The Tractor Tavern in Seattle, a home away from home. A dive in the best sense of the word, which is, a respite. Comfortable, like a broken in jacket. I’ve seen some really fine music played here over the years. To be honest, some pretty mediocre music as well. Hey, you try booking two bands a night 300 + nights a year. Which brings me to tonight’s (1/11/2009) double bill. Cadillac Sky, or C-Sky as they seem to call themselves, the self described cybergrass band out of Texas opened for Hot Club of Cowtown, the non self described anything band, also out of Texas. Let’s tackle this show one band at a time.
Part One: Cadillac Sky
During C-Sky’s set I was trying to think how I would describe this band and the word emograss spontaneously came to mind during, yet another endless jam expressing their deepest feelings about, well, whatever. On their website I see they call what they do cybergrass, I’m glad we’re all in agreement. Now, before I go any further I’ll say two things. One, these guys really can play. Two, clearly many of the people at the show like them. Unfortunately, there’s no place in my heart for emograss. David Grisman, what have you done? Pandora’s Box has been opened, but instead of letting out howling evils and disease and pestillence, all we get is five guys who can’t stop practicing and noodling around on their instruments.
“When are they going to start playing?” I asked.
“They’re already on the third song.”
They’re a strange sight to see. The singer and mandolin player, Bryan Simpson, jumps up and down just like Chris Thile, while new addition guitarist, David Mayfield, thrashes up and down like he’s rocking out. He’s not. The rest, who for reasons of boredom shall go nameless, also bang around quite a bit, and I definitely understood that they feel this music deeply. It’s heavy, man. So heavy, that they might want to consider a name change to Cadillac Escalade, or Caddy E, as I like to call them. Now, anyone can write a negative review, and that’s usually as boring as the mandolin intro to, well, any of their songs, so instead of kicking puppies, I’ll move on with one last comment. My wife recently bought new glasses. She isn’t sure the prescription is quite right in the lenses, but they’re close enough to where she’s not sure she’ll take them back for adjustment. During a particularly tiresome jam, I looked over at her and she was squinting at various objects around the Tractor, with the exception of Caddy E. I asked her what she was doing and she replied “I’m testing my glasses”. I can’t sum up the show better than that.
Part Two: Hot Club of Cowtown
Both bands play instrumentals. Both bands take extended solo breaks. So, what’s the difference? It’s not as easy as saying one’s good, one’s bad. Both bands have very talented musicians, love what they’re doing and have solid fan bases. It comes down to what they are doing. Caddy E is entertainng themselves. They write songs about their bellybuttons and deeply personal girl troubles, all played in strange keys. Hot Club is entertaining us and playing music about our girl (and guy) troubles and well, I don’t think belly buttons ever come into it.
I admit I like my music fun. Ballads can be fun. Two steps are always fun. Crazy ascending Jazz chords are fun. Fiddle breaks are fun. Dog house bass is super fun. The 90’s really ruined us for fun and pure entertainment. To quote Michael Chabon from his book Maps and Legends (which you should go buy!)
“Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke, and Jagermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a Street Fighter machine grunting solipstically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade...Intelligent people must keep a certain distance…and handle it…with post modern tongs…”
At least Brittany is trying to have fun, however misguided.
When it comes down to it, ask yourself this, who do you want to be in bed with. Hot Club? Sure to be sexy and fun and a few laughs and all around good time. Caddy E? Only if you want to hold them when they cry after it’s all over.