were hip enough to recognize good music.
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Random Detail: "Super 400 Day" in Troy, NY, is February 25th. By the Way: Cobras singer Rachel Nagy was employed as a butcher in Detroit before falling --somewhat accidentally -- into her current role of rock star.