Foreplay without climax

Canceled headliner puts damper on an otherwise good show

I’d been looking forward to the Friday night show at Off Limits headlining the Rev. Shelby Cobra. Previously I’d seen the young tattoo artist and country singer as a support act for other bands, and I was excited to catch the Rev., who does a fine bunch of classic old-school country covers as well as his own excellent compositions, as the focal point to an evening of music.

Alas, it was not to be. But I didn’t find that out till much too late in the night. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the portion of the evening leading up to finding out the headlining act had canceled, just that things ended in a rather disappointing anticlimax after some relatively minor fun.

When I arrived the crowd was just beginning to build, and Bob Howard, former Asskickers frontman and current purveyor of the solo-act persona Sleazy Earl Ray, was on stage doing a sound check. The place was pretty full by 10:30 with a mostly 20-something crowd decked out in blue-collar chic and sporting enough ink to supply a mansion load of fascinating lamp shades.

Sleazy Earl Ray, looking downbeat-dapper in baggy, light-brown slacks, wife-beater tee and slicked-back hair, took the stage to an enthusiastic response from the crowd. The Sleazy repertoire is a one-man extension of the sensibilities and concerns explored by the heavily rockin’ Asskickers, the difference being that in this incarnation the songs are played solo, combining elements of old-style country, folk music and acoustic rock to tell their tales of substance-abusing malcontents, sex slaves, and lovelorn losers. Unfortunately the crowd was more enthused about talking amongst themselves than listening to the performer, so most of the lyrics got smothered by the roar of dozens of people carrying on increasingly loud, PBR-fueled conversations.

The night’s second and final act was a guitar and vocal duo—Mr. Clifford Greenwood and Miles Peck from local punk band the Sore Thumbs—that obviously were well-suited to the mood of the evening’s festivities, kicking off with a song titled “She Likes Whiskey.” The overly loud guitars and aforementioned roar of the crowd made any lyrics indistinguishable, but the subject matter obviously resonated well with a small group near the front of the stage, particularly one young lady who kept up an enthusiastic dance through nearly the entire set.