Wink Musselman Quartet of Shame/ Sonny Boy
Saturday, Sept. 30
Most music reviewers go alone to the shows they review. But most music reviewers are antisocial goobers.1 I, on the other hand (and please note that this week I am Alison Rosen, not Rich Kane), am luscious in every sense of the word and very popular. I am delightful company. So what, pray tell, was I doing driving to the Java Lanes' Lava Lounge alone on a Friday night? (That's not rhetorical. Please take a minute to think about it.)
Yeah, I don't know either. But there I was, fabulously by myself as I swept into the Lava Lounge (past the bowling alley, which was blaring that treacly Natalie Merchant "Because the Night" song. And P.S., Nat: the night did not belong to lovers; the night did not belong to us) in time to hear someone ask how much longer the impeccably dressed Wink Musselman Quartet of Shame was going to play and similarly in time to hear someone else respond, "He's been on for an hour—he already did 'We Are the World.'"
Most of the sparse crowd was seated and entertained but probably a little confused by Musselman, a lovably campy lounge singer who performs such syrupy standards as "Shadow of Your Smile" and "Copa Cabana," backed by a tuxedoed drummer, tuxedoed standup-bass player and tuxedoed electric piano player with a binder of laminated songs sitting on the music rest. They might be that schlocky wedding/bar mitzvah/cruise-ship band forever playing amid the sound of clanking plates and glasses and old ladies getting too drunk, or perhaps that's just their shtick.2
It doesn't really matter because they're consummate performers and great musicians. "Take two measures," Musselman at one point ordered the drummer, who launched into an exhilarating drum solo. Musselman was full of banter, intro-ing a song by telling the crowd about the drink named after him—"It's fruity, it's fabulous, here we go!"—and pseudotyrannically stopping "Copa Cabana" a couple bars in because "we don't have any energy right now—there's no energy on the stage, can you all chant with me? Nam myoho renge kyo.3 Again!" And then turning to the drummer and shouting, "You're angry; you're angry!" before vigorously starting the song again.
It was perfect swanky, beer-soaked, tear-drenched, alone-in-a-crowd music—which, lest you forget, I was. Sure, I made a couple of hoochie-mama friends in the bathroom, who were talking about Wink Musselman and how funny he is and how he'd performed "Good Ship Lollipop" while wearing a sailor's outfit, but it was short-lived; they dried their hands and left. Easy come; easy go.
"It's a weird night tonight—it's like the '70s in here," Java Lanes owner Mark DiPiazza said to me in between bands, as my former hoochie-mama friends busted their Solid Gold moves on the dance floor. (Just like the new Madonna song! Music does make the bourgeoisie come together! I think they did just want to dance with their baby!)
The next band to take the stage was the semiserious/semispoof hip-hop/funk band Sonny Boy, featuring on drums Wink Musselman, who'd changed out of his ruffled I'm-the-singer-of-a-lounge-band shirt into his I'm-unassuming-and-I-play-drums-in-this-other-guy's-band shirt. Sonny Boy (featuring a singer called Sonny Boy, a keyboard player, a guitar player, a bass player, the aforementioned drummer and a barbecue covered in lights inside of which—the barbecue—was either merchandise or a soundboard) started off with a funky song about masturbation, which I would have enjoyed if not for the irksome chair territorialism going on in front of me—four people guarding a small army of chairs. The club wasn't very full. There really wasn't a run on chairs. But try telling that to the yuppie chair militia. "Hey, man, I'm going to get a drink," one of the chairmongers would say to another. The other would nod and then scoot over to the center of the group of chairs, so as to better fend off potential threats to the unity of the chairs. "These are all saved, ALL SAVED!" he would decree, arms akimbo, if anyone so much as looked at one of the seats. Then when the guy came back with the drinks, it was like watching fucking musical chairs because they'd all have to stand up and switch positions and then sit down again.
Sonny Boy's songs were self-effacing, lewd, humorous and pointed, punctuated by frightening Anthony Kiedis-esque raps replete with that funky head-shaking microphone-gripping delivery. Sonny Boy wears a gold chain. Sonny Boy, at one point, had a towel draped over his head. Sonny Boy is down with how un-down the suburbs are: "How many motherfuckers like having a barbecue out there?" Sonny Boy, like Musselman before him, ushers in all those questions about whether he's for real. At one point, he crouched down at the front of the catwalk and a girl ran up and held out a piece of paper for him to autograph. He pretended to sign it. She clutched the paper and ran back to her friends, screaming. Now, see, what the hell was that? Is it a joke or is it serious? If it's a joke, then a joke on whom? Who's on the inside and who's on the outside? Does this shit bother anyone besides me? Is this, perhaps, why I'm alone?
But fuck if the room wasn't awash in charisma. Sonny Boy could fold his laundry onstage and you'd be entertained. Wink, too. Both are natural hams, and for both of them, you get the feeling it's simply about putting on a show.
Unfortunately I had to leave (score one for the Insufferable Chair Army) before Beat 2 Death and Jesus Wore Dickies took the stage, though I'd wanted to see both, because I had to meet my friends at a bar where they were holding a Very Important Celebration. See, I do have friends.4
1 Also, most music critics use pens that light up.
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2 "It's both," according to Musselman.
3 It's a Hare Krishna thing.
4 I do! I do!
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