I almost never go to plays. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a well-written drama or a well-staged theatrical piece, but the artifice of acting is often a bit too – well – artificial for my tastes. This is odd, actually, because when it comes to rock-n-roll, I eat up self-conscious theatrics like Adderall. Last Friday night was one of those special Mile High Makeout evenings, with not one, but two frenetic, id-driven and utterly theatrical Denver bands lathering up adoring crowds and unleashing new CDs on them.
The night began at the Bluebird, with the final performance of the loved and hated Machine Gun Blues (check out Adam Cayton-Holland’s review of the show and Jon Solomon’s bitchin’ slideshow for a taste of it). Now, you might be baffled by a band that would release a CD and break up on the same night, but if you are, you don’t know MGB. This Stooges-eats-The Doors outfit lives to frustrate your expectations.
When I asked frontman Aaron Collins why the band was calling it quits, he said, “We’re just so bad at being a band. We don’t know how to play. We don’t know how to practice. We don’t know how to promote our shows.”
This, of course, is a load of crap. If you believe that, you’ll probably also believe that finding Collins naked and beer-soaked on the floor of the venue at the end of a show is an accident. And you’ll be missing the joke completely. You won’t find more shrewd and skilled performers and marketers than Collins and his cousin, MGB guitarist Josh Terry. The pair’s ostensibly out-of-control live antics are simply their way of embracing the Brechtian theatricality of rock-n-roll. It’s the old high art/pop culture tug-of-war.
That doesn’t stop an MGB show from being positively chaotic, sexual (or sexy, according to a woman who kept whispering in my ear during the set) and exhilarating. While Terry, organist Holland Rock-Garden, bassist Jermaine Smith and drummer Jason Walker lurched, churned and rumbled through their bastardized garage-blues-Detroit-punk-rock, Collins had the crowd eating out of his briefs. Some folks knew it was 90 percent put-on. Some didn’t. But it didn’t really matter because, either way, the theatrics worked. I’d be stunned if there was even one jaded dude in attendance who wasn’t completely swept up in the show.
As soon as MGB wrapped up and the requisite sweaty man-hugs were exchanged, many of us raced down to South Broadway to catch Git Some at the 3 Kings Tavern. Here is another rock-ous, dangerous and, yes, theatrical act that knows how to work a room.
Whether playing with Git Some, Red Cloud West or Planes Mistaken For Stars, Neil Keener is possibly the most dynamic and dramatic bassist in town. At one point during Friday’s set, he and his axe thrashed horizontally on the stage, splashing in a pool of sweat, and never missed a note. If Chuck French’s guitar were a German shepherd, someone would have called the ASPCA long ago. His style is positively brutal, and his look – long, lean, pierced, inked – adds just the right element of menace. And it’s true that drummer Andrew Lindstrom resembles a particularly sweaty ’70s porn star, but his thunderous and tireless playing suggest he has more strength and stamina than Ron Jeremy could ever claim.
And then there’s Luke Fairchild.
It’s no coincidence that the White Dynamite/Git Some/Kingdom of Magic frontman is often tagged as the city’s best. Like Aaron Collins, Fairchild is a savant who has great control over appearing to be completely out of control. Onstage, he looks as though he’d easily kill in the name of whichever revolution had the best whiskey. In actuality, he’s a pussycat. When I arrived, I dragged my date to the foot of the stage and took a position directly in front of the singer, just as the band paused. Before launching into the next ferocious firestarter, Fairchild leaned over, gave me a firm hug, and whispered sweetly in my ear, “Thanks for coming, buddy.”
Seconds later, Lindstrom, French and Keener were out of the gate, and the frontman began hurling himself around the stage like Linda Blair in a Castro costume, and the crowd, with PBR in its pores, followed suit. Perfectly orchestrated mayhem. By the end of the set, a spent and destroyed Fairchild collapsed on the stage. Despite his apparent exhaustion, the singer kept a firm grip on the microphone and – with his face completely hidden from the audience and a voice as clear and controlled as a radio announcer’s – thanked the crowd for coming and invited them to buy the band’s new CD. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if a curtain had fallen across the stage at that moment.
I’m not saying that bands like Git Some and Machine Gun Blues or frontmen like Collins and Fairchild are manipulative or disingenuous. In fact, you won’t find folks who take their rock responsibilities more seriously and sincerely. Simply put, these are musicians who haven’t forgotten that – whether it’s Elvis or Muddy Waters or Jerry Lee or Iggy or NWA – it isn’t rock and roll without a hint of danger. Sure, it helps if you can play your instruments and write decent songs, but it’s just as important to create the illusion that the whole social structure is teetering on the brink of chaos. The heart races, the veins bulge and the sweat drizzles as the devil horns are lifted triumphantly overhead.
Now that’s good theater.
– Eryc Eyl