Gypsy Bandwagon, Stole My Mule: Three Stars
• Genre(s): “International Western folk punk” (per the band’s description)
• You’ll like it if: You’re a big Celtic fan with an even bigger sense of humor.
• Defining song: “Stole My Mule”—A bizarre arrangement based on the traditional “Pretty Little Girl With a Blue Dress On.” This song will either elicit a whirling-dervish jig or a massive duct-taping of the ears.
It could be premature to place Gypsy Bandwagon in the novelty realm. I’ve yet to witness them live, but their CD and Web site (both created solely by the members) suggest a band that relishes kooky country. All multi-instrumentalists (the Web site, kidding or not, notes that Karin Lyle can play 22 instruments), Gypsy Bandwagon understands their plundered genres like astute scholars wearing clown noses. Their reinterpretations of traditionals like “Old Joe Clark” and the gypsy song “Leyla” are laudable. However, when the band tries to be serious—like the original “Autumn Leaves”—it borders on schmaltz.
Neil Diamond tribute show at The Grey Eagle and The Poles at Broadways; Friday, Jan. 6: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Garage, punk, space and sludge rock
• Be glad you stayed home if: You have “twinguitphobia”—A fear of twin guitar attacks.
• Defining moment: “Amaze”—Achingly sweet, this song embodies the Poles’ M.O.: Create a spacey mood before bashing the ears with guitars that should wear muzzles in public.
Friday became a night of contrasts. The first stop was the Grey Eagle to check out the Neil Diamond tributes, where the few songs I witnessed would ashen many a face. One spirited person (his name withheld to protect his social life) reinterpreted “Cracklin’ Rosie” in wince-inducing fashion. Another band (their name also protected) did “Coming to America,” with ad-lib injections of “Jesus” (don’t ask). The show (with proceeds going to Project Access, which provides free health care to the uninsured) was fun for Diamond fans, hell for anyone lacking a laugh gene.
Needing a shower, I instead dropped by Broadways for a more serious evening with local band the Poles. Edgy fun, their music is like a silk stocking with glass shards to fit. Pink Floyd mannerisms (think “Echoes”) would lull the crowd into complacency before jolting them with apocalyptic discord. The model for this contrast was Bruce Rogers (guitar/synth/vocals), whose eyes stayed transfixed above crowd level before suddenly sprouting to life whenever the band reached its crescendos. Compositionally layered tunes like “We Can Breathe in Water” and “The Dark is Electric” would lose their cohesion with a less experienced band. The crowd responded in kind, grooving out instead of hiding in the smoky recesses.
A ten-day tour will coincide with the release of the Poles’ new EP (tentatively titled As Above, So Below) in February. The album – available on doubleplusgood records – will be serviced to 400 college, radio and press outlets.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]