Ivan the Terribles is actually not terrible at all. It's actually a good-time, raucous band of maniacs who take the stage with bravado and give a fun, funny and highly entertaining show. If it's been a while since you've been to a good, loud, "God, I drank-too-much," stage-diving, "You-slept-with-who?" take-your-shirt-off-and-dance live show — Ivan the Terribles are your men.
The band got together about a year ago and just finished its debut CD, More Guns than People. I caught up with them at Fred's Parkside Pub (formerly Fred's Speakeasy), a comfortable joint located on College Street below Fiore's restaurant.
Lead singer David Clegg is one of those fascinating artistic enigmas who is a kind of quiet, Clark Kent-esque, well-behaved sort of bloke when you speak with him off-stage. He turns into a very different animal once the lights are up. Clegg and bass player Bill Maltba (dressed in medical scrubs) drank continuously throughout the night, which seems to be a theme, or perhaps it's a ritual of sorts for the band. Not that it affected their playing much that anyone could tell; it only added to the rock 'n' roll texture of the Ivan the Terribles experience.
The band was actually really tight for most of the set (drummer and hockey player Jason Burke worked his tail off keeping up with the manic tempos of the Terribles). My only complaint was with the sound system and not being able to hear the lyrics to the songs that were being sung, screamed, howled and hurled toward the sparse crowd at Fred's.
Sometimes you could hear echoes of The Clash in their songs, as in the tune, "The Bad Part of Town." Sometimes weird remnants of Johnny Cash come through, wrapped like mini weenies inside The Ramones, or maybe the Chili Peppers. The band admits influences ranging from Ween to the Tramps, Rancid and Tim Armstrong, but from where I sat, their approach was straight-up punk rock — neat, no ice.
I particularly remember a very strange, haunting-but-cool song called "Drunkards," where Clegg whispers the entire first verse: "When I get drunk I get loud and obscene, run around starting and causing scenes." It rolls with a walking bass line and simple drum, and somehow it works.
See Ivan the Terribles in person if you are feeling like a party. Clegg seems bent on self destruction, so you might want to check these dudes out soon. While he is super-talented (he could remember most of the words and chords for the songs after so much vodka), Clegg is also severely and obviously afflicted, disturbed, torn and tortured in the way too many great artists are, both now and in the past. If these guys were just posing as rock stars, they did a great job. I buy it. Come on — the show closed with Clegg's Telecaster being thrown across the stage.
Ivan the Terribles may go by the motto that they take nothing seriously… but they are seriously so bleepin' punk rock. Seriously. The band is set to play again at the Hookah Bar on Saturday, March 20. Brace yourselves.
Learn more at myspace.com/ivantheterribles.