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Rock This Town

Yes, the title of this piece about ex-STRAY CATS bassist LEE ROCKER at his Moe's Alley show last Saturday is more than a bit cliché, but if he can start with that song (and he did), then so can we, damn it. Anyway, we thought it was rather nice of him to start off with a Stray Cats song, leaving no one in suspense as to how Rocker's quartet would sound playing the old hits--and of course they sounded great, the only immediately recognizable difference being Rocker's straightforward vocal delivery, as opposed to the kitschy, ELVIS-style ululating that BRIAN SETZER was so good at embellishing.

This being Rocker's band, he chose to show off his talent as a bassist instead, throwing in little solos wherever he wanted. Oftentimes (and especially in jazz), the upright bass is the weakest instrument in the solo parade, in part because of its design--it's not really built for speed the way a guitar is--and partly due to its tone, which is so low that the rest of the band has to pretty much stop playing. Not a good thing when the band's running hot. That being said, maybe rockabilly and roots music is still around to give upright bass players the very best format for soloing on their instrument. Sure not everyone takes things to the extreme like the REVEREND HORTON HEAT's bassist JIMBO WALLACE, who throws his instrument into the air and lets other band members stand on it while playing, but anyone who calls themselves an American roots bassist surely slaps and plucks the living hell out of their bass, exploiting its badass percussive possibilities. And with proper amplification, someone like Rocker can pull off a mean solo right in the middle of "Long Tall Sally" while the greasers on the dance floor don't miss a single beat.

And where do they all come from, these greasers? Is there some kind of eternal '50s Narnia town behind the mirror that just spits the rebels out each generation? Or does contemporary life just suck so bad that they stick with the '50s? Having not been alive back then, it's tough for me to judge the relative merits of the opposing time periods, so I just let it all collapse into an atemporal, intertextual criqitue of our cultural evolution and fuhgeddaboutit.

Movin' Right Along

A VH1 Behind the Music we haven't seen yet: THE MUPPETS. (Editor's Note: Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles be the closest we ever get.) Who wouldn't want to know more about the heights of stardom and the depths of debauchery reached by superstar KERMIT THE FROG and his on-again, off-again relationship with MISS PIGGY, or the hidden life of FOZZIE BEAR, a tortured genius behind a cherubic facade whose playful, uplifting tunes on the piano inspired generations of American youth, or the sordid, interspecies affairs of the wildly ambiguous single-moniker drummer, ANIMAL. And what in Henson's name was the deal with GONZO? So many questions, so few answers, and only one opportunity to relive it all right here in town. Yes, a seven-piece rock band called the DEAD HENSONS is coming to the Attic on Friday, Jan. 14, playing only songs from early Jim Henson Projects, including SESAME STREET, THE MUPPET SHOW and THE MUPPET MOVIE. Show up early to get your nasty on with the S.F.-based funky retarded garage punk psychedelic boogie meisters CHOW NASTY.

Mike Connor

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From the January 12-19, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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