The Midwest Beat/Eric & the Happy Thoughts/The Motorz; February 6, 2010; Crystal Corner Bar
The last time I saw the Midwest Beat was a disappointing show at the Frequency where they were mostly out of tune and just generally out of sync. Luckily the Hussy saved that show with another killer set of blink and you miss it garage rock. Tonight the Beat didn’t need saving, except maybe from cirrhosis. As the last band on a three band bill that didn’t start till ten, they all seemed a bit under the influence by the time they took the stage, but that didn’t keep them from playing a killer set. Usually the practitioners of less is more, they didn’t seem to want to leave the stage tonight. Bassist Logan Kayne squinted at the clock and declared they were just going to keep playing “since it is only 11:30.” The clock actually said 1:30, and the Crystal may be the only bar in town that actually keeps real time, so it was late. They played the bulk of last year’s stellar release “At the Gates,” in addition to a handful of the 60’s tunes that color their sound. Most importantly they proved that last train wreck of a show is not typical.
I can barely remember the last show the Motorz played. And not because I was drunk (surprisingly), but because it was so long ago. Their leader Kyle Motor is always happier playing in someone else’s band, so for the last year he had shelved his primary project to focus on the August Teens and to play drums with Brown Derby. Tonight’s set was split between their original songs and covers, many of which were so obscure you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t theirs if they weren’t so adamant about giving credit where credit was due. The most surprising of these was Davíd Garza’s “Kinder” from his ’98 release “This Euphoria.” It took me a moment to identify it even though I was singing along from the first verse. The one everyone did know was Cheap Trick’s iconic “Surrender;” perhaps the most obvious influence on their music. One surprise was one of Kyle’s songs from the God Damns, “Juliet” appeared among the usual girls (“Denise,” “Charlene” etc). The fans around me kept wishing for more Motorz and less covers. Even though I agreed, I told them they should be happy they were getting any Motorz, sounding much like the curmudgeonly Kyle.
That last show over a year ago hadn’t really looked like the Motorz I knew and loved. The five piece line-up featured regular drummer Josh Motor on guitar, a new guy on drums, and one of several fill-in bass players taking Dan Motor’s place. Tonight everything was back to normal with the original line-up. I didn’t remember Dan Motor talking much previously, but tonight he provided most of the banter. Even though most of it consisted of insults hurled at a friendly heckler, he was obviously having a very good time, and it was great to see him (and his awesome flame tattoo) back in the band.
The infectious power pop from Indiana’s Eric & the Happy Thoughts was a nice compliment to the local bands that played on either side of them. Their lead singer/guitarist had a magnetic stage presence and a great voice, while the surprisingly tall bass player bounced around happily for the entire set. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was that their Stephen Wright look-alike drummer was seated behind the most minimal drum kit I’ve ever seen. Even though it consisted of only a snare, a bass and two cymbals, you would never guess by listening. They were celebrating the release of an unlikely split cassette with the Midwest Beat, so it seems likely they will be back. Along with the return of the Motorz (who already have another show scheduled!), that is good news for Madison fans of power pop.
Eric & the Happy Thoughts
The Midwest Beat