Happenstance: Out of the rain, into excitement

Civil War Re-enactors, Corndawg, Ground Monkeys, and Adam Taber
at the Pudhouse
Wednesday, July 2

Not surprisingly, thunderheads materialized again this past Wednesday night, and the downpour soaked nearly all those headed for the Pudhouse. In the building, the humidity clocked a full 100 percent. I watched a young man repeatedly wipe his glasses in a battle he could not win– against the fog of 50-odd pairs of steaming socks and armpits.

Desensitized to the effects of this monsoon season, the locals turned their attention to the rock at hand. I arrived as the Civil War Re-enactors started up the evening entertainment. Mike Johnson drummed each number with characteristic swiftness and metronomic precision, while frontman Jeff Melkerson bounded back and forth on Flubber soles, inciting the front row to move in a complementary fashion. The struck-string chords Melkerson picked rang with bittersweetness, a nice contrast to his vocals, which never slowed into sap.

Johnny Fritz, aka Corndawg, followed with a few standards; his Southern-drawled narratives quickly turned into crowd sing-alongs. I'm never quite sure whether his performance persona is an extension of his own boisterous energy, or a fun Andy Kaufman-esque fabrication. But he plays the guitar with red-blooded American spirit and sings with the possessed energy of a young Jerry Lee. If you prefer raw pine over varnished cherry, or ground beef over baby greens, Corndawg's the man for you.

The Ground Monkeys' Boston-brand noiserock pelted my ears in a painful free-for-all. After a couple of minutes, they seemed to be jamming without much variation, so I took a breather.

The main attraction of the evening was Adam Taber, a beloved former Pud, and his two-piece Buddyship. Taber rammed the rhythms in a flurry of pumping biceps; like many, I moved closer, incredulous, to watch him pound microbeats off the set. Over the explosive percussion, the guitar amp blasted sounds that jumped between what can best be described as 1) braking freight train, 2) jackhammer groove, and 3) ecstatic peace.

Emmet Boaz, amateur musicologist and unemployed guru, once told me, "Music should be a part of our lives, rather than something we have to seek out. Chancing into a musical experience has a thrill of its own."

This excitement thrives at the Pudhouse; thanks to its existence, I've seen many groups I would never have known how to begin to search for. Wednesday night proved once again that smaller scales don't necessarily mean diminished expectations. Simple line-ups served Noah well during his flood. I wasn't disappointed this time around, either.