w/ El Dopamine and Fun Ladies
at The Shredder, Saturday 29 Dec. 2018
Straight outta Spokane, we began the night with a rip-roaring band I, in my dimwitted ignorance, had never ever heard of…a little rock’n’roll combo called Fun Ladies. Having met a few out of towners, I had heard nothing but praise for this band. And yes, praise was precisely what these cats deserved.
It had been maybe 25+ years since I had heard a band from eastern Washington with this kind of, uh, flavor. And perhaps “flavor” is exactly the wrong word I’m looking for. But oh, say, circa ‘91 or ‘92ish, labels like eMpTy Records and Estrus Records had acts like Gas Huffer and The Mono Men who had this same sort of brash, Chuck Berry-kinda sound to them. You know, uptempo rock with a couple of flying basslines built around a chorus that simply demanded some pentatonic filigree. And, in this case, a female vocalist who packed a bit of a wallop when she sang. Naturally, within a song or two, I was hooked.
There’s a bit of a visible band dynamic when you watch a group onstage, and from the outset, bassist Tim Lannigan had the floor. He and Cameron (the drummer) definitely held sway through the entire show. Still, there was a marvelous melodic element, delivered all fat and flat and full of attitude, which guitarist Van used to punch holes through the performance. But clearly Patti, the singer, was the one selling us the songs. And sell she did. If this band swings back through Boise, I humbly beseech you to see them, you assholes.
As sturdy as a brick-built shithouse, Boise can always count on our next band, El Dopamine, to carry the evening. (And I mean no ill-will by mentioning a shithouse. My grandfather built a shithouse that outlasted my elementary school and my first three apartments.) I was asked, apropos of nothing, “What does El Dopamine sound like?” by a guy who seemed like a ragtag skater punk, and whose admission I paid the last $2 of, and it got me thinking. Hmm. How does one describe this band? I guess the simplest, cheesiest way would be to compare them to other bands, right? “Uhh, let’s see, I hear some Neil Young, some Dinosaur Jr., some Camper van Beethoven, some gentle version of early Sonic Youth, some nice-guy eruption of hardcore punk,” and so on. Clearly, I didn’t sway this fella.
But they rock, most evenings. And indeed, this evening, they absolutely rocked. Delivered a gem of a set. Can’t get much more ‘ticulate than that.
So now we come to the Godzilla of the evening. The Rodan, perhaps. Dirt Fishermen!
Now, for those who caught my post last March during Treefort, y’all might well comprehend my affinity for this band. I can attest to being in the store 25+ years ago, buying their latest releases the instant they went public. At age 14 or 15, I was truly stuck on this band, and believed they were the greatest thing since sliced coffee.
I bought and devoured their debut LP, “Glenn’s Car” (Silence Records, 1990), just as their EP was released: “Tattoo,” (Screemin’ Fez, 1991). And so, goofy teenager that I was, I began attending every single show I could. By late-92, I had interviewed them for Jet Black’s magazine, The Bomb. Then they released “Vena Cava” (C/Z Records, 1993). A local band getting their album produced by Jack Endino was quite a “get,” back in those days. Surely things were only looking up, right?
But then there was a hiatus, as it was roundly called in the press. A long hiatus, near as I could tell. Yet every half-dozen years, it seems like they come back. And I wouldn’t have it any other way; would you?
The other three or four times I have seen them, they have come back as a five-member group. Dave Grapp was a staple in the early years, and features heavily on the “Glenn’s Car” album, and so large sections of their reunion gigs had him up front, fulfilling that piece of their catalogue. Tonight at The Shredder was different, however, because the band performed without him, pretty much exclusively from their ‘91-’93 catalogue.
And good on them, because this four-piece band at its best is fucking magnificent. Truly, this performance reminded me of their heyday, post “Vena Cava,” when they were almost indisputably Boise’s best band. They played most (or all?) of the “Tattoo” EP and “Vena Cava” album. Dan was as frenetic as ever, bouncing around and still managing to nail his tricky bass-lines. And Glenn can be forgiven for having a nearly-permanent dour expression on his face–the drumming he does is ultraprecise, and requires too much concentration to worry about anything other than where his hands and feet go. KT can always be counted on to truly belt out her vocals, whereas Gina’s approach has always been a bit more understated. Like their guitar-playing, their voices together are fantastically complementary.
There were particularly killer versions of “Breaking Bones,” “I Will Wait,” “Wrath of Rabbit,” and their usual set-closer, the practically-an-anthem tune, “Cops”. All in all, this was a marvelous show. If you have never heard of these bands, and you happen to get a chance someday to see Dirt Fishermen play a set this fucking great, you can thank me then. I will gladly accept Visa or Mastercard, or beer.
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