Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Show review: Dastardly presents 'Catastrophe' at Hideout, 10/18

By Andrew Hertzberg

Well that was a perfectly awful show. I don’t know where Gabe Liebowitz and the dastardly folks of Dastardly found the other performers of the evening, but none of them deserved to share the stage with the local Americana quintet. In the tradition of Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw, the group put together a night at the Hideout that was to showcase the talents of a variety of other acts. Instead, we had to put up with some of the most hideous creatures ever to grace a stage. The host for the evening was the pompadour boasting Dickie Phipps, saddled at the front left corner of the stage announcing acts and keeping the night moving along. Before I get ahead of myself, I must give credit where it’s due. Dastardly started things off performing two songs, the crooning ballad "Rose Marie" that warmed up the crowd into "Fever," which allowed Gabe to show off his Alpine folk yodel.

And that’s where things quickly took a turn for the worse. Joe Fernandez was set to perform a more traditional standup routine. After an uncomfortable silence, he reveals that his girlfriend of three years broke up with him just before the set. Gabe tries to encourage him; Joe whimpers a bit, then runs to the back room off stage. We wait. We hear him cry. Ummm, awkward? He finally composes himself enough to come back out, attempting his bits about grocery shopping and clit piercings, barely able to get the words out of his mouth. Fernandez’s performance was a sad display of a desperate human being, and the crowd was still laughing at him! Roaring even! This soul on the verge of self-destruction, who’s grandmother is coughing up blood, who is obviously abusing alcohol and has a gambling problem, is being laughed at not for his talents, but because of how sad he is. Of course, on top of this, he’s not the best at impersonations. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at a bagel factory? Really? Come on. Let’s hope Mr. Fernandez can get over his issues and come back with some real material. And let’s pray to God that his next girlfriend doesn’t have to hear him serenade her with Jewel’s "You Were Meant for Me."

Thankfully, Dastardly came back to perform "Middleground," bringing the crowd out of what was certainly the most depressing event of the night. They looked embarrassed for poor Joe, but the accordion and banjo led song helped bring things back around. Well, at least before poor Mr. Phipps had to read an advertisement for Hank Williams III’s new album, with let’s just say, some glaringly racist and homophobic (and frankly, overwrought) song titles. Next up, Gabe asked former Western movie star Les Sanders some questions about his time shooting movies in the '30s and '40s and his career since. Well, his non-career at least. After his horse hung himself, his wife left him and some remarks that just may have sounded in support of Joseph Stalin, he had to lay low for a bit. Ever the performer, he did have a folk song to sing (backed by Dastardly), berating the 99%ers, the homeless and “environ-mental patients.” The band members gradually stopped playing, showing their disapproval of this crazy old kook, and as the song was wrapping up, I was passed by what had to have been the most confused looking tamale guy I’ve ever seen. I knew that look, as it was one I was sharing.

Following this, we were able to get a bit more contemporary. The Julliard educated Chris Condren was to play. Whereas I expected a Julliard graduate to play emotive and complex classics, Condren was more interested in his Yamaha keyboard’s pre-recorded beats, chipper tempos and cheesy leads, with titles like "My Dad’s Gay and I Hate Him." Yikes. “This next song is about a rapist,” he said, as he played what sounded an awful lot like Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,’ but a song he says he wrote last week. So Julliard kids plagiarize? Huh.

Closing out the first act was the obviously more competent musicians in Dastardly, with "Exercises in Self-Loathing," the speak-sing gospel of  "Church Date" and the Sarah Morgan led "Crystallized." When the set was about to wrap, some rando dude wearing a garbage bag suit and a tinfoil hat comes in and starts declaring the band as members of the Illuminati, before being chewed out then chased away by guitarist Joe Rauen and the rest of the band. Could anything go right on this fateful evening?

Act two didn’t fare any better. After another advertisement, this time for Mabel Lynn’s Adult Toys (…), Dastardly kicked it off with "Wabash Cannonball," probably my favorite from the night, specifically Gabe’s lamenting his time in a particular state (“Missouri, you’re a cold and miserable fucker”) and his ability to transition from a scream to a croon like *snap*. Likewise, "Villain" started out innocently enough before breaking down into a percussive noise jam, the band members all hitting whatever they could (stools, beer bottles), growing chaotic, but not quite into the catastrophe the rest of the evening was. In between was the “family friendly” portion of the night by hip-hop duo Ruby Weapon, who turned out to be not quite too family friendly. At the very least, I learned where I can go for "Pussy Tech Support" but probably could have done without the gratuitous mic stand and monitor humping. Fortunately for all families in the world, the Hideout is a 21+ venue, so no impressionable children had to endure what Dickie Phipps accurately described as “something that happened” (but us 21+ folks weren’t so lucky).

A few more from Dastardly before the apparition of Patsy Cline graced the stage. “Finally, some real talent,” I mistakenly thought. She went on to a vulgar hipster-bashing diatribe in a pseudo standup routine before revealing she was on lithium (which ghosts can do apparently). But she did perform "Crazy," a wonderful event to see the legend do, before being interrupted by a glitter-slinging Katy Perry. She very obviously lip-synched to "Firework" before (deservedly) being strangled to death by Ms. Cline.

Now that that unfortunate incident (and apparently there is such a thing as justified murder) was over, the show was almost (finally) to a close. Rauen busted out his snake-charming clarinet for "Jews Don’t Go to Heaven," which fell into near chaos and disorder before it all came back to life with a sing-a-long at the end. All of a sudden, every character we saw that night rushed up on stage to join in, arms around shoulders swaying back and forth, the comedian still crying and the Julliard keyboardist still looking ignorantly blissful. Even Patsy Cline and a reincarnated Katy Perry were dancing the hoedown together. And it suddenly dawned on me: this was all a performance! These were characters! Duh! Well, in that case, I have to say it was quite the enjoyable evening. The show effectively combined music and comedy and made the night much more remarkable and creative than just the routine of a traditional concert. What I originally thought was just a night gone wrong was a night planned to go wrong going horribly right. 

See Dastardly in a more conventional setting at the Beat Kitchen Saturday November 5th with Chaperone and Grandkids.

1 comment: