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Save the Last Slow Gherkin for Me

WITH ALL THIS TALK about Slow Gherkin "getting older" and "maturing" and "wearing pants," it was nice to see the band playing it fast and loose at their Vets Hall show Saturday--jumping like madmen, tackling each other and throwing out Simpsons references. They even offered up a stuffed-animal sacrifice as in the days of yore (not, it's important to note, as in the days of Yor, Hunter From the Future). I'd heard from friends in low places, namely Los Angeles, that the band wasn't really playing any of their old stuff on this tour except for, say, "Slaughterhouse," but the joke was on them, because Gherkin ripped out a couple of no-shit, honest-to-God rarities, like "They Wanted Earth" and "Bad Driver." Hell, even "Cable" is a rarity these days, I guess, but it was a beautiful thing to hear it again.

I gotta say the night was bittersweet. It was a great show, but some of the new songs are so right on it just seems like a freakin' crime for the band to be breaking up now. "Oxford" is possibly the best song A.J. has ever written, and along with James' "Condor" it fits into a vibe with older numbers like "Shed Some Skin" and "Trapped Like Rats in Myers Flat" of complex, melodic post-ska rock songs that balance sophisticated lyrics with real emotion and thoughtful introspection. It seems to me that the way Gherkin pulls these off should have been some kind of model for exiled ska bands looking for a purpose--blend some of that upbeat energy and epic sound with the poetic traditions of rock singer/songwriters--and they were only getting better at it.

Ah, but what's done is done. And in a hall packed with sweaty fans, it was a weirdly intimate moment, not to mention a fitting goodbye, when James launched himself into the crowd to sing "Trapped Like Rats," kept up the song while riding around on someone's shoulders, and then crowd surfed back to the stage.

In his typical deadpan fashion, James also had the last word on this whole growing up and moving on thing: "It was one thing when we were 15 to prance around for hours and hours. But now we're 16, and it's not so easy anymore."

--Steve Palopoli

Giants Among Us

Some music is so damn funky fresh, it's downright dirty. Take Carlos Washington and the Amazing Giant People Ensemble, for example. They came on like a veritable elephant last Thursday night at Moe's, pooping heavy loads of fresh, steamy funk onto an unsuspecting audience. The shit they dropped was full of acid jazz and hip-hop too, which only made things messier. Of course it was only metaphorical poop, but pretty much everyone had to get out of their seats to shake the stuff off anyway. Being the Doctor Doolittle of booty language that I am, I could clearly discern an emphatic "Yes!" spoken in unison by every wagging booty in the spot.

The Shows Cometh

The Cayuga Vault is hosting an Original Music Series this Saturday at 8pm. The lineup includes the free-form electronic duo Run Return, Cassidy of Sin in Space, melancholy rock trio Invisible, singer/songwriter Chris Wedertz (accompanied by Rick Walker on drums), and local poet William Taylor Jr., who will open the show and also read poetry between acts.

Downhome blues fans, don't you go missing Little George Sueref and the Blue Stars when they swing into Moe's Alley. In Betty Crocker terms, this U.K. export's vocal style is like a mix of Sam Cooke, Jimmy Cliff and a dash of the sweet falsetto of Smokey Robinson thrown in for good measure, chilled for about 30 years and served up raw and swingin'.

--Mike Connor

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From the August 21-28, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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