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Monday, October 09, 2006

Altered Beast

Friday night was devoted to avoiding the Texas-OU crowd filling up the bars in Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville. Instead of staying at home, I decided to hit up the Double Wide to see my friends in Blood on the Moors. Showing up at the insanely early time of 9pm, there was plenty of parking and not a lot of people in the venue. Dodging that bullet, I proceeded to have a great time at the show, but it definitely was a different kind of experience for me.

I can't remember the last time that I saw hard rock bands play with a sense of flair but with a lot of fun and irony too. When it comes to what is considered hard rock (head-bangin', but not total fuzzy sludge), I've seen one-too-many bands in the last few years act like they're all important while they proceed to not rock. They don't act like they're up there for a good time -- they're up there for a serious cleansing of their souls. In direct contrast, the three bands I saw onstage Friday were having a good time, rockin' hard, being a little goofy but also playing seriously. Here was proof that this kind of fist-pumping music can rock and not take itself too seriously.

Austin's Stun Gun was OK, but left a lot to be desired. In stark contrast, Los Angeles-by-way-of-England's the Thieves was pretty damn amazing. Their big amps and pounding drums made for some arena-sized sounds, but they thankfully didn't resort to arena-rock theatrics to put on a good set. Brothers Hal and Sam Stokes moved around stage with commanding authority but weren't pricks about it. They joked with the audience between songs and were very respectful too. That might not be "rock 'n' roll" to some people, but to me, that's what it's all about.

Now with Blood on the Moors, they make no secret that their whole image is a joke, but their music is not. Spoofing a number of Eighties metal bands (especially Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Guns 'n Roses) with their looks, seeing them play was like a blast from the past. I'm talking large wigs, bandanas, cowbells and tight jeans and each band member going under a fake name (like Stretch Denim and Leon "The Anchor" Anchorstein). Playing songs that sounded like a mix of Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Guns 'n Roses, the songs had a nice boogie feel to them. There were no big Spinal Tap-isms (other than a few songs that ended with a two-note, descending "da-dum" riff), but nothing along the lines of "Stonehenge" or "Hell Hole."

Seeing so many hair metal bands' videos in my youth, I was reminded Friday night of a time before grunge showed everybody a new way to rock. I don't pine for those days as I'm much happier knowing that the guys in Blood on the Moors are doing something intentionally funny. That attitude seemed to be lost on the Eighties hair metal bands. Too many bands (like Danger Danger to Bulletboys to Grim Reaper) came across as hams this way and they are still hams to me. Yes, there is plenty of irony in what Blood on the Moors does, but at least they were no attempts at making it a shot at low-budget theater with stage props, smoke and fire. Maybe that's what will be at the next show.

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