Musically, there's a fair distance between Van Halen, Kool & the Gang, the Lo-Fi Cowboys, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, the Barr Brothers and Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band. But having caught all of the above during one 72-hour period this past week, I figured I'd recount a few highlights.
Memorial Day weekend kicked off early with the Van Halen show at the Pepsi Center, one of the few dates on the band's reunion tour that didn't get canceled — or, in music industry parlance, "postponed." Bassist Michael Anthony was quick to suggest his former group was coming apart at the seams, but what do you expect from a guy stuck playing with second-string VH frontman Sammy Hagar in a band called Chickenfoot?
Actually, there were no signs of animosity Thursday night, other than David Lee Roth's complaint, while mopping up the sweat-slicked stage with a towel, that "this is how I fuckin' started, and apparently I'm never gonna leave." The band ripped through a nearly two-hour set featuring classics like "Runnin' With the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," a 10-minute Eddie Van Halen solo incorporating segments of "Eruption," and a rapturously received rendition of the "Tattoo" comeback single. Eddie's bemused smile looked genuinely affectionate as a maniacally grinning Roth howled and prowled the stage between arena-sized splits and kicks. It could have all been show biz, I guess, but no one was going through the motions musically.
The same goes for unlikely opener Kool & the Gang, an 11-piece band that's obviously in it for more than just a revival-circuit paycheck. Their rendition of "Get Down on It" was tighter, funkier and more energetic than anything Prince or James Brown performed when I saw those artists in concert more than a decade ago.
Then came MeadowGrass, the local festival with the highest concentration of faded No Depression T-shirts in the nation. (Especially when you've got Son Volt, who headlined Saturday night.)
One of Sunday's best moments came during Grammy-winning zydeco bandleader Chubby Carrier's closing set, as phenomenally talented washboard player Earl Sally led a conga line through the crowd, turning it into the Louisiana equivalent of a mosh pit. Bayou Swamp Band favorites like "Zydeco Junkie" and "Who Stole My Hot Sauce" mixed well with covers of "Iko Iko" and "Jambalaya" — which Carrier, in the spirit of the holiday, dedicated to his grandfather who served in the Marines during World War II.
Other highlights included the aforementioned Lo-Fi Cowboys, the only local band on Sunday's bill, performing covers of Doug Sahm's "Give Back the Keys to My Heart" and the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City" — although I have to say the originals from band leader Chuck Snow and bassist Kevin Waybright sounded just as good or better.
The week ahead also looks diverse, with the second installment of the incurably eclectic local music series Thwonk, which takes over Zodiac for three nights and a dozen acts. Edith Makes a Paper Chain, Valoma, Fidel RedStar and DJ Timme take the stage Friday; Green Tangerine, Charlie Milo, Che Bong and Animus Invidious play Saturday; and Wild Hares, Tall City, Benjamin Pratt and mobdividual wrap up Sunday.
You can also hit Union Station on Thursday for KrashKarma, described by its publicist as a "high energy alternative rock band formed by German-born guitarist/vocalist Ralf Dietel (who formerly played with Nine Inch Nails) and the beautiful and talented drummer/vocalist Niki Skistimas."
Well, kind of. "After four weeks in the rehearsal room with Nine Inch Nails, it did not work out and so we parted ways," Dietel admitted to me in a follow-up e-mail.
Tough break. On the plus side, he gets to bathe naked with his beautiful and talented bandmate in their music video, so you don't have to feel too sorry for him.