Rock Of Ages

posted at 10:44 am
on Monday, February 06th, 2012

Rock of Ages

I’ve never bought the idea that age has anything to do with enjoying rock music, and I still don’t, but the question did come up last weekend. I waded into the crowd of suburban youth Friday night at The Waiting Room too late to see either of the opening bands, thanks to the Yankees. I considered skipping the show because it was already 11 p.m., but I was on the list and I figured ‘Why not?’ While I’d heard of headliner Ra Ra Riot the band had always slipped under my radar. I knew that RRR was in the College Music Journal top-20 shortly after its Barsuk release hit the streets. I’d read the band’s description at allmusic.com, where the style was described as “chamber pop,” probably because the band employs a violinist and cello player, both young women. Upon entering the club, there they were, like a pair of gorgeous bookends on opposite sides of the crowded stage, divided by RRR’s shaggy frontman who leaned forward on the microphone in front of a mob scene. The show wasn’t a sellout, but it was handsomely attended, by more women than men, a familiar trend for indie shows these days.   So I stood back by the soundboard with my Rolling Rock and tried to lock in, but couldn’t. Other than those strings, the six-piece didn’t sound much different than any of the crop of hot indie pop bands burning up the CMJ charts — Vampire Weekend, Tokyo Police Club, Yeasayer, even Local Natives, a band who played a sold-out show at TWR a week earlier. Outside the venue on the sidewalk along Maple Street a fan tried to convince me that Ra Ra Riot was different from the others, that something special in their melodies set them apart from the herd. I listened quietly, and then told him that as much as I respected his opinion, he was wrong. I said RRR was just another kick-drum-fueled open-chord pop act trying to skirt the border between indie rock and dorm-room dance music, and while that was perfectly fine, nothing stood out about the band’s music, no lyric or melody was memorable, and that I was getting tired of hearing the same old song from all these bands for the past two years. Then the question arose: Was I turning into one of those “back in my day” old guys who couldn’t get with the latest sound? In my dismay, I mentioned this to one of the 20-something regulars at O’Leaver’s the following night. “Yes, you’re getting old,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that Ra Ra Riot doesn’t suck.” He then admonished me for not being at The 49’r Friday to hear the band I was about to hear. O’Leaver’s is a tiny club compared to TWR, and when it’s packed, it feels even tinier. Saturday night the drunken throng pushed out the door into the concrete beer garden, there to see the reunion of The Sons of O’Leaver’s (the night before they were The Sons of The 49’r), a local band that made its mark in the early part of the last decade. The band features some of the city’s most notable musicians: Frontman Kelly Maxwell and drummer Mike Loftus, who was in 60-Watt Saloon, Shovelhead and Hong Hyn Corp, a band which included guitarist/vocalist Matt Rutledge, who was in Compost, Miss Lonely Hearts, Holiday and The Great Disma, which included bass player Mike Tulis, known for his work in Full Blown, The Monroes and The Third Men. In other words, The Sons of … is a veterans’ club made even more venerable that night by the addition of Omaha ex-patriot Mike Jaworski (Hello from Waveland, The Cops), who was in town from Seattle. Dressed to the nines in formal suits and ties, the band took to the area that O’Leaver’s calls a stage and ripped through an hour of gritty rock bordering on punk. It was just what I’d been thirsting for after weeks of indie rock pabulum. But didn’t this underscore the whole “old guy” argument? The Sons of … music clearly is a reflection of a bygone era, a sort of homage to ’90s “college rock” (the phrase used before the term “indie” came into vogue) played by a bunch of guys in their 30s. I stood back by the soundboard with my Rolling Rock and looked over a crowd that was as locked in as I was, a crowd whose age spanned 21-50+. After the smoke cleared, Little Brazil took the stage, a band as modern as any you’ll hear on Sirius XM, but with a sound not far removed from the band I just heard. I realized that I knew the answer. Some new stuff will never jive with me. On the other hand, I’ve been digging the new CDs by Pete Yorn, Land of Talk and Deerhunter. While Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Ke$ha will always be greasy kid stuff. Rock music isn’t always universal; it doesn’t always span the ages, but in the end, the only person who can tell you if you’re too old to listen to it is you.

posted at 12:27 pm
on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

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