All Star Lanes, Feb. 10
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The Night Marchers' John Reis proves that he swallowed the pill.
Two songs into the Night Marchers' L.A. debut on Monday night, it became clear why John Reis has abandoned three talented bands within the past three years. Sure, the angular post-punk band Hot Snakes weren't around long enough for too many fans to miss them, and the down-strummed mayhem of the Sultans went unnoticed by mos, but Reis' throwing in the towel on long-running critical darlings Rocket From the Crypt was a move that signaled a definite change.
The singer-guitarist has never stuck to one band. His diverse resume (which also includes Drive Like Jehu, Pitchfork and the solo project Back Off Cupids) afforded Reis the opportunity to carve out and maintain a niche for each act. But apparently that's a thing of the past. San Diego's favorite son has gone the way of the megacorporation and downsized his efforts into one entity, but the result compresses his many styles into a kind of greatest-hits package for sounds in his head.
Granted, three-fourths of the Night Marchers did time in the Hot Snakes, but Jefferson Starship this ain't. Featuring Snakes alumni Jason Kourkounis (drums), Gar Wood (switching from bass to guitar) and Reis (vocals/guitar), along with CPC Gangbangs bassist Tommy Kitsos, the Night Marchers' 50-minute set smacked the mostly apathetic crowd with everything from surf rock to Stax-influenced soul to groove-laden blues. If Rocket From the Crypt were a melding of the Ramones and James Brown, the Night Marchers take their cues from Dick Dale and John Lee Hooker and interject the Nervous Eaters' hooks with Reis' trademark call-and-response vocals. The middle of the show found the band shifting from the wallop of dissonant guitars and pulsating rhythms for a slow-but-not-a-ballad song reminiscent of “Ghost Shark” off RFTC's 2001 disc, Group Sounds.
Gone are the matching suits, stage props, distorted power chords and hilarious stage banter (okay, there's some of that), but the Night Marchers aren't a sonic or visual letdown in any sense. Aging has killed many good musicians, but Reis has taken a step into the next phase of his career without losing what makes him him, while not repeating his past.