Unlike undergarments, air-conditioning filters and sex partners, most of us claim to like our rock 'n' roll as filthy as it comes. But catching just that sort of dirty rock 'n' roll in a venue like Springwater is the difference between knife-and-forking a fried mayonnaise sandwich off a crystal platter and failing to snatch it up off the ground before it’s had five seconds to gather any germs — it’s all about presentation. And as far as Friday night went, sleaze was the only thing on the menu.
Things kicked off somewhere around rock o'clock, when Denny and the Jets started cranking out bar-friendly blues punk to a politely seated room of folks. Slowing their roll occasionally into a honky-tonkin’ tear-jerker, the band picked up the pace as a mob of patrons came rifling through the door. Yeah, it was a little dingy and rough around the edges, but still clean enough to fly over — just as it did with the Exit/In crowd when Denny opened for outlaw country legend Billy Joe Shaver just the other night.
We wouldn’t realize just how much greasy muck we’d be wiping out of our ears until Thelma and the Sleaze came on next. This trio of knockabout dames sound literally no less menacing than they look, taking their namesake much more literally than you’d expect. Combining the feminist onslaught of Sleater Kinney and the heavy pop crunch of Thin Lizzy, their sleazy, muscle-bound riffs oozed off the stage with a confrontational, disreputable tone. With the stage lit solely by a plastic, leg-shaped lamp (yep, like the one in A Christmas Story), the band’s lewdly androgynous stage presence — shirtless guitarists, black tape over the nips, etc. — ensured this was about the seediest rock show you can get without technically breaking any laws. The crowd had thinned considerably by set’s end, leaving only a hardcore row of females still pumping fists until the very last song and proving these ladies may have successfully trumped the Springwater in terms of legendary rack and ruin.
So let’s get this out of the way: Liquor Store, Jay Reatard. The story of their beef is nearly two years old now, but still seems to get brought up in press every time the New Jersey band is mentioned. Fortunately, Liquor Store is too badass a band to go the way of the Von Bondies’ ass-whipped reputation. The only thing more noticeable than the army of guitars onstage was frontman Sarim Al-Rawi, who was possibly either wired on meth or born with an aversion to blinking. Either way, Liquor Store rips a fierce and earnest set of epic hardcore that pisses on the sexually charged immediacy of the New York Dolls and dumps it into a trashcan full of sun-warped Misfits and Alternative TV demos. Liquor Store occasionally strays into a psychy dirge or Queen-esque diversion, but they never stray from the down 'n' dirty basics for too long. Rule of thumb: In addition to being both physically and sonically dirty, it pretty much always helps if your rock 'n' roll doesn’t give a shit — about anything.
Rounding out the evening was a hazy, heady, sticky, stinky set from [insert another marijuana analogy here] Natural Child. Sluggish grooves and scream-along choruses abounded, and the group triumphantly plowed through most of their latest, 1971, with a few choice faves from their self-titled 7-inch and the Body Switchers cassette. It was a nice and smoky cleansing to wash away the sonic grime we’d accrued over the evening before we drove home smelling like sonic sewage — in the best way possible.