(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Concert review - Quintron and Miss Pussycat with Dream Police, No Funeral

12 July 2012 (Hi-Dive, Denver CO)
I don't put a numerical ranking on my reviews because I try to separate my tastes enough to recognize quality, even it's not what I like the best. Concerts are harder to grade than albums, though. For example, should the opening acts affect the score for good or bad? In this show, the headliner killed, but the first opening act...well, not so much.

No Funeral
No Funeral featured some cool laser effects, along with a fog machine, which gave the Hi Dive a rave look. Aside from a touch of glow stick style tubing wrapped around his arms, laptop noise artist No Funeral (Warren Bedell) didn't make any other concessions to "performance".

His brief set focused on deconstructing pop songs like the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City. In DJ mode, he diced in overdriven vocals, electronic tones, and echo artifacts. Bedell met his noisy goal, but his set didn't do much for me or provide much support for the other acts.

Dream Police
The name "Dream Police" conjures up images of a Cheap Trick tribute band. That might have been an interesting choice for an opener, but the raw punk thrash that the band brought was more welcome. In recent years, punk pop bands like Blink-182 or Green Day are the strongest influences for punk scene, but Dream Police opted for a more old school, hardcore sound.

The quick pace, inarticulate shouted vocals, and high energy recalled classic bands like The Exploited and GBH. It was a reminder of the cathartic power of punk.

The dual guitar line up gave the band a solid wall of sound. Dream Police was also unique because it's rare to see a female punk guitarist. When she added backing vocals, it created some great whipsaw moments. The call and response on their opening song, R U OK?, got the crowd moving. This was a much better lead in for Quintron's set.

Unfortunately, Dream Police's set aborted early. The drummer broke a stick without any spares. He still managed one more song, but then he had to give it up. It's good to leave an audience wanting more, but 16 minutes was too damn short.

As is typical for the band, the set started with Miss Pussycat's performance art. In puppet form, she addressed the crowd:
Hello, everyone. My name is Miss Pussycat. I'm going to do a puppet show for you tonight about a grizzly bear that wanted to go into outer space. Then, we'll have a dance party with Quintron.
Miss Pussycat reminded me of Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy): her show was deliberately primitive and rough, but hysterically funny and entertaining. Quintron's electronic soundtrack and sound effects supported the show, which featured cannibal parties on the moon with Mother Nature, vampires, and a happy ending on "Magical Nebula Rainbow Land". The surreal show cleared our minds of all outside influences and prepared us for the music.

Quintron's music was a brilliant Frankenstein mix of punk energy, raw power, Wall of Voodoo/Talking Heads quirkiness, and retro sounds of soul, blues, and Cajun rhythm. He's referred to it as "swamp tech", which seems fitting. Like a one man band, Quintron played organ, various synthesizers and a partial drum kit. A key element of his sound was his invention, the Drum Buddy, which is a light activated drum machine/optical theremin. With all of these toys, Quintron was like a juggler. With his hands fully occupied, he might whip a booted foot up to kill the drum beat at the end of a song.

Despite all his toys, though, Quintron was a great performer. Rather than losing himself in the technical detail, he connected with the audience. His grooves got the crowd dancing and created a sort outsider rave vibe. While the music bounced around through B-52's new wave pop, rootsy revival soul, uptempo swamp blues, and Mojo Nixon-style manic outbursts, the crowd fed off the dance party atmosphere and embraced the quirk.

Miss Pussycat's backing on vocals and maracas was also vital to the balance. Her stage persona tended to be cheery and spacy, but she had a good range. On Swamp Buggy Badass, she summoned a catty 1950s tone and kicked off the vocals. Then, as Quintron took the lead, they slipped into a call and response that ratcheted up in intensity. After Quintron set the music on autopilot, he came out and accosted the crowd and it became a tribal rite.

The musical climax was an amazing Drum Buddy solo, with Quintron showing off the range of the instrument. The pair finished out a strong set and even played a solid encore. Quintron himself summed up their aesthetic perfectly: "We say 'yes' to everything." The buzz from this show lasted the 70 minute drive home and sent me off to dream filled night once I got to bed.

More photos on my Flickr.

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