Opening act Starlight Desperation began the show with a tight,Cramps-influenced, almost Birthday Party sound and a drummer thatlooked like Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees. I had high hopes forthis band, but unfortunately they never got as arty as the BirthdayParty or as weird as the Cramps. They were such a technicallyproficient band that they could probably play their set in theirsleep and I think they knew this. They wanted to make themselvesseem free and loose, but overall it seemed staged, right down tothe way the drummer began chugging a beer while playing. At onepoint the guitarist/singer yelled something along the lines of”Hello, Seattle!…uh, I mean Portland!” This gave me theimpression that this was just another gig for them and they wereplaying like it.
The Ponies, on the other hand, were much more interesting andwere my favorite of the night. By the end of the Starlight set Iwas bored, my legs began to get sore from standing and the beer I’dordered started to make me tired. I had sat down on thecigarette-littered carpet during their sound-check to rest my eyes.But just as they started to play, I immediately jumped up, wideawake to take in their sound. Their sound was very British, kind oflike Echo and the Bunnymen or Jesus and Mary Chain, with a garagetwinge.
They would switch off between two guitars and guitar and organ.My mood that had been fouled by the previous band took a 180-degreeturn. The singer’s slurred, hiccupped voice added interestingelement to the sound and they definitely had more soul and put moreeffort into their playing than the previous act. By the end of theset both they and the audience were sweating profusely.
The Dirtbombs’ stage set-up made them seem like a Siamese band,with Mick Collins up front, two bassists and two drummers followinghim in a triangular formation. From what I’d read I was expecting akind of noisy R & B, or Noise & B if you will. Rather, theywere a pretty good mix of R & B, soul, heavy garage, with somesprinklings of post-punk. I especially liked the two basses, onefuzz and one with a typical drone.
Overall the songs were good and Mick’s singing ranged from AlGreen to Steve Marriot, but I kind of thought that there could’vebeen more. I didn’t understand why they had two drummers. Iexpected a carefully constructed wall of beats, but the bandcould’ve done fine on its own with just one.
They did a cover of the Australian band The Elois’ “By My Side,”which is a great song, and it is almost impossible not to get acrowd going with this number, but the energy just wasn’t there.Ditto with the encore which was another cover. This time it wasBrian Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire,” which could’ve been contorted intosomething brilliant, but it sounded the same as the original, onlywithout the benefit of Robert Fripp. Collins’ guitar was out oftune, so they ended up cutting it short.
Overall I don’t know what was in the air that made this showonly bearable and not fun as I had anticipated. The atmosphere waslike that of a stale piece of wonder bread, from the crowd to theperformers. Even with the alcoholic atmosphere no one seemed to getthat boisterous. I did spot one bespectacled, skinny girl whoseemed to be determined to have a good time. She drank and boppedand pogoed all throughout each band’s set. She, along with thePonies and the cute brunette waitress were the stars of the night,giving the show the energy it needed.