Live: Roky Moon & BOLT!/Springfield Riots/Jim and The Toms/Poor Pilate
In the run-up to their official tour kickoff show, Roky Moon & BOLT! (which I’ve seen with and without the exclamation point, so I’ll just add it in there the one time) let potential show-goers know that there were only a limited number of tickets available; you couldn’t just show up the night of the show and expect to get in. They printed up these amazing-looking tickets on golden paper and offered them for sale at several places across town, and what did they get? They got a sold-out house.
Like I said, genius. You take what might otherwise be a humdrum Friday-night deal like going to see a band play, and you make it special, something that only a fortunate handful of people are going to be able to see. At the same time, you force folks to pay for the ticket up-front, before they ever get to the club, which I would suspect pretty much guarantees that 95% of them will show (especially for under $10) — I’ve only once in my life had a ticket to a show and not made it there, and then the decision was pretty much out of my hands.
And going by the crowd at The Mink, yeah, it worked like a charm. The place was packed to the gills with people, and the word is that every ticket printed for the show was sold. No mean feat on a busy Friday night when there’re plenty of other shows going on.
When I got to the club, Poor Pilate were already onstage; I’d heard of frontman David Lascoe before, although I’d never seen him live. Apparently he’d only ever played solo in the past, and Poor Pilate is his first “band” effort. For that, it was really pretty impressive, backwoodsy-sounding and folky, downright rollicking when Lascoe and company threw in the barroom piano — then they transformed into the house band at some hillbilly speakeasy.
I was thrown initially by Lascoe’s voice, I have to admit — he’s got a nasal, raspy tone that could very easily go horribly, horribly wrong, and I cringed a little at first. Throughout, however, it worked surprisingly well, and by midway through the set, I was grinning and thumping along.
Jim and the Toms followed and took the whole show in a completely different direction, all Weezer guitars and well-done, Cheap Trick-y vocals. At points the band made me think of old-school soul, but much more than that, it was pure, pure power-pop, in the same vein as the aforementioned Cheap Trick, icons Big Star, or the slightly more indie Six Going On Seven. As with Poor Pilate, I was skeptical, but the songs were almost effortlessly catchy, in a late-’90s alt-rock kind of way.
Beyond that, the band’s bassist (one of the Toms, I’m thinking) was ridiculously entertaining, rocking out without a care in the world in a Duran Duran-style nautical striped shirt. And hey, I have to admire somebody who can so un-selfconsciously just get wrapped up in the music, especially when the music itself is so well-crafted.
The final opening set was a reunion of sorts for retro-pop heroes Springfield Riots, but the band turned out to be a hybrid, at least for the night, with Roky Moon’s Jeoaf Johnson on drums and Mike Hardin/Roky Moon on rhythm guitar. Even so, the band’s barely missed a step, blazing through five songs or so of their hazy, Jesus & Mary Chain-meets-Beach Boys psych-pop; watching felt like hanging out with an old friend, somebody who you used to be around quite a bit but had kinda-sorta forgotten about, and then when you run into them anew, you remember how much fun you both used to have together.
Granted, frontman/songwriter Pete Tijerina‘s been fairly focused on new project Young Girls lately, but he did hint that there was at least a possibility of more shows out there on the horizon, and after hearing the rejuvenated band live for the first time in quite a while, I’m pretty excited about that hope, however slim it may be.
Just seeing Springfield Riots play made me want to run home and put on my copy of Say When, the band’s one and only(?) release. The gospel-ified, bottom-of-the-bottle bitter pill of “Hollow Romance” was a particular highlight, stomp-swaying along in a wave of organ and fuzzed-out guitars.
And then, after all that, out came Roky Moon & BOLT — or rather, Roky Moon himself, solo with just an acoustic guitar in hand. He immediately launched into a somber, beautifully minimal version of “The Man Who Couldn’t Save the World”. Now, part of the reason I love the song is because of the sheer majestic weight of the full band playing behind Moon’s resigned-sounding (yet still strong) vocals, backup singers and all, but here it turned out to work just as well with only Moon. Apparently the elaborate costumes and whatnot the band had planned for the show fell through, but it didn’t matter; he was mesmerizing all by himself, just standing there strumming his guitar and belting out the song.
I’m not sure how it happens, but when Hardin steps into that persona up on the stage, it really is like he becomes somebody completely different. The affable, seemingly somewhat shy guy behind the bar vanishes, swallowed up by this magnetic character who stares out at the audience with a crazy light in his eyes like he’s looking at a scene only he can see. And that voice fits freaking perfectly with the Meat Loaf-meets-Bowie vibe of the band’s music. It blows me away every time.
After the acoustic intro, the whole cast came on the stage, cramming into every available inch of space. It was a much bigger ensemble than any I’d seen BOLT perform with before, from the two backup singers over on the left side, wedged between bassist Chad Pinter (in the back) and keyboard player Cassie Hargrove (in the front) to new saxophonist Arthur Moreno, who was crammed in behind guitarist Aaron Echegaray (and next to drummer Jeoaf Johnson‘s kit). It looked like there was barely room to move around up there.
And when they all kicked in, holy fucking wow. Roky Moon & BOLT were pretty great when I’d seen them in the past, don’t get me wrong, but this was a whole other level of performance; it was less a band playing a set and more a full-on theatrical spectacle. Which made the band’s segue from the ending of “The Man Who Couldn’t Save the World” into “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show like a perfect fit.
The band roared through most of their self-titled debut, including “Vampire,” “The Monster Came Out of the Woods,” “Lives Like Ours,” and “Five Dollar Fame.” At least, I think they played all those songs — sorry, I didn’t write down the setlist, because I was too busy rocking out at the time to take very good notes. I didn’t catch any new songs I hadn’t heard before, but honestly, I didn’t care; I’d come to see and hear Roky Moon & BOLT going on all cylinders, and the band definitely delivered.
They mashed together boogie/Humperdinck piano, fiery, Bolan-esque guitars, sci-fi imagery, and glam-gone-theatre vocals into something that sounded like the rock band every serious Rocky Horror or Queen or Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie fan out there has probably only heard in their dreams. And it was flat-out amazing.
I left the bar that night with a newfound respect (not to mention a heavy dose of awe) for a band I already knew I liked quite a bit but now found myself utterly loving. To echo what one smartass in the crowd yelled out at one point, fuck Lady Gaga; this was where I needed to be. END
(Photos by J. Hart. Full set up here.)