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Rubber Redemption?

So one reader who wrote in hated my preview of the Rubber Revolver show. Fair enough--instead of a caricature/nuts-and-bolts experiment, I could have asked all sorts of technical questions about equipment and tone and instrumentation, or given some more historical perspective on the Beatles' coming-of-age albums that John Lennon talked about as "bookends," and that Elvis Costello cites among his favorites of all time. But c'mon, we all knew it was the White Album Ensemble recreating two more Beatles albums. The real question was: would it suck or not? And of course the band's going to say no, so there's really only one way to "find out" about it save attending the show yourself.

The fellas pulled off another great show (last Sunday), but just barely, and here's why: I think the White Album performance was so successful because they did the impossible--they performed an innovative studio album that was never meant to be performed, and so the whole thing was a veritable tight-rope walk, balancing difficult material with a knowledgeable audience that expects every note in its right place. When they succeeded, audiences ended up walking out the door satisfied and relieved that the Ensemble didn't suck.

With the Rubber Revolver show, a lot of the material is not nearly as challenging to play, so anything less than absolute perfection is very apparent. Alan Heit is a good singer, but he doesn't sound like John Lennon, nor does drummer Michael Daugherty find the peculiarly proper Ringo Starr style of diction in his larynx. But musically, they were tighter than a hangman's noose, starring Jason Schimmel's estradaspherically perfect guitar solos, Ernie Baber's sublime work on the sitar and Dale Ockerman's sheer versatility on the guitar, mandolin, keyboards and trumpet. Songs like "Eleanor Rigby," "Got to Get You Into My Life," and "Tomorrow Never Knows" were impressive for their difficulty and excellence (replete with a string quartet, two-man horn section and sitars, respectively), and Richard Bryant manages to pull off a more-than-respectable Paul McCartney, most notably on "For No One," his most technically perfect performance of the evening. Overall, an excellent performance ... but to be honest, we're still waiting on Sgt. Pepper's Mystery Tour.

This One Goes to 11

The thing about Sleater-Kinney is, they're all about nonstop rocking (minus the inward singing). Oh, you might think they'd throw a ballad in here or there just to mix it up a bit, or maybe some stop/start dynamics to keep us on our toes, but no. Every song was pretty much turned up to 11, and it sounded exactly like the studio version. It probably helps that the album production is meant to sound live and scrappy, but still, they sounded amazing. The result? A totally complacent crowd, with the exception of a small half moon of sweaty bouncing girls up front and a few on the balconies. Oh, and then there was the wild man toward the back, careening wildly off all the indie rock centurions planted on the dance floor, most of whom were not amused by his antics. Was he behaving like an asshole? Sort of, but if you squinted your eyes just right, you could see why the late Ken Kesey might have invited him to pull some merry pranks with him. Or to put it in '80s parlance, he was not unlike a modern-day Ren McCormick out there, leaping and dancing before Sleater-Kinney, trying to set a positive example for the kids that it's OK to dance. It's probably one of the best means of venting known to humanity, and possibly an excellent prescription for some of the Catalyst's bouncers. To be fair, many of them are affable, reasonable guys. And I'm all for a zero-tolerance policy for drunk and belligerent patrons, but I've seen innocent bystanders shoved and bruised simply for standing between a bouncer and his prey. And for a smart-mouthed girl who was just trying to pilfer a set list and a guitar pick, tackling her to the ground is too just much fucking force to use on a relatively harmless paying customer.

Mike Connor

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From the May 19-26, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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