The Silos
Johnny Smoke
The Wahoos
November 20

A few random facts about the Silos. Of the thirteen or so musicians credited with performance and co-writing on Heater, the Silos' latest release, only one appeared at Wilbert's last Friday: Walter Salas-Humara. Of the two musicians who did show up with Salas-Humara, one didn't even know the other's name. "I dunno," the drummer said, irritated. "The bald guy." It begs the question: What kind of a jive band is this?

The answer: not really a band at all, jive or otherwise. Rather, the name the Silos loosely applies to the specific musical mindset of the aforementioned Walter Salas-Humara, and to the electron cloud of musicians who orbit his musical vision. Some record with him, some show up for the gig--it doesn't really matter. It's the Silos when Mr. Salas-Humara decides it is.

As for the music, that varies as well. When he has his mojo working, Salas-Humara generates pristine rock like clean mountain air, snow-covered fields, and backcountry gravel roads. He lays raspy-voiced vocals over broad chordage, atmospheric organ, minimalist guitar, studio-derived rumbles, and the occasional foray into slight discord, and ends up with roots-rock goodness. He can play a single note guitar line and make it sound as if it's all the song ever needed. At worst, the music conjures long, long gravel roads, endless fields, too much snow, and a truck with bad shocks and a broken heater.

The latest incarnation of the Silos took the stage as a stripped-down trio, including drummer David Gehrke and Andrew Glacken (the bald guy), a bassist who doubled on lap guitar. They didn't flesh out the depth and texture that characterizes the album. But they didn't try, either. Only three musicians strong, an attempt would have constituted folly. Whether engrossing, catchy, or sometimes just plain dull, Salas-Humara's songs all bear his musical imprint, a strong core, and for that reason they can survive a quick reinvention. And that's exactly what the trio did.

This night's Silos were a gritty power-pop band. Missing were the atmospheric organ and minimalist guitar on songs like "Prison Song," "Thanks a Million," and "Northern Lights," all from Heater. But what the songs lacked in texture, they made up in sheer ebullience. Salas-Humara's guitar erupted with bright chords; Gehrke kept a subtle yet insistent beat; Glacken laid down a probing, undulating bass line.

It wasn't an immaculate night for the Silos. Like Salas-Humara's songwriting, the Silos in concert were engrossing one minute, awkward the next. Occasionally, the big rock volumes kept Salas-Humara from hearing his own vocals, which veered wildly off-key on songs like "All Falls Away," from the album Cuba. "Eleanora," a song reminiscent of anything by Low, and "Miles Away" plodded live every bit as much as they do on record.

As night turned to morning, the drummer and bassist departed, leaving a more maudlin Salas-Humara alone onstage. Lots of loss, many missing women, one brooding guy with a six-stringer. To the rescue, his bandmates stormed the stage for one final, rousing anthem to hedonism titled "Drugs." "I'd rather get beat up than sit around all night. Let's buy some drugs and drive around." Mood altered, women forgotten, the day saved.

Dorsie Fyffe, the lead singer for Dayton-based Johnny Smoke, staggered onstage, squinted at the crowd through pink and swollen eyes, and admitted that he had had too much to drink. A lucky break, it turns out. If it weren't for Fyffe's between-song ramblings, the crowd might have gone without entertainment for a good hour or so. Johnny Smoke's country/rock hybrid amounted to little more than country music-associated instruments like dulcimers, banjos, and guitars amped up to distortion pedals and played like power-chord factories. The only highlight was a cover of Charlie Daniels's "Leave This Long Haired Country Boy Alone," which gets props for a monster twang.

The Wahoos opened with their tongue-in-cheek barroom country. Jokes about the Buckeyes and southern Ohio mostly flopped, but the music, including a goofy Pretenders' parody and a Lucinda Williams cover, was fun.

-- Aaron Steinberg

? and the Mysterians
Satan's Satellites
Grog Shop
November 21

? and the Mysterians recall a time between 1965 and 1968, when a small group of American acts mixed basic twelve-bar blues, blue-eyed British Invasion soul, and a ton of adolescent energy. The band converged on the Grog Shop Saturday night with sweaty basement rock that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will never be able to capture, even if the museum dedicates a wing to garage bands.

