Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Show review: Dastardly at Schubas, 8/30

By Andrew Hertzberg

Dastardly will never just simply play a show. I mean, yeah, I guess they probably do a conventional set from time to time, but between last year’s Catastrophe, the feud with the Shams Band and now a two-set evening at Schubas, they always come up with something new to forget how miserable life can be…before lead singer Gabe Liebowitz starts singing about how miserable life can be and we’re all doomed to the same inevitability that all generations of any living organism have experienced.

Set One, affectionately referred to as the “Quaalude set,” focused mostly on tracks from May You Never… like "Creepy" and "Traffic" (which Gabe may or may not have forgotten the words to) as well as one of my personal favorites, "Dead Birdhouse Blues," which is an accordion-led middle-finger to the Show Me State. The band wrapped up the first set by performing Ballads in Blue in full, with special help from members of Santah and the Shams Band. I was already losing count of the instruments used. By the end of the night, Joe Rauen would play with an electric guitar, three clarinets (occasionally two at once), a banjo, and what are those, rocks being poured on a mirror? Likewise, Sarah Morgan mainly helmed the accordion, but picked up the tuba and helped on percussion from time to time as well.

By the end of the first set, despite some bits of greatness, things just started to feel a little sloppy. “Graceful” is not an adjective I would use to describe Dastardly. “Entertaining,” absolutely. “Competent,” yes. But they’ve also got a rep for being a drinking band, that can usually hold their own, so when there were those slip-ups, it was sort of a bummer. And then, the second set kicked in. Starting with "Dirtnap" off of Bury Me in the Country, the haziness of the first set was overdriven by a spike of adrenaline, boisterous distorted guitar, and scream-til-you-puke vocals from Gabe. Following this was a Trilogy of Death that featured "Freight Train" and "Brief Thoughts on Death" from that same album, as well as a new track relating the necessity of the essentially pointless act of grocery shopping.

After a few Carl Sagan impersonations (which as Sarah pointed out is not too far from Gabe’s Kermit impersonation/imfrogation) the band encored with one very last trick up their sleeve: a homemade guitar created with a stop-sign and a hockey stick. I fucking kid you not. And you know what? It sounded good too. Some serious credit to Joe for rocking that one. By the time they started their last song, I had lost count of if there were more instruments used or Carl Sagan references. Both had quite a high number. They closed out the night with the sing-a-long “Jews Don’t Go to Heaven,” the rock set proving much better than the Quaalude set.

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