Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tunesday: "Boys Better," The Dandy Warhols

NSFW warning: This is a tour-clip style video. During this period of the Dandys history, keyboardist/bassist Zia McCabe on occasion would perform topless. This video captures that.

Oct. 6, 1997 — That was the night The Dandy Warhols played Liberty Lunch in Austin. It was an inconceivably cool scene. And I was an inconceivably uncool UT freshman whose friends from high school didn't go to UT; whenever they visited (primarily from Baylor), I made it a point to show them just how badass Austin was. I studied the Austin Chronicle and listened to KVRX to make sure I was aware of any and all worthwhile events, especially concerts.

Going to see The Dandy Warhols was clearly the greatest thing happening that particular week. The only problem: It was a Monday. Not discouraged one bit, my best friend with outstanding taste in music made the drive from Waco. It was totally worth it.

For starters, the opening act was Charlatans UK (best-known in the U.S. for "The Only One I Know") — a band that was far too great to be an opener. A year earlier, the group had lost their keyboardist Rob Collins in a car crash. If memory serves, this tour represented the band's return to America. They not only didn't disappoint, they didn't show up/outperform the headliner.

And then the Dandys came on. Smoke filled the sold out room and the Dandys unleashed a mix of stoner slow jams, stoner pop-rock gems, stoner twang and stoner mellow mood music. What impressed me most was how tight and beautifully simple their songs were. "Boys Better" has four well-chosen chords that are played with vigor, a fun synth pattern, sing-along-able verses and a crushing chorus. Oh man, that crushing chorus! Hearing the descending chord progression on your laptop doesn't do it justice; feeling it at a live show is where its at. The synth sub bass filled and rattled my body on its way down to the oh-so quintessential rock chord — E major. My chest became a cavern for the music to reverberate.

The collection of strangers in the audience seemed to feel "it," too — that connected, "we're all part of something special" feeling that happens infrequently at rock shows. I was hooked and subsequently have seen the Dandys four times to relive that feeling.

My love for the Dandys has waned over the years, pretty much since they left Capitol Records; but if you still think the Dandys rule and you have yet to experience a live set, you're in luck; the gang will be at the House of Blues in Dallas tomorrow. I've got a hunch that plenty of good tickets are still available.

What else? Friends turning into rivals. Destined-to-be-ginormous talent self-destructing. Bands fronted by enigmatic, egomaniacal frontmen. If any of that sounds like a recipe for good drama, you're in luck. Check out "Dig!" — a spectacular seven-years-in-the-making film that documents the rise of The Dandy Warhols and the rise and disintegration of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. It's like Spinal Tap for hipsters.

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