When Jeanine and I go out, I’m almost always the one who chooses the musical entertainment. This is mostly because there are always shows I want to see, and rarely shows that Jeanine is excited about attending. She has mentioned that she’d like to see BB King, but that she’d heard he’s no longer as good as he once was. Other than that, she has never taken the initiative when it comes to musical choices. While in line at Uli Roth, feeling somewhat guilty that I’m always the one to choose, I brought this up once again, and she mentioned that she wouldn’t mind seeing Pat Travers, who was slated to play the same club. This marks the first review here for a night of entertainment chosen by Jeanine.
We got there a tiny bit late, hoping to miss any waiting in line (that hadn’t worked out too well at the Uli Roth show) and perhaps even some of the opening band (I have nothing against opening bands, but at mainstream rock shows, I am invariably disappointed with the openers for some reason). We didn’t have to wait in line, but when we got inside, the opening band hadn’t started yet. Even worse, it was the same damned opening band that played at the last show. This time, the club conveniently displayed the band names on the video screens by the stage, so I now know that the band is called Michael Cosyn Group. They played a rather uninspired set of hard rock, ending with a decent cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, but I would rather have given them a miss. Not really my thing. At one point, Jeanine called it “painful”. Next…
Next up was The Butlers. I vaguely remembered having heard something good about them from somewhere or other, so I was curious to witness their set. Looking at their Facebook page, it seems that members of the band have pretty solid musical pasts, making the Butlers a cover band (yes, I quickly figured out that their set was all covers) with a difference, the difference being that rather than just starting out in the music world by performing tried and true classics from the golden era of rock, they’re stepping aside from other, better known bands and having some good, honest fun.
“Fun” is the key word here. The band ripped through songs by the likes of Queen, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, and others. Perhaps my favorite moment was their version of Fleetwood Mac’s The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown), although being the band that they are, their version owed more to Judas Priest’s cover of the song than it did to the original. It was all good though. The band looked like they were having a blast, and their attitude was infectious.
This was followed by Points North. I remember seeing them a few years back when they opened for Uli Roth in Concord, and truth be told, all I really remembered was that their bass player was excellent, but their songs not so much.
This time out, I liked them better, although their brand of virtuoso instrumental prog rock isn’t my favorite type of music. Still, the musicality on display was quite impressive. They even showed a willingness to step outside their comfort zones by performing a song with vocals (something that their label had convinced them to write).
The Pat Travers Band ended the evening with a set of gritty blues rock. For me, Pat Travers is a name from my youth. I used to hear him on the radio and see his records in the stores, but nothing about him ever enticed me to buy any of his records. I was more focused on heavy metal then. Pat Travers was too bland for my adolescent tastes. That said, I went to this show with an open mind. After all, it has been a long time since my adolescence. The same could be said for most of the audience. There were a handful of young people in the crowd (over 21 though, since the Rockbar is, after all, a bar), but most of the audience were pushing fifty with lots of beer bellies and receding hairlines on the men, and lots of ridiculous outfits on the women. That little skirt and low-cut top that looked good on you when you were 18? It looks cheap and desperate when you’re fifty. That said, I guess I dress pretty much the same (jeans and t-shirts) as I did when I was 18, so who am I to judge? One woman stood out from the crowd, looking elegant and refined in a simple, knee-length dress and high heels. She had a knowing smile on her face. More on her later.
Before you forget that this is a music review and not a fashion one, let me return to Mr. Travers and band. Along with Travers, the band featured a second guitarist, a bassist who dressed like a rock star (shades and a flashy white outfit), and a good, solid drummer. The songs were gritty blues rock, including some cover versions of classic blues numbers (this is more Jeanine’s area of expertise, so it was news to me that they weren’t all Travers originals). I recognized a couple of songs, like the audience participation fun of Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights) and Heat In the Street. During the latter, the song came to a sudden halt because Travers was becoming overheated and needed to take a break. He took a break, and later left the stage for around 10 minutes. In fact, everybody but the drummer left the stage. He remained behind to do a concise little drum solo, and then, self-effacingly, told a couple of jokes. The punchline of the second one was, “you’re an asshole when you drink, Superman.”
Then, Travers arrived back on stage, apologizing and explaining that he was running on no sleep. Touring can be tough for aging musicians, I guess. They completed their set with no more problems, and even performed an encore. It was getting pretty late by this time, and it looked like the audience had thinned out a bit. Despite the interruption, I enjoyed the set. There is sometimes something to be said for gritty, no-frills blues rock. It was really loud too, which leads me to suspect that I might be too old.
And now, two minor mysteries cleared up by license plates:
Earlier in the evening, I killed time during the boring parts by people watching. It’s always interesting to me to see how audiences differ from show to show. This audience was definitely the “aging rocker” crowd. You know, the kinds of men likely to yell things like, “fuck yeah!” and “bad ass!” while guzzling beer and talking about their trucks, and, like I mentioned above, the kind of women (as well as the men) trying in vain to hold onto their long ago youths. It reminds me of all of those stories of high school jocks who peaked in senior year and then declined into sad middle age with no greater accomplishments in life. Of course, this is a generalization, so I’m sure there were plenty of outliers, but I’m willing to bet that there is at least a grain of truth to this. Am I being elitist? Probably a little bit. However one chooses to look at it, these definitely weren't my people. My people were all at some little, underground show in a bookstore or a warehouse, witnessing musicians create sounds out of old bowler hats and malfunctioning microwaves.
The reason I bring this up is because of the woman I mentioned earlier. I had noticed that she stood out, and then after awhile, started idly wondering if she was perhaps a transsexual. Something about her hairline and facial features… Then, after we got back to our car and while we were in the process of backing out, I saw her get into a car with a license plate that read “F OVER M”. Mystery solved, I think.
The other mystery was perhaps even more minor, but the fact that it was also cleared up by a license plate (technically, a license plate holder) was a weird coincidence. One of the songs that Pat Travers performed had the chorus “Black Betty”, followed by a nonsensical phrase that sounded like “Rambo lamb” (which is fun to visualize), but which I figured was probably “Bam Ba Lam”. It turns out I was right, because as I was parking next to the field behind my daughter’s old elementary school so I could pick her up from softball practice, I noticed the license plate holder of the SUV parked in front of me. It read: Black Betty (Bam Ba Lam). Mystery number two solved. I told this to Jeanine afterward, and she said that it’s a well known blues song, so I guess I could have just asked her to begin with, but like I said, it was a minor, unimportant mystery. That said, it was probably my favorite song they performed.
At home, the cat waited up for us.