Be you angels?
I first heard the name “Rock the Light” from Noah Nelson. The lead singer of local heavy-metal-country-rock-klezmer-Parisian-swing band Las Pesadillas pulled a CD out of his truck and handed it to me. “This is my favorite band,” he said.
“Rock the Light?” I responded. “That sounds like a cheesy Christian metal band.”
“Yeah, well, when you hear them you won’t think that anymore,” he said.
But, somehow, Rock the Light became one of those bands that I just couldn’t seem to catch. It continued to play shows, and I continued to go to shows, but I kept missing it. The band’s lead singer, Allen Maxwell, even e-mailed me pretty regularly for a time to tell me when the band was playing.
It wasn’t until last weekend that I finally managed to see the band’s set. The blistering collection of straight-ahead rock tunes left the audience simultaneously smiling and rocking out (in the Old Ironsides “rock out without actually moving” tradition).
Rock the Light has a commitment to absurdity that one doesn’t see that often in music—local or national. It’s a viewpoint that Tenacious D also embraces: a sense that everything onstage is aping a previously established tradition; that rock music has made itself absurd, and the only way to really play is to recognize the ridiculousness of it all, accept it and take that self-knowledge out onstage. It’s the same rock-absurdity aesthetic that bands like the Stooges and, from a different angle, Alice Cooper founded their careers on.
In terms of sound, Rock the Light sounds a bit like Nirvana’s early days. It’s the sort of melodic, trashy punk rock that later would be watered down and packaged as “grunge.” But Rock the Light is grunge in the punk-rock sense that its songs are barely able to hold themselves together at all. It’s the kind of music that reminds you how powerful rock music can be. It’s direct, dirty and—yes—at times quite funny. (One band member—possibly guitarist David K. Aslanian (Paul) or bassist Dillon Von Shredsmore—quipped, “Hey, have you guys heard of the Beatles? We’re like them … only better!” Drummer Charles Albright wore a T-shirt that had “Talk About Charles” airbrushed across it.)
Maxwell provides the focal point, delivering a screaming yet melodic stream of words that actually had the audience singing along at one point. That’s something one doesn’t see much anywhere. Nice job, Rock the Light, and thank you for not being a Christian heavy-metal band.
In other news, Marilyn’s will be closing up shop after April 1. Luckily, it’s not permanent. The venue is moving two blocks west on K Street and will reopen on June 1. The new format will be nightclub-oriented with an outdoor patio.
Meanwhile, the old location will kick out the jams for its last eight days with the Sun Kings; the Rickoustic open jam; ¡Bucho!; a “Women Who Rock” night, featuring Larisa Bryski; a free blues show on March 31; and, closing out the location’s tenure, an April 1 show by the great funk cover band Mercy Me.