I like live music. I like to go to concerts. And sometimes,
when there's nothing on my "must see" concert list for a weekend,
I like to go out to one of my regular venues and see whoever's
playing, even if I have no idea what the bands will sound like.
Yeah, it's sort of like a lottery: you're not sure what you're
going to get. But it's fun and in my experience, you oftentimes
come across good bands that you may not have heard of previously.
In fact, that's how I came across the band that ended up releasing
my favorite album
Anyway, on this evening, I didn't have any other plans, and
I wanted to go out. And since it seems like I've been at The
Star Bar an awfully lot recently, it somehow made sense to wander
over there and check out the two bands. The first band, The
Blue Jays, is apparently from Atlanta, although I have to say
their name isn't familiar to me. My first impression upon hearing
them is that they have a very 50-esque honky-tonk sound. I guess
you could say they reminded me of that time in music when some
elements of country music started to rock - not quite rockabilly,
but pretty close. Also, all of the musicians are talented enough
to pay together smoothly, even though at one point they indicated
that some of the band was newish. It was enjoyable, and I was
very annoyed at the crowd standing near me, who continued to
socialize and more or less ignored this band. However, The Blue
Jays garnered their attention with the highlight of the evening,
a twangy version of The Rolling Stones' 19th Nervous Breakdown.
It was good and somehow appropriate, and acknowledged the roots
that lay underneath their sound.
After The Blue Jays set, I was somewhat surprised at the 6
men who took the stage as The Countdown Quartet. While they
had the usual guitar/drum/bass contingent, the other three comprised
a horn section. Based on this and their very retro-Bing Crosby
clothes, I wasn't too surprised when their music started off
sounding like something like a Dixieland Sock Hop. You know
the sound -- The Squirrel Nut Zippers popularized it a while
back and brought about those ubiquitous swing dance lessons.
It's a sound which is hard to mix in a small club -- the timbres
and volumes of the instruments are inherently different, so
it's hard to level it all out. But, not surprisingly, the sound
guy at The Star Bar has it all figured out. The guitar, bass,
and drums seemed to echo through the club while the horns stood
out, blasting in the front like one of those crackly 30s jazz
Unfortunately, the music didn't entirely stay in the same vein.
After a couple of songs, they moved into a style of hip bebop
jazz, the type that sings constantly of "lighting up" and 'smoking
tea.' It's pleasant enough, filled with long horn interludes
alternating with call and response vocals. But its that type
of "have a martini and a smoke" music that can be best characterized
as "stoner lounge jazz."
I can't say why this didn't appeal to me; the musicians were
uniformly excellent and the songs were pleasant. But after a
while, the music had a certain sameness that lulled me; I found
myself standing there, not really listening, lost in my own
thoughts. So I decided to leave before The Countdown Quartet
finished their set. This wasn't a reflection on their music;
rather it's more a reflection on my mood. On a different evening,
in a different mindset, I think I could have liked this band.
But instead I left The Star Bar and went home, content with
the events (and music) of the evening.