Whether you're in on the joke or not, watching a band featuring Kyle Gass of Tenacious D fame can be a little confusing. Performances by the bald-pated minstrel and his musical minions delivering irony-laced homages to all things bloat-rock beg the question: Are these guys laughing at rock & roll excess, edifying it, or both? Even if you walk away confused, there is no question that you've been entertained. Last night, KG and crew, performing as Trainwreck, delivered a set of rock tunes ranging from Blue Oyster Cult-style space rock to Jerry Lee Lewis-style rockabilly, to unabashed southern jams a La Lynyrd Skynyrd. And they did it with utter proficiency, humor and unwavering commitment to the bit.
Gass, who donned a thick black wig and brown leather vest, strutted across the stage strumming his acoustic guitar and delivering fist bumps to those near the stage. Meanwhile, lanky and lean in tight jeans lead singer Darryl Lee Donald busted James Brown dance moves, and occasionally pulled a brush from his pocket to run through his mulletted-do.
Early in the set the band played the song “R.B.M.” off 2009's The Wreckoning. The intro features several abrupt stops in the music. During each pause, all band members would freeze with deft comedic timing. During one pause, I caught Kyle Gass's unblinking gaze. Though laughing inside, I felt simultaneously and supremely uncomfortable.
Things kicked in to high-gear hilarity when Gass pulled out his Ron-Burgundy-meets-Jethro-Tull act and busted out a flute, which he played quite skillfully. At times he did some wicked call and response with guitarist John Bartholomew Shredman. (Side-note: Shredman was the stand-out musician of the evening. With a style both fluid and nimble, the axman delivered a range of licks from simmering blues rock to country-style and lightning-quick finger picking.)
Though there were a number of stand-out songs, the manthem “Brodeo” was on top of the list. An ode to male bonding delivered in three-part harmony, the song features the lyric: “When the broverload occurs, we can all take off our shirts, and wrestle in the dirt.” Though the set was as funny as a person could hope for, I had to wonder whether Trainwreck will stand up to repeated plays on the iPod or stereo speakers sans a live performance. It seems unlikely for any fan less than hardcore, as the whole bit relies too much on visual variables such as the paunchy Gass wailing on his flute. But rumor has it, a television show is in the works. Here's hoping.