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A Barren of Mules

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. If a male horse and female donkey get it on, then the unfortunate genetic product is known as a hinny. Like our crossbred barnyard friends, MULE TRAIN is the product of some Santa Cruz indie inbreeding. When you work at PERGOLESI, you know, things happen. People get bored with musical monogamy. I just hope that no band members end up with 62 chromosomes.

According to our anonymous friends over at the WIKIPEDIA, "A mule possesses the sobriety, patience, endurance and sure-footedness of the ass, and the vigor, strength and courage of the horse." I'll second that emotion, except for the sobriety bit. With Pabst running you a dollar and drinks going two for one, it was rather difficult to retain a grasp on sobriety while watching the Mule kick out the jams at the BLUE LAGOON. (It's so good to have yet another place to see good live and local music downtown. In fact, the block across from the Metro Station threatens to implode with the combined coolness of STREETLIGHT, THE ATTIC and the Blue Lagoon all in a row.)

Mule Train is cow-punk to the core. Louder and more aggressive than that other band from Pergs (DM3), there was nary a banjo to be seen on the stage. Chords were of the powered variety, bass was of the electric persuasion and yes, there was a drummer. It's my solitary hope that lead singer and guitarist PAUL M. DAVIS picks up the slide more and makes good on his love of JUNIOR BROWN. "My Wife Thinks You're Dead" is dying for a new arrangement.

What's the Frequinox, Kenneth?

The METERS have an utterly unique sound that has spawned countless imitators over the years, but like their brethren in AC/DC and STYX, they wrote about 60 versions of the same song. When FREQUINOX busted into another palm muted classic, instantly my companion's face and mine bunched up in an attempt to put a name to that riff. "Sophisticated Cissy?" "Cissy Stut?" "Tippi Toes?" Who knows? The debate had to be resolved via email the next morning.

Regardless, the Frequinox lays out some wonderful versions of Boogaloo classics. With both ROBERT WALTER and WIL BERNARD laying down chords, there is plenty of support for the soloists to take wing. Saxophonist DONALD HARRISON was particularly impressive, whether on vocals or the horn. Its no surprise that the HEADHUNTERS have recruited him to keep packing in the crowds 32 years after CHAMELEON was laid down.

Walter is always a joy to watch. Sporting a RAMONES T-shirt, he gracefully plowed through some soul classics, including an absolutely awesome jam by CHARLES EARLAND. The B3 still remains my dream instrument, but at the present time, I don't think the foundation of my house could take another 600 pounds.

While watching this thoroughly excellent group play I was reminded of the ghost of Palookaville. This was exactly the kind of show that would have fit perfectly in that particular venue and it pains my heart to see the kitchen of BAJA FRESH inhabit the same space where so many great bands used to rock the rafters. Although an overly sentimental wish, I wish they would have at least kept the sign up.

Spring in New Zealand? In May?

It's a rare concert where someone hauls out an instrument that you've never seen, especially if you live in Santa Cruz. KEVIN KMETZ plays SHAMISEN on Pacific almost every day and in the last two weeks you could have seen the PIPA, the BANSURI and the DAEGEUM all in action.

However, RICHARD NUNNS brought a whole tableful of previously unheard of instruments to these shores on May 15. A TAONGA PUORO (Maori instrument) specialist, the sheer variety of tones and sounds that he could get out of his various shells, whistles, flutes and spinning things was quite mind blowing.

I was trying desperately to not make a LORD OF THE RINGS reference in this column, but when Nunns blew on his specialized conch shell halfway through Gillian Whitehead's piece HINE-PU-TE-HUE, I really did worry about getting stepped on by an OLIPHANT. Damn you PETER JACKSON. (When's the HOBBIT coming out?)

Peter Koht

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From the May 18-25, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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