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Concert Sat Mar 22 2008
You know, I could start by discussing The Slits' recent headlining performance at the Subterranean, but supposedly it's spring, and it's a holiday weekend, and I'm determined to keep a positive attitude. In short, let's discuss what was great about the evening.
What was great was every other band that performed. For the first time in a couple of months, I came away from a show with a few new bands to excitedly research online. Kicking off the evening was the Chicago-based husband-wife duo, Post Honeymoon. Armed with only keyboards, bass, and a drum kit, the two pounded out catchy songs in the tune of early Kill Rock Stars fodder (think a more dancey Slant 6). While sometimes shaky on the delivery, it was forgivable and even more exciting to find out that the set was only their second show.
Another, even further stripped-down male/female duo, Shellshag played next. Low-fi punk rock thumped out via Shellhead on guitar and drummer Jen Shag. What the songs lacked in variety, the band made up for in crazy, infectious energy. Facing one another, trading back-and-forth vocals, it was like watching Iggy Pop and Captain Caveman go bananas onstage. Shag, in particular is fun to watch: Drumming standing up and wearing sleigh bells about her person, she plays while dancing and leaping about. They obviously love performing, and that excitement bled into the audience in no time.
The Shellshag performance also provided a perfect set-up for the Old Time Relijun set. It was easy to overlook singer Arrington de Dionyso as the band set up. Reserved and sporting thick black glasses, he seemed almost a mustachioed version of Artie, The Strongest Man in the World from "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." But, like another super strong man, de Dionyso stripped his glasses (and his pants), and channeled another persona, equal parts preacher and devil. Old Time Relijun, a quartet from Portland, Oregon, have got the Insane Rock 'n Roll genre covered, featuring squally, loping rockabilly beats. Backing up de Dionyso, the rest of the band (including an upright bass and a fella who can rock two saxaphones at once) was dead-on tight. It was sexy, it was a little scary, and it was a glorious mess. They're playing again on May 20 at the Abbey Pub, so make sure to check them out.
But then there's The Slits. The legendary 1970's punk/dub group has managed to stay together in some fashion or another for years, but whether this has proved a good thing or not remains to be seen as well as heard. To the crowd's delight, Slits singer Ari Up emerged, her ridiculously long dreads trussed up like a Hindu goddess. In her husky voice, she announced that half the band was sick, but promised to deliver a good time regardless. But as soon as the band started up, it fell apart. While yes, the lack of energy was probably due to illness, the lack of timing and rhythm was disappointing.
Crowd participation was heavily in use, but primarily as a crutch, and the crowd grew less and less into it. After asking a few excited gals from the audience to help sing the single "Typical Girls," Ari actually criticized them in front of everyone about on what beat they should have been singing the chorus. After a bit, she seemed to realize how she sounded, and eventually she shrugged her shoulders and laughed it off, saying "Oh well, it's punk, right?" Yes, Ari, it's punk, but "punk" doesn't mean "underwhelming trainwreck," nor does it mean you constantly halt all momentum throughout the show to redress your audience for not fully participating. Eventually, folks started to leave. I certainly did.
But let's keep this positive, right? Post Honeymoon, Shellshag, Old Time Relijun: They delivered. Check 'em out.