Friday, June 29, 2007

Studying for the bar...and Sellaband's Vegas Dragons

When I was nineteen, A few college mates and I started a band. We had a Hammond organ and three piece horn section so the logical material for us to play was Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago and Cold Blood. All of us were music students and man, we were snobs. We prided ourselves on being able to read music and thought quite a lot of ourselves.

Then I fell in with some cats who weren't musicians but who influenced me more than any musicians had up to that point. To be frank about it, I don't really know what influenced me more, their acid and weed...or their record collections. I look back on those times as my years of studying for the bar...because it was at the bar that we usually ended our daily studies.

We played a game called, "Favorite Record" the object of which was to play a record and convince the others of a particular artists merits. If enough members of the group hated your choice, the record was smashed to bits. We made our choices with much trepidation and a world of music of which I had not previously been aware was laid open to me.

And suddenly I found myself, a serious college music student, playing bass in a bar band... LOUDER THAN SHIT!! And what did we play? Album cuts from what had become my favorite records, of course. Tender little ditties like, Chunga's Revenge and Eat That Question by Zappa...Dark Star by the Dead...and 45 minute frenzied jams ala Captain Beefheart. And were we popular? Hell No! Did we care? You gotta be kidding! We dug it and that was all that mattered. We played and lived with absolute reckless abandon.

And that brings me to a band that is soon to achieve their album budget funding goal on Sellaband. The Vegas Dragons are an Australian band led by a personable fellow named Brian Taylor. I met Brian at the "London Calling" show where I played bass with another fine Sellaband artist on the rise, Lucia Iman. So tonight, I decided to give Brian and the Vegas Dragons a good listening to and hear what this personable young man's band is all about.

After listening to the three songs posted on their Sellaband page, I thought to myself, Oh, this is going to be a short review. Because all that I could think of to say was..."JESUS CHRIST!!!" Yeah, I know, Too short to be a thorough review... and I felt that, as nice a guy as Brian is, I owe the band more than that. So let me try to put my impressions into a more detailed form.

We've all seen the silent movie where some poor shlub is walking down the sidewalk, whistling to himself and thinking that the day is just too groovy to be true. Then he turns a corner and...BLAM! A safe falls out of an office building and drives the guy into the sidewalk up to his chin like a 16 penny nail. called impact. The Vegas Dragons have impact, but not that kind. Their kind of impact is...well, imagine that the safe didn't stop at the sidewalk. Imagine getting hit on the head with a safe and it just kept going, right through the sidewalk, through the earth's crust, gathering speed as it plowed through the mantle, then the core and didn't lose steam until it drove you right out onto a street in China. That's as close as I can get to describing the Vegas Dragons brand of impact.

Musically, the band has no weakness. The palette of sound colors seems to be very well thought out and only lacks the polish that a first rate studio recording would provide. The intent and concept are evident as depicted on the mp3s . The rhythm section plays with absolute reckless abandon...or so it seems. In actual fact, these guys play some intensely challenging and difficult parts, but in a spirit that recalls my years of studying at the bar. It's that Alan Watts dichotemy of doing something as if you just don't give a shit... but also in the knowledge that this may be your last chance so you better nail it.

The song "Hands of Love" is just a lie from beginning to end. Here you are, minding your own business, whistling your way down the sidewalk. It starts to get a bit more intense, but you're still okay. Then, four-and-a-half minutes into the song...BLAM! And then it's another 90 seconds of being plowed through the earth by a runaway safe.

Brian and the Vegas Dragons will get their day in court. It's just a matter of time before believers in this band put them over the top and they go into the studio. I wish them the success that they will deserve when their recording is completed. But before that, I wish for them a producer and a production team that really gets under the surface and allows them to realize their most interesting vision.

And now... I'm beat, I'm going to the bar...

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