Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Classic Tawnies/The Low Czars/Sheena & the Punk Rockers; April 26, 2008; The Crystal Corner

When Crystal booker and all-around great guy Joe Lambert gave me the opportunity to put together a cover band bill, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. In addition to the Classic Tawnies who I was putting this show together for, I decided to invite the Low Czars and Sheena and the Punk Rockers. While the Tawnies aren’t quite a household name, the Czars are one of the better known cover bands in town and have proven their draw with happy hour shows at the High Noon, while also adding appeal to other less likely bills (a gig with the Drunk Drivers for instance).

Sheena and the Punk Rockers are the other hand were playing only their second show ever, and vowed to break up after it since “we all hate each other.” It was just part of the show for the Ramones tribute band, since the band members are actually all good friends. Versatile drummer Larry worked the hardest tonight since he is also a member of the Czars (as well as half a dozen other bands). Ropin’ Rodeo Nate forsook his usual sweater vest and tie for one of his two t-shirts in order to be more in character. The final punk rocker was Adam Schabow who played the part of Johnny Ramone. The part of Sheena was handled quite brilliantly by Aunt Goodness, otherwise known as Erika Lozier. While she seemed a bit nervous at first, by about four songs in (in other words about 7 minutes) she was completely into the music. I’m a casual Ramones fan at best, knowing only the handful of songs that everyone knows, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying their set, the highlight of which was an incendiary “Rock & Roll Radio.” Here’s hoping they get back together in time for the Halloween show.

What can I say about the Low Czars that I haven’t said before? They may be Madison’s most talented cover band, with excellent songwriters Aaron Scholz and Bob Koch taking most of the lead vocals on some of the more obscure rock chestnuts from the 60’s and 70’s. Peter Fatka, who can also be seen playing absolutely stunning pedal steel with bands like Goat Radio and Shakey, adds a powerful third guitar to their line-up, not to mention terrific backing vocals. Always grinning and charmingly handsome, James Leaver fills in the low end. Tonight’s set promised new songs added to their set list, but since I only know about half of what they play anyway, I’d be hard pressed to pick out what they were. I do know they pulled out one of their Monkees covers just as Gina walked in the door and she went nuts. I know more Monkees songs than the average person, but they have stumped me with their choices. Solid and spectacularly entertaining, the Low Czars are always a sure entertainment bet.

Understandably the Tawnies were a little nervous filling out the bill. After all, this wasn’t their crowd, their crowd was all over at the Majestic for the Blueheels CD release (I’m still mad at Bricco), and they worried people were going to leave. Luckily folks were having such a good time they weren’t going anywhere. Their set was going well enough; opening with Stevie Wonders’s “Superstitious” had people dancing. It hit a whole ‘nother level once Shauncey Ali showed up with his fiddle, and it might have been what kept them there till the lights came on. Songs that were entertainingly goofy before, like Blake’s “Billie Jean” somehow seemed to demand they be taken at least a little serious. Songs that seemed more in Tawny character like “Trudy” and “Folsom Prison Blues” got even better. People who hadn’t seen Shauncey before couldn’t believe he could just get up and play with them. And those of us who had, well we were yelling “Shauncey!” at the top of our lungs after every song. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, a version of “Sweet Caroline” that, well, honestly if it contained any of the original lyrics that was just an accident. Dang that was fun. Thanks to Joe for letting me do it.

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