Wake up and smell the rock
Nothing against Starbucks or other corporate coffee joints, but there seems to be a certain, ahem, pussyass quality inherent in the branding of said chains.
I mean, this is coffee, people. Which is to say, why is it that whenever I step into the local McJumperCable’s for my extra-venti mudflapocchino with snickerdoodle-crumb sprinkles on top, do I hear some completely wimpy singer-songwriter dear-diary musings by the latest pixie-voiced waif that some major-label A&R weasel is horizontally evaluating? And why can’t I find a new copy of Iggy & the Stooges’ Raw Power anywhere in town?
Something is wrong with this picture. If I were the CEO of Starbucks, I would demand that Raw Power be the music that greeted sleepy customers in line for that crucial morning jolt. (But then, Norah Jones’ music probably puts more customers on the terminal nod, thus motivating them to up the number of caffeine shots they order, so the waif music probably is calculated by suits to sell more coffee.)
Anyway, one place you won’t get waifed and snickerdoodled is the Javalounge on 16th Street, across from Willie’s. Even the visuals, mostly by local cartoony monster-mash master Skinner, are a fog-cutting assault on the senses. And while sometimes the music can be mellow, often it’s as jaggedly inspired as Skinner’s artwork.
While a brief visit Thursday provided some saxophone squalls that would clean the varnish off most tables, a return the following Saturday brought the rock. Opening was Nevada City power-pop trio Furniture On Fire, which launched into a nicely muscular but sufficiently melodic set that set a fine tone for the evening, with guitarist and singer Jonah Wells backed by bassist Art Echternacht and drummer Nick Szwarc. At the end of the set, the band passed out a three-song CD sampler from its forthcoming album.
Iguanadon followed. I’ll admit I was a bit harsh on this trio when it played Fools Foundation a few months ago, but concrete bunkers and metal do not mix. Here, though, the trio, fronted by artist Skinner on guitar and vocals, with Kristie Harris on drums and Dan Herrera on bass, was able to launch into a vicious sonic wankathon that left the crowd gasping and jabbering like raccoons that just cracked into a campground cooler. To wit: “Budda budda budda … Grong! Grong! Grong! Skreeeee … budda budda budda Grong! Skreeeee!” Skinner seems to have recaptured the neo-operatic kitty-in-a-blender vocal form he mastered when he fronted the Little People, which is a good thing.
Closing the show was Agent Ribbons, which has turned into one of the area’s finest cabaret acts. Singer Natalie Gordon is rapidly becoming our very own Eleni Mandell (the fine Los Angeles chanteuse who will have played Java Lounge, on Tuesday, by the time you read this). The red-headed singer, who cites jazz great Blossom Dearie as an influence, just gets better and better. Backed by Lauren Hess on drums, Gordon strummed her powder-blue Danelectro guitar, warbled her canon of should-be hits and laid waste to a crowd that had just been bowled over by Skinner’s metal machine. As one guy put it, walking out: “I sure hope she has a good lawyer, because the A&R weasels are gonna go crazy when they catch wind of her.”