Sunday, April 25, 2004

Concert Review- Electric Six at the Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis, April 24

Last night we saw the Electric Six play... and the Fine Line is 2 for 2 as far as providing me with good rock in the month of April.

I can see how some people wouldn't be into the Electric 6; they aren't doing a goddamned thing that's original, and pretty much every song is just a combination of so-rocking-they're-on-fire instrumental parts and goofy, swaggering, nonsensical lyrics (“radio message from HQ/Dance Commander, we love you,” for one example, or, for another “I don't mind the forces of evil if they help me get closer to you”). And that's pretty much all there is- you almost can't even take E6 at face value, because there's no face value to take. None of the songs make enough literal sense to have face value (the one exception being the weirdly gorgeous “My Synthesizer,” an un-E6-like ode to electronic music that makes no claims to have naked pictures of your mother or to incite nuclear war on the dance floor).

But to be honest, that's exactly what I like about the Electric Six. It can be a great thing when a group tries to spread its wings and do something other than rock... Wilco, for example, managed to grow from being an alt-country footnote to a truly amazing band by putting down the rock pipe after an album or two. But there's also room for groups who just want to rock. Chuck Berry didn't change the musical landscape by sitting down and planning out beautiful, thought-provoking musical statements; he plugged in a guitar and made a lot of enthusiastic noise. Why shouldn't E6 do the same thing? They want to rock, and they're awfully damned good at it. Sometimes that's enough.

It's tough for me to tell exactly how seriously the Electric Six are taking themselves. I submit that they're not even sure. It'd be hard to perform a lot of those songs without a smirk on your face, and, indeed, smirks were evident from time to time (during one song, the bass player couldn't stop laughing). But there was also a lot of closed-eyes intensity and headbanging, and, well, you don't usually do that sort of thing if you're not feeling something. Likewise, the entire show was delivered with a level of intensity which would be awfully tough to fake... unless you were coked to the gills, which I suppose was a possibility.

One thing that has always struck me is how little difference there is between AC/DC and Spinal Tap. One's “real,” one's fake, but both are very cartoonish and extremely listenable if you happen to be in the right mood. The Electric Six inhabit the same territory... they might be serious, they might not, but in the end they're such a good time that you're probably just missing out on the fun if you worry about it much.

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One quick aside: The Fine Line seems to be making a play to knock First Avenue off of their throne as the premier Twin Cities venue lately; but if they're serious about it, they need to tell their staff to chill the fuck out. First Ave's bouncers stand in the shadows, look scary, and let things fall where they may to create a great rock atmosphere. The Fine Line seems to employ a small army of Feng Shui masters whose sole mission to flutter around and harass patrons about where they can and can't stand. I haven't been annoyed enough yet that I'd flat-out refuse to see a band I liked just because they're playing the Fine Line. But, well, if there's a borderline band playing First Ave, I'd go. At this point, I can't say the same for the Fine Line.

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