Thursday, January 09, 2003

Bass Player Barometer

New theory - you can judge rock 'n' roll bands on how cool or uncool their bass players are. Tested at the 7th Street Entry, January 4th, 2003:

The first act was a trio who had a bassist who was a tubby dude with a beard. He was soooo into the music ... good thing somebody was. I initially thought of the band as jazz-rock as they kept trying to impress via time and key changes. But I think they may have been one of those emo bands, because the guitarist and bassist almost started to cry over some chorus they were singing about dying or somebody being dead. It made me think: Not only does emo like this suck, but rock subgenre names like "emo" suck.

The second act was a marked improvement. They were also a trio and their bass player was some Creatine/steroid-type guy sporting a skullcap, bulging eyes, and toned arms. He dominated his instrument with every ounce of testosterone in his body and was grimacing to the music, which was some sort of vaguely nu-metal (again: bad subgenre naming!) stuff that was kinda catchy, but kinda forgettable. I hoped that the rest of the night wouldn't suck music-wise.

And then out came the Squabs. Ah yes. The band members - drummer, bass, two guitarists, and lead man - wore clothes mostly colored black and white. The singer held a keg cup full of Leiny and seemed to be itching for something, anything. Their first tune was an instrumental with harmonica played by the frontman. And not folkie harmonica either - rock 'n' roll harmonica to match the riffing of the rest of the band. The next tune turned it up another notch into relentless and rhymed "meaningless" with "drink myself senseless." (Those three words shouted, natch.) The rest of the tunes were about wicked women and drinking and all that great stuff. Not only did the band kick ass, they SWUNG - and as if to prove it they covered the Stones' "Respectable" and made it sound early-seventies instead of late.

Yes - a set that made me tap my toes, smile, and yell whooo-hoooo between songs. This was rock and roll, children, ROCK AND ROLL. Check it out: rock and roll has an "and" in it, meaning more than one, meaning bringing musical forms and people together. Your little subgenres like emo or math rock or indie rock or nu metal do nothing but continue to cut smaller and smaller divisions. Soon there will be a subgenre for each and every one of us - then who will we dance with? That is not what Little Richard taught us.

Oh - and the bass player for the Squabs? Standing tall, knowing his place. Stoic with short back 'n' sides and a nice suit on. Real classy looking - the classic old-school bass player. Rock and roll, kiddies - don't forget it.

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