shewaquariumpic.jpg
Todd Hamm
Schew Aquarium

Jodie Watts, Schew Aquarium, Will Wakefield

Thursday, October 27

The Sunset Tavern

A buddy called me last night at 6:51 and

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Noise, Novelty, and That Time Everybody Was a Sprinkler, Last Night at the Sunset

shewaquariumpic.jpg
Todd Hamm
Schew Aquarium

Jodie Watts, Schew Aquarium, Will Wakefield

Thursday, October 27

The Sunset Tavern

A buddy called me last night at 6:51 and asked if I wanted to hit the Sunset for a show at 9. Sure, I said. I'm a sucker for the mere possibility of a pleasant surprise: Sign me up. There's always a risk of course, on the off Thursday or Tuesday like this that you'll run into career bar bands, novelty acts, or rehearsal-caliber gigs if you're not careful; bands who are just out for a few laughs. Valid concerns, I suppose, but I was able to put my fears to rest entirely when an omen-bearing man wearing a chicken helmet wandered in and eased his way to the front of the crowd...

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While I was admiring the man's chicken helmet, a dude named Will Wakefield was beginning his set with his band. We watched from the cavernous back section of the Sunset and traded observations: predictable melodies; a lack of any kind of "edge"; cliché lyrics ("The stars won't shine" was a line sung repeatedly during one song); you know that band that did the theme song for Friends? They harmonized, and Wakefield was clearly working hard, but there was really nothing of substance to grab hold of. We wandered to the bar and ordered pizza.

The venerable Schew Aquarium was up next. We had spoken with the bassist, Scott, before the show (my friend knew him, and I had met him once or twice before). He was the guy that painted all of those awesome dragons in the back room of the bar. He had the fried artist look, and some wild zombie hair, which brought him up to 6'4" or 6'5". He told us they've been a band for "a few years," and that they just like to have fun.

Scott turned out to be a pretty damn good bassist, and pumped the wah-pedal a bunch during the opening song, which sounded like it was called "Choose Your Weapon." The lead singer/guitarist--who had the mind-boggling ability to sing (well) with a massive smile on his face--told the crowd after the song: "This is the same song as the last one, but with different chords and lyrics." A few songs later, he said "This song's about lunch," and "If you could run in place, that would help me out a lot," "run in place, please." Nobody ran in place, but several people danced. The music was danceable, with hints of the B-52s, Zeppelin, and Primus even. There were a couple of cool moments when they broke for a well-timed drum fill, then finished with a strong change-up. It was a wacky mix of novelty and substantive music from a trio of good musicians, which was enough to entertain me, and it was at that time that I noticed a guy wearing a wolf helmet in the front of the crowd...

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The wolf helmet guy turned out to be headliner Jodie Watts, whom the chicken helmet guy--who was not in the band--had told me outside on a smoke break was awesome, which I was inclined to believe. The set started off with the hands-down silliest intro I've ever heard: A rock song that was sung something like "Welcome ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to party tonight?" The whole set was like this.

Watts explained that they had been a band for 15 years, and had never had a single quarrel. He loved his girlfriend, etc. This was the goddammed happiest show I had ever been to. The crowd stayed at around 30 for the set, and appeared to be having a good time--they were eating up the happiness. At one point, a man from the crowd walked on stage and was handed the guitarist's guitar, and proceeded to SHRED, and throw out windmill arm-swings and such. I remember thinking this is bizarre, but before I could finish my thought, Watts asked everybody to pretend to be a sprinkler. He called Scott from Schew Aquarium to the stage and began a song that went "Sprinkler! It sounded like a [wait for it] sprinkler!" Scott was a great sprinkler, and everyone put forth their best effort. Well, almost everyone. My friends had headed home long ago, and at that point I did the same, but not without this strange hybrid-feeling of confusion and joy that these bands had left me with. Thanks, guys.

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