Monday, February 20, 2006

The Jazz Guys | Club Metronome | Feb 17th

Ever since Underpants Records introduced me to The Jazz Guys, I've been hitting repeat on the songs I pulled down from their site. Good pop songs with a big guitar attack softened by four-part vocals.

So, jds of Latitude 44.2N and I headed over to Burlington Friday night to catch them at Club Metronome and see how their sound held up live. We got there just before the opening bands started. Enough time to grab a drink (they have those big-ass bottles of Newcastle there) and check the place out a little. Good space. Lots of room with some lounge area to one side. Despite being right above the Phish-famous Nectars, I didn't hear any sound bleeding up the stairs.

There were two opening bands before The Jazz Guys took the stage. I'm not sure which band was Old Lite and which was The Breaking In (what a lousy name; I've had to check The Jazz Guys site four times trying to remember that band name; it's completely forgettable) but I know the first band was pretty damn good while the second stunk. Like so many current indie rockers, Band #1 was a two-person deal with a guitarist and drummer. They reminded me a lot of Eux Autres which was a pleasant treat since I've been loving that sound lately. Twangy but rocking guitar with a tapping beat. If anybody could set me straight about the name of these guys, I'd appreciate it.

jds and I couldn't even make it through two songs of the second band. Just a blah boring sound with the occasional 70's-styled guitar solo puncturing the boredom with pain. So, we decided to go downstairs to see who was playing downstairs at Nectars. It was some jam-band with about eight members packed like sardines onto the stage. I think they're name was Pookie or something like that. They sounded OK and the crowd was doing their hippie dances so I guess they were OK but others would be a better judge of them.

We then grabbed some fries to wait out the rest of Band #2's set upstairs which wound up be a good call since it was about midnight now and I hadn't eaten anything since dinner with the kids around 5:30pm. It's not exactly The South Beach Diet but it hit the spot.

When we got back upstairs, they crowd had grown to about 100 people including some hardcore Jazz Guys fans who had taken their positions right in front of the stage; including one guy in a big black stetson cowboy hat, tweed sportscoat and Jazz Guys t-shirt. You don't see that sort of outfit in VT very often.

After a couple of hours of waiting The Jazz Guys had finally hit the stage. jds and I unintentionally parked ourselves on the right side of the stage in front of Max Schwartz. It wound up being a great spot to watch him just rip into that guitar of his. The kid is a blast to watch. He's got all of the rockstar moves down as he blisters through the tunes. The guy is just a blur while he's playing. However, then he stops and between that big grin and Lief Garrett haircut, he looks like a little kid at a skatepark. It's an amusing contrast.

Sonically, The Jazz Guys sound more like The Ramones when they are playing live than they do on the tracks available on their website. However, that heavy sound is softened by having all four band members singing in unison. And they are damn tight. Each guy hits all of the marks everytime which really accentuates the hooks in their songs. It's a great sound.

The odd part of the show was the crowd and The Jazz Guys' banter with them. The Jazz Guys chat with the crowd like they know all of them personally, which perhaps they might. But if you aren't part of that crowd, then you are left with the feeling that you are intruding on a private party. However, their fans seem to feed on that familiarity with the band. People seemed to feel comfortable enough to throw things at the band, jump on stage, do semi-strip shows, fall over into the drumset and pull the monitors over. All the while, The Jazz Guys just seemed to laugh it off as the usual routine.

In fact, the whole attitude of the show seemed half "good rock show" and half "rock parody performance art". Depsite the fact that there was some solid music being played, nobody (the fans and The Jazz Guys) seemed to be taking the show seriously. That's a tough line to walk. It felt like a "local band show" rather than "national band show". I don't know if The Jazz Guys are looking to break out of Burlington or not but if they do want to get better, they need to take their shows a little more seriously. If they don't take themselves seriously, nobody else will. They're a very good band with an addictive sound but they can't leave 80% of the crowd feeling like they are playing to the 20% that's their friends.

jds and I both have little kids at home and knew we'd be getting up in few hours. So, around 1:30am, we called it a night even though the show was still going on. It was a good night out and I'm looking forward to seeing The Jazz Guys again. It'll also be interesting to hear their full EP when they finally release it.


jds said...

