Monday, May 2, 2011

Show review: Candy Golde at Double Door, 4/29

By Jordan Posner

photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
“I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it is the past of rock and roll.”

This was the bon mot I whispered to my date as she departed for the conveniently located bathrooms at the Double Door. It was one of those things that sounds profound when you’ve sucked down a few reasonably-priced beers, but in retrospect seems like a paradoxical statement for its own sake. It sacrifices coherence for the illusion of wit, and why I chose to open a music review with it is beyond me.

I will say this, though. In light of Candy Golde’s Chicago debut on Friday, it makes more than a little sense.

Rock and Roll, by its nature, is supposed to make you feel young and wide-eyed, like a child who is allowed to stay up past his bedtime just this once, able to witness first hand how the adults get down. When you’re young, everything is new and exciting. Have you ever seen a sullen, jaded, world-weary nine-year old? I’m not sure if one even exists (possibly Baby Steven Patrick Morrissey, which is a children’s cartoon waiting to happen. I retain licensing and animation rights). Nobody wants to feel old at a rock show, because old people are incapable of being surprised, and when rock ceases to be surprising it becomes background noise for people who hate/don’t care about music; an album that “happens,” rather than “happens to you.”

In other words, it becomes something you can easily ignore. We’d like our rock, however many of the familiar conventions of the genre it embodies, to be engaging at the very least, otherwise why not just listen to nothing at all?

Now, I’m 26 years old, so some of you would imagine that I am constantly surprised by what life has to offer, having experienced so little of it. I stumble around the city, amazed by the skyscrapers and “way high up trains,” too awash in new experiences to develop anything resembling genuine cynicism.

For the most part, this is true, but I have been to a lot of rock shows. And at said shows, I tend to feel a great deal older than I chronologically may be. And why not? I know the rules pretty well. I know exactly what time to get there so that I thoroughly miss the opening act (Sorry, dudes. I needed to grab dinner). If it’s a band with only one discernable hit, I can tell you roughly when said hit is going to be played. I still enjoy rock shows, but my bar for being amazed is pretty high. I’m basically like Sawyer on Lost: I know every con, and I’ve seen every hustle, dodge and flim-flam. You have to wake up pretty early to rock my ass off.

photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
So why would Candy Golde have anything new to offer me, or anyone else for that matter? Christ, between the members, you have something like 800 years of rock experience. With Nicholas Tremulis, Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick), John Stirratt (Wilco), and Rick Rizzo (Eleventh Dream Day), the band is kind of like a Chi-town version of the Traveling Wilburys (or to a much lesser extent, Damn Yankees). They’ve been doing this since “this” was a thing to do.

How could these guys, even on the strength of an admittedly good EP, do anything at the Double Door on Friday that made them look remotely vital?

The answer is surprisingly simple. They played for themselves.

photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
And don’t misread that. These guys know how to work a crowd, particularly Tremulis. What I mean is that the four original songs almost seemed like an afterthought. Candy Golde seemed far more interested in exploring their mutual love and appreciation of rock history, delivering an eclectic selection of cover songs from the '60s and '70s. While their original material holds up perfectly well, especially the irresistible Iggy-lite “Galvanize Me,” the highlight was seeing this crack band tackle The Move’s “Brontosaurus” or The Who’s “Armenia, City in the Sky."

Throughout, I got the sense that I was watching something private; seasoned professionals playing the music that they love, ostensibly releasing an album, but more appropriately saluting the entire idea of rock and roll. The best part of all this is that these vets have outgrown the need for ego and seem to realize that the idea of a “supergroup” is, when you get right down to it, kind of ridiculous. The only thing that will save it from being a Zwan-like abortion will be to operate without a shred of pretension.

We’re looking for more of a “we like playing together” than a “here we are to save the world” vibe.

The point was driven home when Tremulis asked the bartender for a Diet Coke. There was a mild smattering of good-natured boos and hisses, to which Tremulis replied, “I’m diabetic. Sorry.”

By the time Candy Golde lovingly wrapped their arms around “Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers, it became clear that we were watching a group of guys who, though the rock and roll lifestyle period of their lives may be over (I’m sure Carlos at least has some stories from the road), are now free to concentrate on the music that inspired them to join the circus in the first place, the music that made them feel like strange new things were happening on planet Earth. Candy Golde fill their live show with the sort of music that changed their shit around when they were young, and the kick they get out of it is contagious.

photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
photo: Mary-Claire Runchey
photo: Mary-Claire Runchey

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