Monday, November 9, 2009

The Night Marchers at Alex's Bar, 10/30/09

"Let all the blogs say that tonight was a success!" - Speedo

Done and done.

There are some things that are just true about me. I love gummi bears; I kick ass at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game; I watch a lot of television; and I wear plaid, just to name a handful. And another one is: when Speedo talks, I listen. Who is Speedo, you ask? Well, in addition to being the guy with the guitar and the microphone in the center of that picture up there, he's also one of my musical heroes. Based in San Diego, his bands have been making me happy since 1995. Rocket From The Crypt's Scream, Dracula, Scream! was one of the first albums outside the mainstream that I ever truly cared about (though credit goes to my friend Spencer for finding it), and I still listen to it frequently to this day. He was also in Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, though in those bands he was primarily the lead guitarist, thereby denying anyone who listened to their records or went to their shows his inimitable charm and good cheer. Everything shut down in 2005, memorably ending with Rocket From The Crypt's farewell Halloween show (which I went to, naturally).

Then after a couple years of quiet, Speedo reemerged with The Night Marchers, a band that sounded like Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt had a baby. They're not his best work, but my concert-going life is better with him in it, and honestly, I love those other two bands so much it would be hard for anything to compare. And, as a bonus, they've played Alex's in Long Beach three times already, so I can see one of my heroes cheap and local!

Now, based on those band names and the RFTC finale being on Halloween, it isn't hard to imagine that Speedo and Co. are fond of October 31, so obviously I felt it would be appropriate to dress up for a show the night before. (As you can see by the picture of my buddy Billy Mays and I. It's the strangest thing: since he died, he's started talking like some bizarre cross between The Penguin and Edward G. Robinson.) Imagine my surprise and disappointment when the band came out wearing normal clothes. Speedo apologized for the lack of dressing up, saying that the artifice of their music would have to serve as their costumes. Whatever, man; do you have any idea how fucking hot it was in that executioner's robe? They quickly made up for it by plowing into "Closed For Inventory," the opener from their one and only record, See You In Magic. Immediately following was "In Dead Sleep (I Snore Zzzz)," the second track, as Speedo has a fondness for playing songs in little chunks from albums. It makes a lot of sense, playing off of the way we all know the songs, often remembering our favorites in groups, expecting to hear one after the other.

Throughout the show, the rest of the band (Gar Wood on guitar, Jason Kourkounis on drums and Tommy Kitsos on bass) just went about their business, which is a shame because I once saw Gar, who is left-handed, take Speedo's guitar when his own wasn't working and play it backwards during "Scene Report" and make it sound right. I don't play guitar, but Billy Mays told me that would be pretty difficult, and I believe him (though he is a master pitchman). But if the guys behind him mostly just let their music do the talking, Speedo certainly made up for it, teasing the audience, spraying beer, and demanding that we all clap with our thumbnails. He also started a dialogue with some guy who had been filming the entire set with his digital camera from right in front, and after the dude suggested that Speedo order a Caguama, Speedo pretended to have no idea what that meant, accusing the guy of trying to get him beat up by tricking him into saying a dirty Spanish word.

It was all a little strange and almost antagonistic, but none of it seemed to affect the performance. While they didn't play first single "Whose Lady R U?" they did play just about every other song on the album I'd want to hear, plus "Scene Report," a great track that has a bit of an homage to "Surfin' Bird" in it, and two newer songs, one of which they called "Tropical Depression," and another that I've heard once before and I'll call "Money" for lack of a proper title; it's really damn good is the main point. And regardless of what or how long they played, it's always great to be witness to their aural assault, and Speedo's shenanigans. It remains a shame that such an interesting and fun guitarist and songwriter is relegated to the margins of the music scene, but for those of us who know it's always a treat.

Set List: Closed For Inventory / In Dead Sleep (I Snore Zzzz) / Jump in the Fire / I Wanna Deadbeat You / You've Got Nerve / Branded / Bad Bloods / Total Bloodbath / Tropical Depression (new song) / Scene Report / Money (new song)

Update: Ok, so I'm an idiot and that song I said was new has been around for a while, so let's just call it a non-album track. Oh, and I still don't know what it's called, and it still kicks ass.

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