Most reasonably sane and intelligent people dislike cliché bumper stickers. Personally, I pretty much despise all bumper stickers. If I'm driving behind someone who has affixed "The Goddess Is Alive and Magick Is Afoot!" or "Mean People Suck" to the rear of their vehicle, I send a hex of mechanical failure in their direction. All that said, I sometimes think that certain bands should use an "Are We Having Fun Yet?" sticker to attach their set list to the stage. Aside from the obvious sins of the shoegazers and the indier-than-thou posturing that tends to infect young math-rockers, there just aren't enough bands that give themselves permission to entertain one another as much as their audience. Really, booking shows and lugging gear is a serious pain in the ass, and if you're not having fun with your bandmates up there, you're just a misguided masochist.
Local band Root Beer Barrels are no masochists.
From the moment they took the stage at Cafe Venus/marsBar this past Friday, the five-month-old group, comprised of four seasoned veterans and one very animated newcomer, was more than energetic. They were effortlessly entertaining, simply because they looked like five adults thrown into the real world's most amusing sandbox. Bassist Frosty had wound a feather boa around his strap, and both he and drummer Adam Comfort only made it through a couple of songs before their shirts came off. Aptly named frontwoman 'Lil Sarah Fury was wearing one of those goofy novelty belt buckles, with a customized digital ticker tape that spelled out "Tell Your Man to Suck It." She was also brashly wielding an ear-piercing whistle device that she blew at the end of each song, making it sound like a drunken hesher at an arena-rock show was broadcasting his approval.
While her bandmates bashed out straightforward, garage-oriented rock with a pitch-perfect petulance that occasionally recalled Imperial Teen's noisier moments, Miss Fury mouthed off lyrics that alternated between humorous character assassinations and breathy flirtations, fearlessly engaging in bratty call-and-response sass-offs with her male bandmates, rattling her tambourine manically, and tossing their namesake candy to the crowd, not to mention periodically pausing to play patty-cake with guitarist Ric Caesar. As adorable as she was antagonistic, Fury was the perfect starter fluid for the spontaneous combustion that closed their set, when Caesar evidently decided that his guitar had outlived its usefulness and bashed it mercilessly against the stage and his own amp until nothing but a severed neck and brutally bruised body remained.
"I have never done that before," swears Caesar when I call him Monday morning to discuss the demise of his instrument. "Honestly, I have been having a bad couple of weeks, and it ended up being about $61 dollars' worth of therapy," he laughs. Though I had no idea until I heard his voice-mail greeting on the phone, it turns out that Caesar's real name is Dick Rossette—he's the beloved local DJ who was very unceremoniously dumped by 107.7 the End late last year. He's not the only one with an entry in the Seattle history books, either—second guitarist Marsh Gooch toiled at local rag The Rocket back in the day, and Frosty played bass in Twink the Wonder Kid, Rossette's previous band. Combining their grizzled experience with Fury's youthful exuberance is obviously a winning formula that benefits everybody. "This girl loves rock so much," Rosette enthuses. "She's just 24, and if someone has as much unbridled passion for rock as she does, they have to be in a band at least once in their life." Root Beer Barrels have just finished their debut with help from their old friends Conrad Uno and Jack Endino—logical, easygoing collaborators for a band built upon a commitment to keeping it loud, simple, and honestly enjoyable. "I think that's sort of a lost art—making it fun without it being a joke," says Rosette. "I don't know how many people salute that flag any more, but we're trying." Your next opportunity to catch their sugar rush will be at Skylark on June 16.
Finally, hearty congrats to Marcus Lalario and his crew over at the War Room, who will be celebrating their two-year anniversary this Friday, May 18. Look for a full report of the revelry in next week's column.