At the beginning of the show, a long-haired, weathered old cowboy hopped onstage to pitch the band's merchandise and introduce the members of the band (all original). He then asked the crowd to "clear the space for ? to come on stage" as the band pumped through an ambiguous '60s soul vamp.

And then the man hit the stage. In a pair of shades, black fedora, tight black bell bottoms, and an iridescent orange blouse with ruffled sleeves, ? was a funky downtown player from the old school--and an electrical conduit for the entire show.

Introducing most songs with a "This one's from the summer of '68, dig it, baby," ? also let there be no mistake that his band was promoting a new CD. And besides a few wrinkles, he and the Mysterians performed like one of the best new bands on the block. They interspersed tunes from the new CD with their back catalog of material such as "Eighteen" and "Hangin' on a String." Frank Rodriguez's ubiquitous Farfisa organ pumped "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" to new heights.

The crowd, apparently shocked by the energy of these old cats, began to wake up during "Don't Tease Me" and the crowd participatory "10 O'clock." The aching "That's How Strong My Love Is" contained a blistering, if abbreviated guitar solo, and showed that limiting these guys to garage-band status would be a crime. Given the right promotion, this was a band which could have captured the crown of the impending blues rock movement in the early '70s.

Though he wasn't the most personable frontman (his name is ?, for God's sake) the Mysterians threw a house party the likes of which Mick and Keith charge $100 a seat for. Then, in true garage-band fashion, they ended the night with an ageless "96 Tears," a stiff but driving cover of "Satisfaction," and a "96 Tears/Gotta Keep Tryin'" hybrid before ?, his voice blown and soaked in sweat, left the stage. One young patron asked, "So they're famous, right?" ... If only life were that fair.

Delivering a spirited set of organ-and-bass-driven instrumentals as well as vocal pieces, Satan's Satellites proved an excellent choice to open the show. The guitar kicked up about three-quarters of the way through the set, giving "Beg, Borrow, and Steal" and "Bad News Baby" a welcome punch. The future of garage bands is in good hands, in Cleveland at least.

--Brian Lisik

Marky Ramone and the Intruders
Sloppy Seconds
Euclid Tavern
November 23
Q: Can a man keep the beat and chew gum at the same time.
A: Yes.

Marky Ramone chomped and the Intruders churned through a late set at the Euclid Tavern Monday night. Ramone's gum chewing didn't necessarily keep time with the band's punk rhythms. No matter. His sticks did.

As great a player as Marky Ramone is (he joined the Ramones in 1978 after a stint with Richard Hell's Voidoids), the Intruders' show was more a curiosity than a riveting evening of punk rock. Ramone's two young bandmates didn't have the charisma to lift the night above nostalgia, and the Intruders' sub-Green Day originals are eminently forgettable. The two most interesting numbers were a Ramones tune, "I Don't Care," and a set-closing cover of "Nowhere Man." At least Ramone (real name: Marc Bell) was fun to watch. His delightful cymbal runs sat like cherries on top of a steaming slab of meatloaf. Maybe next time he'll shuck the band and put on a drum clinic.

Indiana's Sloppy Seconds were, rightfully, the evening's big draw. Catchy song titles, moshable beats, and locker room humor pleased the kids. Ace Hardware's refreshingly undistorted guitarwork and Bo'ba Jam's thundering bass tickled music fans. Jiggling singer B.A., shouting songs like "You Got a Great Body but Your Record Collection Sucks" and "Let's Kill the Trendy," looked like golfer John Daly had he picked up a Sex Pistols record instead of a 3-wood. B.A. removed his shirt midway through the set, allowing the crowd members to slap their palms on his belly. The band then tore into the song "Why Don't Lesbians Love Me?"--the night's most rhetorical moment. Crude stuff, but these guys rock.

Slak was first on the bill. Not melodic, not menacing, not memorable.
--David Martin

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