Friday, June 6, 2014

I've Got Soul but I'm Not a Soldier

I smiled like I meant it because I did.

When I heard that the second installment of up and coming new production company Spin, Spit and Swear's Cover to Cover series was going to be the Killer's stellar debut album "Hot Fuss," I cleared the decks for tonight.

When that album came out in 2004, it was the antithesis of everything I was then listening to, a lot of which was post-punk revival, so the likes of Interpol, Editors, Franz Ferdinand and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.

Then along comes this glammy sounding band with an album full of distinctive guitar, which I loved, but also synths and soaring anthemic songs that made you want to shake your ass.

Not ashamed to say I fell hard for it but I was hardly the only one since it's since ended up on all kinds of "best debut albums" and "best albums of the aughts" lists before long.

All of that is a roundabout way of saying that I was not going to miss hearing "Hot Fuss" performed live tonight by some major talent from the local theater community.

Passing a guy in a t-shirt that read, "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning," and giving him credit for his honesty, I claimed a spot near the stage to wait for the show.

Almost immediately I found myself next to a guitarist I know with a beer in his hand. I had to know. Was he there for the beer or the music?

"I love this album," he admitted. Join the club, friend. "And I never saw them."

Well, there I had a leg up because I saw them back in 2006 at Merriweather Post Pavilion and while I was happy to hear them live, we were so far back on the lawn that they looked like miniatures on stage.

At least tonight I'd be able to see the band sweat.

Not long after, I overheard the trio next to me begin talking about "Hot Fuss" and not one of them knew it. They said they'd started listening to the Killers with the second album, where the band shed the glam for a Springsteen-like earnestness that didn't speak to me.

They were busy trying to recall if they knew even one song from "Hot Fuss." I couldn't not join their conversation.

"Mr. Brightside"? "Somebody Told Me"? "Smile Like You Mean It"? Come on, guys, work with me here. One of them thought maybe he knew "Somebody Told Me." Maybe.

I gave them a brief Killers history lesson and they were fascinated. To be fair, they didn't appear to be much beyond legal drinking age, which means they would have been in middle school when the record came out.

As if that wasn't discouraging enough, I overheard a girl who had obviously come for the beer telling a guy, "I mean, I like the Killers, but why are they doing the whole album?"

It wasn't worth my time and effort, so I just walked away.

Since the last "Cover to Cover" show, Hardywood had invested in a new sound system and I could tell a huge difference in sound quality during the sound check. This was going to rock.

I ran into the music teacher and as a kindred vertically-challenged person, we found spots right up front where no Paul Bunyan could spoil our view.

Keyboard/synth player Dave Robbins had transposed the whole album by ear and along with Bentley Cobb on drums and Grant Oliver on guitar, the band was note perfect.

Matt Shofner, he of the big voice and even larger stage presence, took the stage and with the initial spaceship-sounding synth notes of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," dove into 2004.

Trading off lead vocals with Russel Lacy, Sera Stavroula and Kelsey Cordrey, the cover to cover band soon had some of us dancing in place to the oh-so recognizable songs.

When Bentley went to use the drum pad nothing happened, causing Matt to joke, "It wouldn't be one of our shows without technical difficulties," but that was quickly corrected.

We only got as far as the fourth song, "Somebody Told Me" and sweat was dripping down my legs, so I can only imagine how hot the band must have been. Guitarist Grant had begun the set in a blazer, but that soon bit the dust.

Matt had the smartest idea. He went over and rolled up the garage door to the side of the stage and within moments, it was noticeably cooler inside.

Meanwhile, back on stage before the next song, he holds up a bloody finger before saying, "This is how you put on a band-aid," and demonstrating.

Co-host Maggie Roop, his long-time partner in crime and theater, looked at him and said, "That was almost hardcore until you put the band-aid on."

No surprise, my favorite, "All These Things That I Have Done," got a lot more people almost dancing and nearly everyone singing along.

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
and my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no, no, no, no

One of the things I adore about that song is how the Killers used a gospel choir for backing vocals, so I was tickled when five more people came onstage to do choir duty and testify to the rafters.

Afterwards, Matt asked if anyone knew the next song and I called out "Andy, You're a Star," but he didn't hear me. It was enough to know I was correct before Kelsey began singing it.

When Matt introduced Russell to sing lead, he told the crowd, "This is Russell Lacy. Ladies, I want you to take your panties off," before he sang.

I saw no panties thrown onstage, but I can't vouch as to whether any were removed other than Matt's and I know that only because he later came onstage and told us so.

There seemed to be less recognition on some of the later songs, but as a big fan of "On Top" and "Change Your Mind," that was other people's problem, not mine.

We're all the same and love is blind
The sun is gone before it shines
And if the answer is no
Can I change your mind?

Once they got to the end of the album, "Everything Will Be Alright," Russell soloed with his guitar on a bonus track, "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll," which I learned was on the UK version of "Hot Fuss."

See, kids, it's not just entertaining, it's educational.

Part of a Cover to Cover evening involves four local artists creating works while the rest of us listen to music. They're supposed to be inspired by what's going on around them and then the finished products are raffled off at the end with the proceeds going to Spin, Spit and Swear. I bought a ticket (anything for S,S & S) and kept my fingers crossed.

Problem was that at this point, one of the artists wasn't quite finished even though the album was, but the band just happened to have one more song waiting in the wings and as Matt put it, "If any Killers song is a dance song, this is it."

It's tough to argue with "Human" (or, as my friend Jym once hilariously put it, "Are we human or are we dancer? Discuss.") as a perfect excuse to shake your tail feathers, but I also love the poetry of the lyrics.

Pay my respects to grace and virtue
Send my condolences to good
Hear my regards to soul and romance
They always did the best they could

That song did get a few more asses in gear before the raffle winners' names were pulled and the art, some still wet, was awarded to four lucky people.

But Matt had one last trick up his sleeve.

"In Style Weekly's Best of Issue, one of the critic's picks was the Cover to Cover series," he said grinning and went on to thank me - using my initials - for the nod. "But she practically double dared us to do "All These Things That I Have Done" twice. What do you guys think of that? Should we do it?"

A smattering of applause wasn't enough (god knows, I was screaming and clapping as loudly as I could but I'm only one woman) and he was about to leave when he asked again and a thunderous reaction had the band kicking in with the first line, "When there's nowhere else to run" and it became a giant singalong, clap-along and dance-a-thon.

Help me out
Yeah, you gotta help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you gotta help me out

Helluva hot fuss of an evening, sweaty legs and all. Correct answer: we are dancer.

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