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Weekend Notes: Shotgunning Beers With Speedo

December 16, 2008
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John Reis | Image by Josh Sisk

If only Mike Ness would age as gracefully as John “Speedo” Reis, the potent frontman of pomp-rock ensemble Rocket From the Crypt, guitarist for post-hardcore touchstone Drive Like Jehu, and, most recently, guitarist and vocalist for sweaty garage riot the Hot Snakes. All bands are defunct now, and Reis has gone on to form the Night Marchers, another worthy outfit for a figure who could probably coast solo on his legacy. Reis, though, doesn’t appear to have that kind of ego. Watching the well-groomed, shirt tucked, and remarkably young looking Reis on stage–soaked through with sweat, red faced, hurling out that trademark gritty howl cum growl–you get the impression he’ll never stop trying to earn it.

The Ottobar wasn’t sold out, but certainly full. The crowd–lots of black, way skinny jeans, leather, and beer–was a stereotypical “rock” bunch, but this is the crowd that, as much as any, goes to shows actually to listen to shows. The night was running early/on-time, so local opener Sick Weapons was about over by the time we rolled up. But, quick impressions were that they rule–sharp, lady fronted garage-punk that would find a comfy home on In The Red or Siltbreeze. Think Team Dresch with less of the pretty.

The Night Marchers’ debut long player See You In Magic has it’s fine moments, but probably isn’t making many top anything lists, even among Speedo obsessives. Like Reis’ other outfits, the Night Marchers are a live band. No, they don’t have the horns or bombast or hooks of RFTC, but astound for an amazing tight, calculated unit that comes off as casual and loose as the next garage slop big deal to come out of those aforementioned indie record labels.

It seemed like we heard most of Magic last night. The comparatively RFTC-ish “I Wanna Deadbeat You” has a poppy resolution that about matches “Born In ’69.” Nice also hearing the short, knotty guitar breaks of “Jump In the Fire” unsnarled live. You had to dig Weis passing out cans of Pabst for a mass beer shotgunning while cautioning, “We gotta do this fast or else we’ll, you know, lose momentum.” Also of note is Jason Kourkounis, who drums like a samurai and should be witnessed by anyone who thinks ping -pong is the height of dexterity.

Lizz King played one of her first shows in a good while last Friday at the Windup Space. (The songwriter has been splitting her time in West Virginia, she explained before starting her set.) And, oddly enough, in the rural interim, her music has become notably more electronic. Neither guitar nor banjo were in attendance. If you could somehow suck all of the twee and cavity pop from the Blow and replace with some dark clouds and heavier beats, you’re at least getting there. Oh, and sub in King’s inimitable smoke-lined singing voice as well. It works well, but her folkier side is to be mourned.

It felt like a short set, but we got a rendition of her older “Booty Queen” with its “Oh baby baby” refrains, sampled coyote calls, and night-drive synth lines. The track is heavy, creepy, and affecting–and very un-Wham City. (But, then again, as it grows, Wham City is becoming very un-Wham City.) She also did a take on Rhianna’s “Umbrella” with a projected collage work of people hiding under a certain something in the rain. The closer was a sweet take on “Little Drummer Boy” with a grainy, slow motion projection of local uber-percussionists Kevin O’Meara and Jeremy Hyman drumming in an “Ultimate Reality” performance. King has another show early next month at the Talking Head you’d be wise to attend.