What a frickin' jam session it could have been. Last night at the Hot Rats' LA debut at Spaceland, most of the members of Radiohead, LA-based producer Nigel Godrich, and Britt Daniel of Spoon, were spotted. As the Rats, which consists of two members of ace Brit guitar band Supergrass, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey, tore through an evening of covers, the packed club was abuzz with possibilities. The stage could surely hold four or five more musicians — we've seen it happen before — and with the built-in freedom of a cover-song set, well, we'll just go ahead and say it: Radiohead, Supergrass and Spoon could have performed “I Can See for Miles,” or “Fake Plastic Trees,” or the Kinks' “Some Mother's Son.” It would have been something to see is what we're saying.
But it didn't happen — and, honestly, it didn't matter. Despite that there are only two of them, the Hot Rats didn't need any help. They strummed their way through a set of covers — including a fascinating version on Beastie Boys' “Fight for Your Right to Party” that the band transformed to sound like the Who circa 1967 — that had Spaceland dancing.
Wearing cute striped sailor's shirts that complimented Spaceland's blue sparkled backdrop, the Hot Rats played the Kinks (“Big Sky,” one of Ray Davies' best), the Sex Pistols' “EMI” (which is Supergrass's British label), and “Pump It Up,” from Elvis Costello's great This Year's Model.
The Hot Rats debut album features these covers and more, and was produced by Nigel Godrich, who's best known for his work with Radiohead and Beck. Wait — look over there, it's Thom Yorke. People start whispering, LA hipsters and music geeks afraid to be seen rubbernecking to look at rock stars. “Most of Radiohead is here,” whispers one. Over by the entrance, the tall dude — Spoon singer Britt Daniel — enjoying the Rats' version of the Cure's “Love Cats.”
We won't dwell anymore on what could have been. It was just cool to eat some comfort food — a night of dance-friendly cover songs — and sing along. When the Rats tore through Roxy Music's “Love is the Drug,” the crowd bounced along giddily.
“I fucking love this venue!” shouted Gaz, and the place cheered back. The band closed with a fast take on David Bowie's “Queen Bitch,” waved and left the stage. The crowd wondered about an encore. Could there be some sort of huddle going on among the rock stars in the room? Maybe “Street Fighting Man,” or “Bang a Gong”?
Nope. Merely the Beatles' “Drive My Car,” done sincerely and (a little too) respectfully by Coombes and Goffey, without Paul McCartney jumping onstage to sing along. Again, didn't matter. The band closed with a “cover” of Supergrass's classic song, “Caught by the Fuzz.” The audience screamed every word along with the band — the measure of a great cover version, actually: “If only your father could see you now/He'd breakdown and he'd throw you out for sure/I never should have let you out tonight.”
The Hot Rats play again in LA on Thursday at the Troubadour. Grab those tix fast.