There's been no shortage of buzz surrounding Air Dubai: Though it has yet to hit the national stage, round these parts we've already as good as coronated the band successor to Flobots. Though the acoustics were terrible in the Import Warehouse, making it impossible to make out the lyrics, Air Dubai, whom I hadn't before seen live, mostly lived up to the hype.
Julian Thomas spits a rapid-fire, Lupe Fiasco flow, while vocalist Jon Shockness sports an R&B croon to rival Stevie Wonder. And though I often find rapping over pop rock kind of cheesy (not a Flobots fan, myself), Air Dubai was nothing if not legit, the members as at home and charismatic onstage as if they already owned this town. It wouldn't be surprising if they did, sooner than later.
I walked down to Michelangelo's next to see Science Partner, which was hands-down the best show I saw all night. Basically a coffee-shop ensemble, the band features Tyler Despres of Dualistics on guitar and main vocals, with Maria Kohler (Mercuria) and Jess DiNicola on backups. It's a sparse setup that makes the lush three-part harmonies all that much more impressive, but the real draw is Despres's part-absurdist, part-sentimental lyricism and elastic-faced, Jack Black stage presence. The band can be hilarious, with a deadpan, almost dadaist sense of humor that's halfway between Mitch Hedberg and Groucho Marx. Here's a lyrical example:
Dippin' Dots So-called ice cream of the future Mom and pops Cannot save you from the future Government sad clowns of the future
Kohler once told me at her and Despres's Meadowlark open mike night that you can always tell the good ones because people shut up for the good ones. If that's the case, Science Partner is one of the good ones; it was quiet as a church at Michelangelo's for the entirety of the set -- even people ordering drinks at the bar did it in hushed tones. Rightly so: It's a compellingly quirky act, and honestly, a song called "Pootie Tang" has no right to pull on your heartstrings like that.
After waiting about a half hour to get into 3 Kings to see Murder Pinchers, the modern-day pseudo-reincarnation of legendary scene staple Warlock Pinchers -- and I can already hear the chorus of boos about what I'm about to say -- I wasn't that impressed. I don't care for Murder Ranks (the couple of times I've seen the band, the guitarist's tone seemed dialed in somewhere between "howling cat" and "fingernails on a chalkboard" -- I could hardly be in the same room).
And though, yeah, "Morrissey Rides a Cock Horse" is pretty funny, and it was a good trick when the band brought Magic Cyclops up to do vocals on it, the band's proto-pop punk sound and bratty/joke-satanist schtick just isn't all that interesting to me. Like so many much-hyped reunion efforts, it was fun and kind of neat to see it, but it also seemed a little dated and sad.
Machine Gun Blues, also reuniting for the set but after only two years instead of twenty, seemed poised to fare better. The band kind of sounds like Motorhead filtered through the Stooges and...uh...it doesn't really matter what it sounds like. The whole draw is that, as Matty Clark put it having a cigarette outside, "It's a shit show," a rock and roll circus with the ringleader in his underpants.
Frontman Aaron Collins kept up a chaotic, high-energy set for about fifteen minutes before inviting the crowd to smash the organ the band had brought onstage, but after that, the show seemed to lose steam, with the band fiddling around onstage for well over ten minutes without a real effort at actually playing a song.
Toward the front of the floor, a pit got going every time the guitarist would pretend to play something, but then the effort would just fail to materialize, leaving people to mill around aimlessly and wander away, so that after a while the band lost a good chunk of its audience -- including me: The temperature in the venue was reaching hellish levels, and I was growing tired.
At a certain point, good times reach the point of saturation. And when, on the walk to the car, I stepped over a drunk guy who, having pissed his pants, had passed out on the sidewalk, it seemed a pretty apt metaphor for what I'd just seen.