Saturday, December 07, 2002

Grand Funk Railway
Stoke brought the amps, Roadbed supplied the kit, and the Railway Club provided the venue for Thursday night’s pre-Christmas rock extravaganza.

I spent some quality time with Shockk before the show. He was quite shockked up about a recent purchase—none other than Into the Pandemonium! 15 years old and still ahead of its time, you know. As the creepy Deadhead girl in the final episode of Freaks and Geeks said, “I wish I never heard it, just so I could hear it again for the first time.”

Smash slipped me the new Flower Kings album. Bleedin’ hell, another double CD in the house. You might think that today’s prog bands have to work twice as hard as their forefathers in order to put out a double album. Even most single CDs are the length of a typical double album back in the day. But I reckon the musicians must enjoy rising to the challenge—after all, they get to solo for twice as long as they used to, and they needn’t worry about the logistics of cutting 28-minute album sides. So away they go, producing the likes of Flower Power and Unfold the Future, which make Tales from Topographic Oceans seem like a Ramones 45. Well, not really.

Stoke played lots of new material, and I think this rattled Willingdon Black a bit. I’m not a big fan of debuting new material myself, so I could relate. He got stronger as the set progressed, and the applause he got for the “Bad Tattoo” solo did my heart good.

I think I’ve reached the point where I’m not too freaked out about attending Stoke shows. A nice buffer of time has developed. I can enjoy the songs as a casual audience member without getting all wrapped up in it. And I can enjoy the fact that it’s them, not me, up on stage.

They played “Anneka” last. The true hilarity of this song hit me hard. I remember when we were bandying about the idea of making it about Ms. Di Lorenzo. “You’ve got to say something about ‘based on a concept by Gore Vidal’ in there,” I said. That was my single contribution to this song (and, in fact, to the Stoke catalog). I’m pretty sure now, though, that Caligula’s credits read “Based on a screenplay by Gore Vidal.” Oh well, it’s done, it’s recorded, it’s out there and loved by all who hear it. Fact-checking Mule thwarted again.

Shockk gave me his band beer tickets, so I grabbed a pint between sets. The prick behind the bar made a big song and dance about it. “Oh, everybody but the band is drinkin’ free tonight!” I tipped him and didn’t return. Fuck him. 1/3 of the band has the straight edge—boo-hoo for the Railway Club. Despite this, my IPA had no bitter aftertaste.

Roadbed were enjoyably…different this evening. Super’s new bass was super twangy, introducing Geddy Lee/Rob Wright tonalities to the traditional Roadbed sound. His preference for playing with a pick down toward the bridge exacerbated this. To be honest, it was a bit distracting until Smash stepped in with some new settings for the bass amp.

Before the amp-tweaking occurred however, Roadbed delivered the highlight of the evening in the form of a new instrumental that was by far the craziest thing they’ve ever done. It sounded like friggin’ Watchtower or Cynic! I had a big idiot grin on my face through the whole number. This wasn’t the old Roadbed. They didn’t scrape off their makeshift “jazzy indie-rock” label as much as take a blowtorch to it then spit upon the ashes. Maybe Shockk’s ELP(owell) shirt was a forewarning of the hypercomplex holocaust they smacked me in the gob with…or maybe it was to blame.

Shortly after that insane exursion, they busted out with another new number. I don’t know what it was called, but I’m pretty sure you spell it D-O-O-M. I can’t wait to hear it again. They claimed they got it off Ian Curtis right before he offed himself. Well, Chuck Eddy thinks Joy Division are a heavy metal band, and judging by this new song, Roadbed have made the connection too.

The rest of the set exploited the rockin’ side of the Roadbed sound. “Late for Work” and “Jazz Pack” were performed at warp speed, strings threatening to break and fingertips to melt. “Time to Shockk” suffered a bit from Robertson grappling with a still-unfamiliar fretboard. “Scarb Jacket,” that glorious Max Websterian Canrock classic, was solid as ever. They encored with a 10-minute “Gibbering Fool,” a tune that seems as old as time itself. I remember walking into the Cottage Bistro 23 years ago and watching them play this song. When they hit the pre-chorus, I thought, “These guys must like They Might Be Giants.” We’ve gotten along swimmingly ever since. I don’t know how many of their shows I’ve attended (15? 20? 25?), but I’ve enjoyed every one. Thursday night was a little bit special, though.

Who won the quiz? Did anyone beat Smash? Did he donate his prize to charity?

Things I’d like to be able to do:
Master the bezier tool.
Get a proper double-stroke roll happening.
Get a good kick drum/snare sound.
Make art that’s not me just trying to be weird.
Write something without shitting bricks beforehand.

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