Divine descendant: Rose line-up not watered down

Somer Waters the Others, and Civil War Re-enactors
at Tokyo Rose
Friday, January 17

Friday night at Tokyo Rose, despite the absence of the headlining act (the Carlsonics), the rare sound of strings in the basement encouraged more than a few folks to flit downstairs.

Somer Waters sat alone on the stage, stooped over the neck of his cello; his long fingers trembled on the neck as he bowed out the tones. With his makeshift ascot (a knotted bandana) and parlor-room enunciation, he seemed more like someone from an Edward Gorey novella than from Boston. The crowd buzzed over a rumor (yet to be proved or disproved) that he is in fact the nephew of John Waters, cinematic provocateur of bad taste.

The younger Waters didn't sport a pencil line moustache, but the effect of his music was just as Divine (heh heh). In addition to a palm-sized drum machine, two vocal mics, and, of course, the cello, he constantly tweaked a self-referencing loop setup.

For example, after quickly splattering out some bizarre beats, he captured a few refrains from his cello– sometimes fuzzed through a distortion pedal– and built vertically from there; the result was a musical Jenga, compounding sharply over 8-10 second samples until complete collapse into noise.

After a piece entitled "Efficiency with Empathy," which moved like an overly wound watch, the vocals were handed over to a surprised audience. During the remainder of his set, Waters looped speech from the crowd, using his cello to mirror or harmonize with the intonations. Sound bytes ranged from odes to Buster Keaton and 7-up; as the momentum picked up, so did the volume... to undecipherable yelling and shout-outs to more timid individuals in the back.

The Others, next on the bill, seemed standard after such a meltdown. Their most memorable feature is the lead singer, who crossed her eyes during lyrical moments that hinted at personal confusion, or maybe interpersonal conflict. Unfortunately, this occurred quite often.

Last up, the Civil War Re-enactors reprised the energy from earlier in the night. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Melkerson and drummer Mike Johnson instantly inspired a dance floor of misfit motion, led by their friend and creative compadre, Mr. Corndog. Melkerson, a kindly librarian by day, issued interesting diatribes and sing-song affirmations into a headset mic (the type once modeled by Paula Abdul). An excellent drummer for several Tokyo Rose favorites, Mike Johnson played the new wave percussion to perfection.

With the Tokyo Rose booking under new management, I hope we'll get to see more of these diverse, rockin' acts in the near future.