Roque & Roulle!
The Upper Crust
Tuesday, Aug. 1
You may have heard of the Upper Crust, a Boston quartet whose shtick is that they play a punk-metal hybrid while dressed as 18th-century British aristocrats, complete with curly, white-powdered wigs (what Poison would have looked like 250 years ago), pancake makeup, poofy shirts, velvet knickers and exaggerated beauty marks on their faces that, by the end of their set, were grotesquely dripping down their cheeks. Funny and stupid? Of course! Say what you will about such gimmickry—it gets attention. Not long after their birth several years back, they landed gigs on Lollapalooza and Late Night With Conan O' Brien. While their music is fairly ordinary—very AC/DC-heavy—their act was never boring. Each member bears a name to fit the foppery, like Lord Bendover, Jackie Kickassis (the drummer, who cooled himself between songs with a frilly handheld fan), Count Bassie (the bass player, natch) and the Duc d'Istortion (the guitar player, natch again). They bill themselves as the World's Most Privileged Band, espouse slogans like "Let them eat roque!", and play songs with titles like "Monarchy in the U.K.," "Rabble-Rouser," "Friend of a Friend of the Working Class" and "Everybody's Equal (Some More Than Others)."
They entered the candlelit room accompanied by tinkly piano music. By the time they started playing and speaking to the crowd in their fake, highfalutin' cockney accents, the whole Spinal Tap aspect of it all was firmly cemented, and there was nothing left to do but let their comedy act entertain us—like we said, stupid-funny, but sonically uninteresting.
Saturday, Aug. 12
Frank Jordan (indeed a band, and not the former mayor of San Francisco) got stuck playing an opening slot at this year's Beach Fest, which meant that they had almost wrapped up their set by the time the security federales finally opened the gates. When we reached the stage, they were saying their goodbyes to a "crowd" of maybe six. We liked what little we heard, though, enough to seek them out this eve, Night No. 2 of Skunk/Cornerstone's Kill the Internet bash, and one of the last shows at the Foothill as we currently know the Foothill.
Frank Jordan were full of good grooves and deep, bubbly, percolating rhythms, just as we expected based on the two-or-so minutes we had previously caught from them. They're also adept at spontaneous jazz outbursts; sly, wibbly-wobbly riffs; faux disco beats; jam-heavy excursions; stray reggae riffs; plus, an occasionally mopey indie-rock tune. A lot going on in the midst of a mere trio, but basically a pretty hot dance band.
Sunday, Aug. 13
True country as played by a gaggle of under-30s who looked like they'd be more comfy playing in an "emo" band? The gut feeling was that they were up there to poke fun at the music, but they were instead really good—not disloyal at all (respectful enough, in fact, to be opening for Hank Williams III at the Galaxy Concert Theatre on Sept. 22). Hank Floyd are a band full of great, nasally voiced and Tele-propelled truck-stop twang. So authentic were they that we're unsure which songs were originals (if any) and which were obscure covers that hadn't buzzed along copper wire in decades (we did recognize their take on Waylon Jennings' "Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard," 1970s-TV-nostalgia factor and all). Perfect tunes for a warm August evening, even though most of the youngish crowd weren't very appreciative of the Hub's booking eclecticism (lots of perplexed looks that said, "What the hell is this shit?") and opted to hang out in the parking lot as far away as they could.
IT CRAWLED FROM THE MAIL BIN MENTION, ROBOTS IN THE PARK (SIX-SONG EP) In which Long Beach's Mention move from an innocent pop vibe into a white-hot retro-funk experience, replete with discotheque booty-busting, Zapp-like vocal effects and horns that slink and slide like they're lifted from a 1970s porn flick (especially on "Caligulow," a title alone that alludes to out-of-control debauchery, with lines like "Do what you want to me/With your fantasy"). The heavy-breathing-fueled "Engine No. 9" also oozes sex, sex, sex—you don't have to be schooled in the art of metaphor to figure out what the "engine" represents, yet the tune doesn't even last three minutes—couldn't they keep it up longer than that? "A Little Strange" and "Until Then" hark back to their older material, driven by summery acoustic guitars and pleasant, wistful melodies and harmonizing —we hope people notice, though, with so much unabashed horniness going on everywhere else.
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