Road range: Friday fun on all sides

Monticello Road
at Fridays after 5
August 27

Though making brothers and sisters for only about two hours once a week, the Fridays After 5 concert series on the Downtown Mall is a sort of group bonding ritual for our diverse community– where people of one sort can be reminded that there are other sorts just a cul-de-sac away. Free tunes and cheap beverages create back and forth bemused gazing among the crowd's members, groups watching each other in a unspoken dialectical exchange.

The rootsy-rockers Monticello Road were performing August 27 at the free concert, and I showed up to see what changes two years have wrought on the act since I last checked in with them.

Back then, the group was a solid pop-rock band, nothing fancy, but nothing to be ashamed of either. Since then, the boys seem to have become country-fied, with an alt country twang infecting most of their set. Better? I'm not really sure, but I will say I do miss the group's more strident pop leanings.

I arrived in time for a country-walker with a "Hallelujah" chorus, sung by the group's acoustic guitarist. Besides this gentleman, the group consists of a lead guitarist (a Les Paul or facsimile), a bassist, a drummer, and keyboardist– the standard bluesy-rock setup. A guitar and a keyboard solo later, I came to the conclusion that they were both great at their respective instruments, though the song was not one I'd necessarily write home to mama about.

The next number, sung by Les Paul to Acoustic's right, was a meta song– you know, a song about writing a song, or in this case, how hard it is for the writer to write a song. "So many things to write about / So few words to choose from" sang vocalist #2 for the night, in a slightly dour tone. Instrumentally, the song seemed ripped from the Guns N' Roses playbook, for though the vocals did not reference Axel, the guitar parts– churning power chords and spinning lead work– reverberated from the Use Your Illusion era.

Acoustic took up the vocal duties for the next few numbers and brought back images of Bryan Adams– although something of the honeyed words of that merry man were lacking.

My most enjoyable moment of the show was when the beat and the delayed guitar of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" signified the beginning of a song that turned out not to be what I expected. Similar chords and drum crescendos got me singing along to the '80s classic, though Acoustic took the song in a different lyrical and melodic direction.

All in all, I enjoyed the sights and sounds around me more than the one on the stage, but Monticello Road did provide a good beat for some hilarious dancing from some of the sights in question. [See Photophile, page 40.]

Monticello Road rules the Fridays stage.