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Washtenaw Flaneurade
15 December 2008
Any Girls With Machine Guns
Now Playing: Lightning Love: "Good Time"

It's been my intent to hibernate a good deal more this winter than I have in the past. Every year I make this resolution that I'll stay indoors, save money, cut down on my exposure, get some writing done, try some new recipes, and I never seem to entirely keep it, succumbing to the wholly irrational urge to go outside. There's not really that much sun and I can get vitamin D from whole milk, for heaven's sake. Inspired by the examples of certain co-workers, I think this year's project will be markedly more successful. Not now, though, as they keep putting on sweet shows at the Blind Pig, probably just to put me out of sorts.

Lightning Love and the Friendly Foes: The sister-brother combination of Leah and Aaron Diehl has been around for a while, ever since the demise of the Minor Planets, in which both Leah Diehl and a former co-worker of mine at Chateau Fluffy figured. They play a sort of intimate electro-chamber-pop, in which Leah Diehl's strange, almost robotic voice plays well with the simple melodies and occasionally childlike lyrics. While their appeal certainly can't be hurt by the fact that Diehl is inordinately attractive (no offhand judgment, this, as I know at least two cases in which this is a factor in attracting interest from the curious, probably a la Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis), they're a tight,appealing unit, and were certainly much better than when I'd last seen them, opening for Starling Electric. They seemed a little thin but have really perfected a recognizable sound that works great on CD, copies of which they sportingly gave away free with the ticket purchase. I hadn't seen the Friendly Foes before, and they were quite a pleasant surprise, playing the kind of straight-up, shtick-free rock that one rarely sees these days (around here, anyway) outside of acts like the Ultrasounds (maybe a little harder than the latter). I don't count the Hard Lessons, excellent though they can be, as the straight-up rock actually seems to be the shtick in their case. "My Body (Is A Strange Place To live)" was an especial standout, with a nice, anthemic feel to it.

Texas Prison Rodeo and Counter Cosby: There was a bit of a kerfuffle a few years back concerning the aforementioned Starling Electric and their next-door neighbors, when the former lived at the old "White Lodge" on Third Street. One of the guys badmouthed the next door band in the Metro Times and one of the badmouthed wrote in to protest, and shortly thereafter the lads of S-E decamped further west. Working at my present job, I discovered a couple of months back that probably my most frequent co-worker, Joby, was one of the next-door band. So the town's small enough that I can end up working with and befriending one of my favorite band's mortal enemies. I thought this marvelous, and he and my other co-worker Joel have been osmotically working to make me like metal. Some backstory, unfortunately: I've never understood metal, and missed the bandwagon there the same way I did with graphic novels and post-1990 video games. I thought Black Sabbath was all right, but that was about it. My high school's very irregularly produced paper featured a joke quiz one month in the late 80s in which those who won, they said, must have listened to Slayer while those who lost favored Poison. I knew Poison sucked anyway, but Slayer's appeal shockingly eluded me. Watching the entertaining and informative Metal: A Headbanger's Journey on Joel's recommendation started to clear away some of the mystery, but I don't think I ever voluntarily went to hear a metal show until I checked out Joby's relatively new band, Texas Prison Rodeo, opening for Counter Cosby. Featuring Joby on guitar and the infernal, Cthulhu-y vocals of Tavi Lux Veraldi, it was a very committed form of metal (I'd say "intellectual," but that just feels wrong) that had me alternately shaking in my seat and trying to figure out how the hell they did that. Maybe it was simply down to being my first experience with live metal, but it was a great show and I hope to see them again. Counter Cosby have been around for some time; I kept seeing their flyers all over town but never made it to a show. It was my loss, apparently, as they're both very interesting and hilarious. They follow a complex, mathematically-based approach to composing their music that makes for some jarring and arresting melodies (if that's an applicable word). The music in turn goes to support lyrics both wickedly funny and joyously obscene in songs like "Wahmbulance" and "Rickets on the Crotch," all promoted by a paradoxically welcoming stage presence. They' ve even released a couple of movies, Death and Asshole Drunkard, which I'll be watching later this month as part of a planned "local movie day" at my house. After hearing their show and reading their lyrics, it's hard to express how much I'm looking forward to it.

The Tickled Fancy Burlesque Company: Having a bunch of beautiful women ascend stage and then take most of their clothes off to music would seem like a no-brainer of an idea for a show, and I'm a little surprised that it hasn't happened (to my knowledge) around here before recently. Yet another co-worker of mine, who I'll refer to (as he does on stage and occasionally in real life) as "Leonard G. Moustache," has begun working with this local group, which has been around for about a year and which I saw for the second time Saturday night, both out of general interest and because Leonard would have a starring part in the show, if you know what I mean. Tickled Fancy incorporates the traditional elements of classical burlesque with a more modern sensibility that tries to bring a little more comedy and performance to the proceedings. The show starts with the MCs, Chuck Rock and Annie Thing (the latter somewhat resembling a 60s-era Monica Vitti), playing a husband and wife trying to pretend--with the helpful assistance of booze--that they don't loathe each other, doing their intros and then linking the various acts. These differ in style and appeal: a particular audience favorite is Rita Riggs, whose acrobatic ability lends itself to hula hoops and bending coat handers with her tongue, although Lydia Valentine was very good as well. Mabel Syrup's baking routine ("oh, my apron's so dirty!" etc.) definitely hit closest to home, although part of me sniffed at the product she was wasting; still it was all in a good cause. As for Leonard's performance, words fail me. "That mailman's got too many packages! What are we gonna do?" Etc. The audience, as one might imagine, was very responsive to it all; another co-worker (co-workers were unsurprisingly pretty thick on the ground that night) and I actually wound up kneeling atop barstools to get a better look--starting out like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) but thankfully escaping the fate of Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). The spirit of the evening set out to involve people, with raffles and calls and response, and thoroughly delighted everyone (certainly me). As Ms. Syrup put in the new local music journal Sound Notions (a very informative reference which proved quite helpful in writing this entry), they're "more vaudeville than burlesque," and the combination puts a new spin on the kind of entertainment locally possible, at places like the Blind Pig and elsewhere. It's definitely the kind of thing we need more of around here.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 12:27 PM EST
Updated: 15 December 2008 12:35 PM EST
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