I concur. I attempted to write a review 3 times, but it just didn't come easy.

I think the band playing at Nectars was Poogie Bell, who I guess is quite the drummer.

Anonymous said...

Brian, the first band, the two-piece guitar/drum outfit, was the Breaking In. Go easy on them, the guitarist is my dear friend John, who is a master brewer at Magic Hat by day.


Flatlander said...

Paul, I liked their sound. In fact, I liked them a lot and would be interested in hearing anything they've recorded. I just think The Breaking In is a bad name. It's so blah that I can't remember it. The most important part of a band name is to be memorable in some way. Do they have a site?

casey said...

I agree with most of your JG comments.

However, I do think that they could bring their schtick to the national level. I think the band would act very much the same way, and audiences would eventually come along for the ride.

I mean, look at Morrissey. His fans think he's singing directly to them.

By the way, the JG are fully aware of their comedic nature. The shows are more rehearsed than you might imagine...

Flatlander said...

The Decemberists are very playful and humorous in concert also. However, it's a tough line to walk. They have to balance that side of them with the quality of their music. If the needle tips too far towards parody, then it could hurt them.

I also think fans cut established bands like Morrissey and Decemberists more slack than they do for new bands.

Perhaps I'm making a bigger issue of it than it needs to be. I just like their sound and hope they get a fair shake from fans and critics outside of VT.

casey said...

These dudes have amazing poker faces. Even if they were playing in front of 5 people who had never seen them before, they'd pull it off.

Granted, it's a tough sell for a lot of people who aren't used to that sort of thing. But I'm sure perseverance would pay off.

But who knows? I don't think they've ever played out of town!

Neil said...

Rock on, local music blog!! Allow me to vociferously disagree on the following issues: I think The Breaking In is a fine name. Didn't see em. Additionally, The Cripples (aka Band #2), which stars Aaron Hornblas (also of The Cush, ex-Rock & Roll Sherpa), fucking ruled. Fine if you don't like that kinda thing, but I thought their spaced-out Neil Young meets early-90s psych-"alternative" ala Meat Puppets/DinoJR shtick was spot-on. Especially since the last time I saw them, their first gig, they pretty much sucked even by their own admission. I couldn't believe they were the same band. Not only did they have their technical shit down, they had a great big weird hairy fucking vibe about a mile wide. And in terms of the JG audience participation deal... with all due respect, I always take it as a pretty good sign when a reviewer has the "I felt left out" complaint. If you're feeling left out of something, that means there's something in the first place. I mean, *I* personally felt kinda left out of the whole Pavement thing, but somehow that didn't stop them.

My only issue would be the chicken-or-the-egg question of how much their antagonistic crowd-needling rapport has to do with the Activist/Dictators' shtick. Y'know, just sayin'...

Either way, rock on local music blog!!

Flatlander said...

Rock on local music star!

So, if those guys were The Cripples, what happened to Old Lite? Maybe I'll get another chance to hear The Cripples some day but they just didn't do it for me.

casey said...

I love the Cripples, and their bassist, Jeb Interlandi, is one of my oldest, dearest friends. He's an incredible musician and a true soldier of fortune.

We're starting a band together. Hopefully, we'll never play live.

Wow, the Word Verification was "whpets." Kind of like "whippets." Man, that brings me back...

andy said...

maybe you didn't like us because you were so hungry for fries. or perhaps our pants weren't quite up to jazz guys tightness specifications (just razzin' on ya guys, you all have very nice pants)? regardless, thanks for our first bad review (even though you mentioned the jam band more than us), as it seems to have led to our first good review (thank you Neil, i'm totally buying you a beer at the next show you come to..or at least Aaron will). and hell, if you come to another show Flatlander (even accidentally), come find me and i'll buy you a beer too.

To clarify, we went by Old Lite at that show. Under normal circumstances, we're the Cripples.

And as far as the JG antagonistic crowd-needling rapport, I love their fan mail readings, but I think Tom Lawson would win in a face-off against Herb, if only because I've seen Tom go off, before, during, and after shows, including the first time I saw the A/Ds, when he went on for 45 minutes in the middle of a show about someone's grandmother (either his own or David's, I can't remember).

I apologize for the length of that run-on sentence.

-the other guy from band #2