Long Beach's esteemed Alex's Bar has a pretty killer Tuesday night karaoke. Normally, there's this guy who sings classic metal songs and the obligatory white guy who feels like he just has to do "Gin & Juice" because he's in the LBC (full disclosure: I've been that white guy many a time).
Add in the fact that those who suck get the proverbial hook mid-song from the bartenders and cheap Tecate and Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and Tuesdays at Alex's are what most other bars wish they could be on weekends. So when word came down that pre-recorded music would be replaced last night by real live amplified bands, shit coulda got outta hand. Luckily, it didn't.
In the past, reviews of Los Angeles' the Icarus Line focused on everything but the band's music, which borrowed from the Stooges, the Birthday Party, Drive Like Jehu, Black Flag and Spacemen 3. The quintet broke instruments, microphones, strings and hearts in the way that rock 'n' roll legends are made of, but the band's cacophonic harmony never could escape the stories that surrounded them. If last night was proof of what's in store for the Icarus Line, the group is well on its way to getting recognized more for its groove-laden, hard blues -based songs and less for on and off stage antics.
The band's 10-song set included the live debut of seven tracks from the group's upcoming record and sounded like a new band, not one that had been playing for more than a decade. You can still hear the Stooges, Nick Cave and Spacemen 3 in songs such as "King Baby," "Tina Turner," "We Sick" and "Bad Bloods," but this new material lacks the distractions that often plagued the band in the past. For once, singer Joe Cardamone's vocals can be heard while the rhythm section - drummer Jeff "the Captain" Watson and bassist Alvin DeGuzman - lay down heavy funk like Parliament jamming with the Experience. This foundation provided an ample platform for guitarists James Striff and Jason Decorse to lace dissonant blues riffs that helped create a larger, thicker sound heard on the band's previous material.
The Icarus Line plays Thursday at the Roxy and if the quintet intends to perform a similar set that evening, even the diehards who long for the days of yesteryear will leave satisfied.
Similar to death and taxes, a drummer who does anything other than play drums is 100 percent guaranteed to be annoying, so when Stab City's Bobby Vega stood on his kit between tunes, yelled "1, 2, fuck you" to start songs and banged his crash cymbal through the audience while his bandmates continued to play, the knee-jerk reaction was to want to look away in total disgust. But the crazy thing is, Vega was entertaining as hell and would have stolen the show had his co-horts singer/bassist Dan Catalinotto and guitarist Kyle Souza not been able to keep up with him. The trio tore through a 25-minute set that was loud, fast and aurally punishing in the good sort of way. Vega was fun to watch because, unlike other drummers seeking the limelight, his hyperactivity behind his kit was totally authentic and playful. Animal and Keith Moon would have been proud.
Openers Werewolf (featuring Alex Hernandez, the man who puts the "Alex" in "Alex's Bar") started things off nicely with a quick set that suggested the quartet had been wisely studying the gospel preachings of John Reis. The foursome downstrummed its way through a 20-minute romp reminiscent of the Hot Snakes and the Wipers and didn't even say goodbye before bailing.
Yeah, the bands were good and the 50 people in attendance left with smiles on their faces, but closing the night with a wasted 22-year-old stumbling through "Suspicious Minds" would have been pretty damn cool, too.
Here's a new Icarus Line song for you:
Icarus Line - "We Sick" [MP3]