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Ain't Too Proud to Beat You Raw

THE VASCO ERA

at Spaceland, July 16

Very sparse “crowd” at Spaceland on a hot Sunday night. That could be expected, I guess, but too bad for the rest of you pinheads, ’cause the six or so of us got dumped with a massive load of the dag-nastiest “blues”-based rock & roll since . . . huh, well, not for a long time.

Talkin’ ’bout: The Vasco Era! From Melbourne, brothers Sid (bottleneck and Dobro-type guitar and lap-steel, vocals, roto-toms) and Ted O’Neil (lunge bass) and madman octopus drummer Michael Fitzgerald purvey a loose but appropriately tight blues-country-roots-Americana-punk-rock-derived mayhem that’s gonna make them stars at least in Australia and maybe even in quaint little old America. How? Well, it starts with fresh-faced, pompadoured Sid’s introduction of the set with a heartfelt version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” one of those creepy Elvis-resurrected approaches where you start off real sincere and get more perversely bloodcurdling as the tune wears on. Then the other two fellas, with their beards and long, unkempt hair, stomp onstage and proceed to beat all holy craparino out of their instruments as they segue into a hellacious slab of punk-rock party savagery like they would do somebody, anybody, grievous harm. It’s funny, yet at first actually threatening.

There’s an art to making music designed to beat you about the body with maximum impact and make that impact swing, which is what you hear these Vasco fellas do — an all too infrequently heard effect that might reference ZZ Top, AC/DC and, say, Status Quo. I have here in my notes such pertinent words as intense, manic energy, better than Black Keys, snap, thump and punch inna head, and would add that Vasco, probably by virtue of their particular (young) age, are deeply engaged with the idea of using the blues but not letting it make them look like apeish whiteboy dolts — i.e., Vasco grind the blues into hash, devour it and hurl it back as their own brand, which is a boozy rock music that pummels and staggers.

Oh, and they’ve got this absurdly thrilling idea to have the guitarist chuck his ax to play roto-toms in flaming limbo-stick flurries for no apparent reason at all; now Sid’s busting out a brief snatch of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and . . . this is just sheer madness. Catch them soon, before they grow up and out of it.

—John Payne


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