March of the Famous Peeps!

THE DIRTY KNOBS
DIPIAZZA'S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
SUNDAY, MAY 12

Big and once-big names in Mark-and-Maralyn-DiPiazza-run rooms are nothing new. A couple of months ago, their stage was graced by the reawakened presence of Sky Saxon and the latest version of '60s garage rockers the Seeds ("Yuh pooshun too hah-ard, pooshun too hah-ard"). And people still talk about that not-so-secret Weezer show that went down two years ago at their old Lava Lounge, back before the band got famous all over again. (We seem to remember a bunch of songs they did that night off the Pinkerton album, which they never do anymore, the shits.)

So here come the famous peeps once again—we're talking honest-to-Allah Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members, under the guise of a band called the Dirty Knobs (though we like the name Dirty Knobbers even better, an insult that works best if you're British). The Knobs are made up of three Heartbreakers, as in "Tom Petty and the": Mike Campbell, foofy-haired guitar man who picked on pretty much every Petty tune you can think of; Ron Blair, who plucked bass on the first four Petty albums (all the good ones, in other words); and drummer Steve Ferrone, the guy who replaced Stan Lynch and who may or may not still be in the band. There was also some guy on rhythm named Jason Sinay from a band called Five Easy Pieces, but we didn't know or care too much about him. See how mean we get when we're flush with flashes of celebritydom?

Like any band with superfamous members tends to do, these Knob jobs took their own damn time setting up their gear. As their boss sings, the waiting really is the hardest part—on our asses. Though—also like any band with superfamous members—they probably had "their people" doing their load-in for them behind that pulled curtain. So much for these Heartbreakers going back to their scruffy bar-band roots. Then, more than an hour after Running Erin left the stage, the Dirty Knobs finally materialized, with Campbell belting out a tune about blowing up his stereo. It was a sweetly rocking number, easily something that could've come out of a session by his other, bigger band. It also became clear right away that Campbell's voice sounds not close, not similar to, but dead-on exactly like Petty's high, drawling, whiny-without-being-emo one—playing in a guy's group for almost 30 years can do that to you. And the music wasn't terribly removed from Petty's signature ringing Byrdsian riffage, either: just pure, honest, no-bull slices of classic rock & roll that, if you closed your eyes, you could envision sitting in on a clandestine Petty gig (or a Petty tribute band!), only with the scent of DiPiazza's fine Italian cuisine wafting through the air.

A few minutes later, Campbell crooned a tune about how he plays guitar in a rock & roll band, and how he could've had other jobs, but he wound up with this one (awww—let's all weep for him, shall we?). From there, they went into "a Neil Young-sounding song" (it was); a J.J. Cale cover; a tedious epic of near-Dave-Matthews proportions called "Charlotte," augmented at least with a friendly little shuffle beat (though during several of the guitar solo go-rounds, we admit to thinking how nice it was to watch Campbell's fingers roll up and down his fretboard without having to squint through a pair of cracked, rented binoculars from our seats on the lawn or in the uppermost, behind-the-stage level of the arena). The jamming gradually became more focused and cohesive, exemplified by the hard-chugging train tune they did, the tempo of which slowed down and sped up with the kind of surgical precision that only seasoned, weathered, over-50 musicians can pull off.

We cut out during their cover of the Stones' "Monkey Man," having heard reports that the Knobs were going to be at it for a while, like maybe up until the room's 1:30 a.m. pull-the-plug point, which was way past our bedtime. Still, as side projects go, the Dirty Knobs were pretty great. If they just start a little earlier next time, maybe we'll catch a whole show.

 
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