THE INCREDIBLE MOSES LEROY/THE SYRUPS
THE DETROIT BAR
MONDAY, AUGUST 25
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There are many ways, we discovered, to kill time at the Detroit Bar whilst waiting for the first band to play, but playing billiards is a far, far better tempuscidal than miserably contemplating the fact that the huge mega-bookstore up the street has zero copies of either the new Al Franken or the new Lester Bangs, but bajillions of Ann Coulter, her tired puss staring back at us, mocking, as we roamed the aisles.
That tactic, we discovered, leaves you pretty depressed, and so we deliberately steered our mind toward happy—toward Ron Fountenberry and his band, the Incredible Moses Leroy, and remembered the times we'd seen him/them/it. Like at South By Southwest a couple years ago, when, lured to a club solely for the free Tex-Mex, we stumbled upon this big-haired San Diego guitar player who was doing songs about Nazi prom queens and painting the town red like Carrie—songs so cute and pop and sing-along that they sounded like they'd been purloined from old episodes of '70s kiddie shows like Wonderama and Romper Room. We thought of the last time we saw Fountenberry, at San Diego Street Scene, though all we can really remember was the fantastic sight of the extremely plowed young couple in the crowd who lovingly barfed on one another.
Obviously, we needed new, better Incredible Moses Leroy memories. But not before the Syrups, a power-pop band from all parts of LA, played a very nice set of impeccably catchy, hook-heavy riffs and melodies, filled with high harmonies that suggested a lot of youthful suckling on AM radio. All this was rather remarkable, since the four guys in the band were rather slovenly (the lead singer wore a wifebeater), and their first song drifted uncomfortably close to hair-metal. Once they tucked their aural schlong back in their trousers, though, everything was fine, they were great, and everything was indelibly hummable. As far as subject matter, we recall lines about how she—whoever this "she" is—wants a man with lots of money (yeah, we figured someone in the band's been dumped, too), and a song about "Hollywood freaks"—whoever they are (though we think it's the band themselves).
After a half-hour of sugary Syrups, out popped Moses Leroy, who were winding up a month-long Monday night Detroit residency (to celebrate, they handed out free cookies to everybody—nothing goes better with beer than cookies). They began with "Everybody's Getting Down," a new track from their upcoming album, and it was typically quirky Moses Leroy, all minimalist twee-pop with lyrics that make you wonder just what the hell floats around in Fountenberry's head (what particular variant of "down" does he mean everybody's getting, anyway?). The music Fountenberry and his band squeezed out is something like candy-appled Brian Wilson—more a product of recording-studio hijinks than anything geared towards live performance (hence the frequent use of backing tapes this night to ensure proper effect, though it was minimal—if you were drunk, you probably didn't even notice). The band got tougher and angrier on a tune Fountenberry dubbed "Black Skinheads In White Pants"; despite the provocative title, we were unable to decipher the lyrics beneath instrumentation that was as hardcore as we've ever heard Moses Leroy. They did "Fuzzy"—the Nazi prom queen number—and a few other songs that felt innocent and nostalgic, even though it was someone else's innocence and nostalgia we were feeling. And then, inexplicably, they left after only about 45 minutes, just when we wanted them to go on for another three hours. (We'd heard they played much lengthier sets on the three previous Mondays, the cheapskate, short-changing shits; had this not been free, we would've demanded refunds, though perhaps the band wanted to dive into their cookie bags before the audience gobbled them all up.) But the larger-than-usual Monday crowd screamed for an encore, and they got one, a funny, improvised, MC Hammer-inflected take on "Sunshine On My Shoulders" that made us feel really old because all the kids in the room thought it was a new Moses Leroy tune until Fountenberry explained it was really a John Denver song. And then we were depressed all over again.