Shake some action

If the Town House is a bear bar, where’s the béarnaise sauce for my sammich? And where are the hors d’oeuvres?Actually, I dunno what the orientation of the 21st Street club might be these days. I do know that the upstairs space—recently revamped—is a pretty gosh-darned swell place to see bands play. With a large raised matte-black stage at one end, and a wooden dance floor surrounded by black-and-white checkerboard tiles, plus padded bench seating along one wall and a makeshift bar in the back, Town House may be my fave new room in town.

Got there on Saturday in time to see the Polymers play a fine opening set. These days you can see this band—which killed at Jerry Perry’s Kinks and Dead Rock Stars tributes at Old Ironsides—play all over town, unlike the two bands that followed.

Next up were the English Singles, a sterling pop quartet fronted by Scott Miller, the local legend best known for Nar, but also for such bands as the Ski Instructors and Bright Ideas. The set by the English Singles—a name as linguistically snappy as the Swedish Meatballs or the Italian Stallions—began modestly, but gathered momentum as it went along, with Miller on a Fender Strat and vocals, and Tristan Tozer playing some cheapo beast of a 12-string electric; the songs tended toward the melodic side, but still had enough electrobuzz to make you forget that what you were hearing, essentially, was pop music.

Miller has an offhand presence on stage; he’s an anti-star like Steve Malkmus of Pavement was. His song introductions—one for something called “Daydream,” which he said was the theme for New Zealand’s World Cup team some years back—tended to ramble in that endearing way that made ’90s indie bands so lovable. As Th’ Losin Streaks frontman Tim Foster put it, “It’s great to see Scott playing in a band that’s more pop than punk.”

The Streaks went on around midnight, and no other band in town comes close to their level if showmanship. They tear it up.

Bassist Stan Tindall is a relatively immobile presence at stage right, but the rest of the band is as animated as any altercation between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote: At one point, Foster clambered atop a teetering portable bar tucked in the corner; a moment later he stood on Matt K. Shrugg’s bass drum, then knocked over a mike stand, then caught and held it with his leg while finishing a guitar solo. Matt K. drummed like a possessed hedgehog, and with his handlebar mustache he looked like a villain from a Bogart movie.

But the real show was at stage left, where Mike Farrell—the closest thing to a rock god this town has produced—preened, jumped and posed like a lost Rolling Stone while a photographer snapped away. Farrell delivered the incendiary sonic goods, too, mostly courtesy of a black Gibson SG.

The Town House will host another rock extravaganza next Second Saturday.