Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, Juliette

Ending a relationship can be rough. Even if things haven’t been great lately, there are the memories of better times and wondering where things went astray. And if you think things have been going really well, an unexpected break-up can hit you upside the head like a foul ball in the 8th inning after you’ve been drinking for three hours and busy texting your significant other to let them know that you’re going to be a little late because there’s a special on Rolling Rocks at the bar by the ballpark and then before you know it you’ve got a tattoo of a Rawlings on your temple, your buddies are laughing at you and you’re thinking maybe you should have read the fine print warning on the back of your ticket stub a little more closely. Unfortunately, women don’t come with any fine print so even if you’re an overly diligent attorney you’re going to get hit sooner or later.

So in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll spell it out for you: I’m breaking up with Juliette Lewis. We had a good run. If you remember we first connected back in 2006, but it wasn’t until a year later when the relationship got really hot. That’s when we bonded at her show with the Licks at Reggie’s back in December. I was acting like a lovestruck schoolgirl. More so than usual. I got a Juliette poster as the centerpiece of my shrine. I was going to incorporate one of those salami sticks hanging in the meat market since they’re very tasty, but I was trying to stay focused. I put the picture we took together on my nightstand. I asked Mrs. F’er if she would change her name to Juliette. I later suggested Joe Pesci after the beating she gave me. I also suspect she’s the one who vandalized the poster with a Sharpie mustache. But I digress.

The two and a half records she made with the Licks just plain rocked. Hard. Muscular. Nothing fancy – just loud guitars, driving drums and high energy vocals. We’re talking a two year-old on Red Bull and pixie sticks kind of energy. Her band were some no nonsense, jeans and t-shirt guys who got sweaty and didn’t comb their hair. Not the kind who spent a lot of time trying to look like they don’t comb their hair, either. And the show I saw back in 2007 was off the hook. Or off the chain. Whatever the kids say today when something is totally copasetic.

So Juliette and the Licks stayed on my playlist fairly regularly. Then she announced the Licks were no more. I wasn’t happy, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. She posted a new website for a new band called The New Romantiques. Now I was having some doubts, but sticking them in the far recesses of my brain. Back where I also keep the knowledge of where to find any cooking utensils in the house. I was in denial that we were growing apart. She finally released the new record and it was good. In fact, there were a few rockers that held their own with the best Licks tracks. Even a raw blues number that she is seemingly able to pull off. But there were a few that strayed from rocker territory. It’s like when one of your mountain bike buddies buys a road bike “just to ride when the trails are muddy”. Then before you know it he’s shaving his legs twice a week and talking to your wife about razor burn. But I digress.

There were darker tunes, more emotive tunes, and “sonically different” songs. There was even the pure pop goodness of “Uh-Huh” which I can appreciate but just seemed out of place. Still, I gave the CD multiple spins and looked forward to her show with the same anticipation normally reserved for the Little Debbie delivery man.

I talked people into going with me, and on the night of the big show the five of us were pretty much the first ones in the house. You know, ‘da house, dawg. The first opening band Juliette has been touring with must have called in sick or something because they were replaced by a local band called The Wanton Looks. Not the Wonton Looks. That’s that happens when you order some tasty soup at PF Changs. The Wanton Looks are a four rocker chick power pop quartet with a punkish edge. The singer/bassist had good stage presence, and although the guitarists seemed adequate they never quite inspired me to rip off my shirt like The Incredible Hulk and stab myself with a pencil. The drummer appeared to be immensely talented, much too talented to be hanging out with these broads. They need to step it up a notch. However, I stuck around for the whole set and feel I got my money’s worth for an opener. Plus I have to say that or else they’ll break my face the next I show it in public.

American Bang was the middle act and I had seen them open for The Pretenders earlier in the year. However, it was at The Riviera which is the Ford Focus of venues. It will get you there, but you won’t look cool and definitely won’t be rocking any rich Corinthian leather seats. I was also distracted by worries that I was going to find a parking ticket on my car. So I deferred judgment.

Turns out that at a small club like the Bottom Lounge, American Bang can tear that shit up. The band looks like it consists of three Nashville stoners who ditched class to listen to Black Crowes records, and a fourth guy who looks like he might have been recently released by Night Ranger. I’m not even sure he’s really in the band. I think he just showed up and the other three are still trying to decide who needs to tell him. In the meantime, they came out and rocked way harder than Juliette fans deserved. And did it all while “drunk as piss”.

Next up was Juliette. Funny, but I had just also seen her open for The Pretenders a couple months earlier – it was a short 30-minute set and never seemed to find a groove so I also deferred judgment on the new band and material that night. Tonight I would offer no excuses for them.

Let’s start with the band. All seemed proficient. But the drummer seemed bored. Seemed to sit there with a nonplussed look on his face. The bass player looked as if she were plucked from a Quentin Tarantino movie just for her exotic look. One guitarist was rocking a modified Flock of Seagulls ‘do. I didn’t find the other guitarist as bothersome but he was no Lick.

When I first introduced Juliette to Moist Rub a few years ago he was skeptical. How did he know whether she was a true rocker or just using her mad acting skillz to play a rocker? I thought he was the one off his rocker. Eventually, it seems he was satisfied that she was for real, but now I’m having my own doubts. The oft repeated line during her promotional appearances that her shows were about “communing with the gods” and some other mumbo jumbo I can’t recall. The new flair for the dramatic in the new songs. The posing and dramatic long stares during her performances. Ah, phooey. I know there is still a little rocker in there.

I even waited around to see if she was going to come out so I could get my liner notes signed and get to the bottom of it all. Nope. I get the hint.

I got my $15 worth. Definitely. But the shrine is being replaced with that stick of salami.