October 23, 2010
@ The Independent
Anything else you could have found to do on a rainy Saturday night.
Some of the best bands never get the kind of recognition they deserve. Detroit rock band Electric Six
gave the crowd at The Independent
a perfect demonstration of that on Saturday night. To be fair, Electric Six live is a totally different proposition than Electric Six on record. The band's albums always sound a little flat, as if they were recorded in someone's bathroom (and hey, maybe they were). Live, however, things were totally different.
For a start, did you know Electric Six has a really good guitarist and a great rhythm section? I did not, but up close, the musicians certainly were impressive. Their live sound is richer, more organic, altogether more rock than the way they sound on their albums.
And then there's Dick Valentine. A natural front-man, Valentine's personality and witty banter were what really made the show. He first joked that the audience members in front were acting like Juggalos when they tried to mosh. Later, he firmly but gently told them to knock it off towards the end when it was getting out of control, because "there are women in the front row and some of them need their kidneys to live."
It was Valentine who really made the show, in the end. With the obligatory "Go Giants" comments, and urging the audience to vote for Meg Whitman because she looks like one of the creepy little girls from The Shining
, his ongoing interaction with the audience was the best part of the evening. Like a smarter, funnier, less jerky John Mayer (seriously, the physical resemblance is a little disturbing), if Valentine ever gets tired of music he has a great career ahead of him as a stand-up comedian.
Electric Six turned out to be not at all the kind of band I expected it to be. Between the often amusingly sleazy, suggestive lyrics and the wacky videos, you might expect its sound to be half-Offspring and half-vintage Motley Crue, but in fact it's a pretty straight-up rock with a danceable edge (though much close to Offspring in spirit than to Crue). Lyrics giving the wrong idea seems to be a common problem -- during "Body Shot," a random female audience member scrambled up on stage and attempted to perform an impromptu striptease. The attempt to turn the show into an episode of Girls Gone Wild
failed, though - Valentine dealt with the situation by hefting her over his shoulder with a sigh (he's stronger than he looks, that one), carrying her down the stairs at stage right, depositing her back in the crowd, and then going right back into the song without missing a beat. It was a pretty good summation of what the band is all about -- the members are seasoned pros, capable of dealing with whatever oddities the audience might throw at them, and that's part of what makes them so fun to watch. They're not jaded or boring, though, just ironically familiar with the ups and downs of life in a rock band.
After an obligatory "because the record company says we have to" track from the new album, Electric Six ran through all the hits that the audience was there to hear. "Danger! High Voltage!" was probably the highlight, and there was no "Radio GaGa," but it's funny to realize just how many songs this hardworking band has quietly worked into the collective subconscious. Even if you weren't a fan you would have recognized the majority of the set list -- there aren't many bands you can say that about.
Funniest moment of a very funny show? Probably when a random audience member jumped up on the stage and just stood there with his arms open mugging like an idiot. Dick Valentine's response? "A raccoon broke into my house and did the exact same thing".
Stay weird and funny, Electric Six.
Personal bias: There are few things that irk me more than bands that take themselves too seriously, so I was pretty much guaranteed to warm to these guys.
The crowd: Frat boys and sorority girls in the advanced stages of inebriation mingling with middle aged Midwestern transplants.
Overheard in the crowd: Random gossip about the sex life of some rock 'n' roll dude in the ladies room - which one, I have no idea, because I lost interest and left. Scenesters are boring.
Random notebook dump: The random girl who decided to go all Girls Gone Wild during "Body Shot" - seriously, why do people do this? Certainly no one in either the band or the audience seemed very impressed.
Did you know?: Electric Six claim to be the first band to headline at The Independent six times. Also, Dick Valentine seems to feel a compulsion to count everything. Rock 'n' roll Rainman?