Self-deprecation rarely wins fans in the music world. Sure, there are masters of mortifying moments, whether through well-timed intention (Todd Snider) or glorified self destruction (Shane MacGowan). But rockers tend toward songs of ego-laden mischief, whether it’s Motley Crue crooning about jumpstarted hearts or Jack White wanting a ball and a biscuit.
Not so with the sextet, RonD, and their lead singer of bawdy woes, Rod Murphy (whose past credentials include directing the documentary, “Being the Diablo”). The Get Down in West Asheville was treated Saturday night to RonD’s live stories of squirm: surviving a mentally challenged WWF fanatic’s pummeling, stumbling in on a sibling having sex and ball-revealing short shorts.
Amazingly, the crowd (and I) sang to these songs we barely knew. Grown adults chanting at the top of their lungs about sex toys and Bob Dole’s baby arm seemed as normal as singing the Star Spangled Banner.
The band cranked through Murphy’s music with a seamless rock’n’roll punch. Guitarist Jason Smith (creator of the underrated band project, Night’s Bright Colors) put a shred on his guitar, and trombonist Adam Taylor lurked through the crowd, using his brass sounds to scare the stiff into dancing.
The rhythm section of drummer Bryan Morrisey and bassist Todd Lester kept Murphy’s songs corralled even when lyrically loose. Back-up vocalist, Daniel Clelland, proved to be the secret weapon when he led the song of the night, “Leicester.” The mangling of the town’s name (is it “Lek-ester,” “Lee-ses-ter” or “Lick Skillet”?) is a long-running joke in Buncombe County, so it’s fitting that it has finally achieved rock-anthem status.
The draw is Murphy. His wide-eyed, rabid look coupled with growling vocals are reminiscent of the world’s most famous drunk crooner, Shane MacGowan. Even some of the songs (like the hilarious, “Boston-Faced Guy”) echo The Pogues for their “raise your drink” sing-a-longs. But the beauty of Murphy is his complete confidence in both himself and the material (even when lamenting about accidental crystal meth smoking).
In more timid hands, these verses of humiliation would make a crowd cringe. However, RonD makes each song seem as important as those bygone rock ballads about chicks, drugs or Middle Earth. Plus, unlike MacGowan, Murphy doesn’t seem to need 40 pints before lumbering onstage.
Rod Murphy feels these songs in the marrow. No one else in the world could pull a crowd in with a song about bestiality photo-ops. No one. And one day, RonD might just have a football stadium of fans singing along about softening bunions and carnal cleanups at the rest area.