Three sheets to the wind
The Gorgeous Armada sails into Off Limits, full speed ahead with freak flags flying proudly
You’ve gotta hand it to Handsome Gorgeous, leader of the Gorgeous Armada—the guy knows how to turn a bar room into a party.
A good way to set the tone of the evening’s event and warm up the PA system is to have a DJ spin a few prime early-'70s cuts such as Bad Company’s “Bad Company,” Jethro Tull’s “Bungle in the Jungle,” the Beatles’ “Birthday” and Mountain’s cowbell classic, “Mississippi Queen,” played loud enough to draw attention to the stage and stir up a little dance floor interest.
Gorgeous next introduced the first of the evening’s live musical performers, the acoustic guitar and percussion duo Kill! Kill! Kill!, comprised of singer/guitarist Dolores Madagascar accompanied by (I think) Chester Mysterious of the Armada on djembe—a small African drum—and assorted bells.
Madagascar, dressed in accordance with the evening’s theme of blue-collar work wear, sported a jaunty welder’s cap and a slightly embellished gas station attendant’s shirt complete with embroidered name-patch. Her short set included a nice, almost calypso-flavored version of Tom Wait’s “Jockey Full of Bourbon” delivered with a clear feminine voice, a fine, solidly rhythmic strumming style and some fairly hyper djembe accompaniment.
Kill! Kill! Kill!'s incongruous name might scare off potential audience members who think they’re avoiding some sort of bad retro-metal outfit, but if you get past her band’s name, Madagascar delivers just the sort of acoustic music that can warm up a club audience.
In this case the warming up was a prelude to the standup comedy of local actor, activist, author and all-around promoter DNA. Sporting a backwards cap, over-sized goatee and an on-edge style, DNA delivered sex advice for inept lovers, a Viagra bit that involved using the mic stand as a prop, and a Jimmy from South Park, “What a great audience,” sign-off. The audience seemed equally divided between people paying attention and getting a few laughs and those who were talking amongst themselves.
Next up was another young standup, whose name wasn’t audible during the introduction, but who had an easy-going, self-mocking delivery and a physical presence reminiscent of Louie Anderson. He also knew when to admit it’s a losing battle trying to maintain the attention of a crowd primed more for music than standup.
Hip-hop duo Unified School District hit the stage for a short set punctuated by technical difficulties that kept dropping their backing tracks out of the mix just as the MC would start to get a flow going rhyme-wise. It was a shame because some good beats were happening and a few game souls were starting to take advantage of the dance floor. Once everything started working properly, a track featuring a piano-laced dub backdrop pretty much redeemed the whole affair.
With the bar now packed with a nicely mixed crowd of enthusiastic revelers, the Gorgeous Armada manned the stage like a crew of carpenter pirates rebuilding a galleon. Clad in flannels, safety goggles, trucker caps and tool belts, the band, which had eight or nine musicians and singers spread across the long low stage, opened their set with a rousing version of the Miller Glass radio jingle, “He’s the glass man, he’ll fix it fast, man,” sung in full voice by everyone in the band and quite a few audience members.
Handsome Gorgeous is a charismatic bandleader who obviously is pursuing a unique vision of what a party band ought to deliver, which has evolved over the past couple of years from a mainly acoustic-based, goofball country vibe to a full-on heavy rock band centered on the ultra-solid and tight drumming of Clint Bear, which provided a foundation for some huge electric guitar and bass riffs. With four or five vocalists backing him on every song, and an electrified revival preacher’s expressive stage presence, Gorgeous had the whole bar dancing and rocking out in their seats from the opening number to the Farfisa organ-powered encore number.
If you’re in the mood to have a good time, keep your eyes and ears open for the Gorgeous Armada; they’re sure to float your boat.