Lay your money down

Boa and Vandyke Brown at the Outback Lodge

By James Graham

"Five dollars, buddy."
"Actually, I’m with The Hook, and I’m going to be reviewing this show."
    The bouncer couldn’t have been less impressed.  "Really? Wow. That’s just great. Terrific. Five-dollar cover charge, man."
    This threw a wrench in the works. I’d been planning on giving the show a blank slate, but now we’d dragged capitalism into the equation. The question of the evening quickly went from "How was it?" to "Was it really worth five bucks?" 
    Boa quickly earned dollars number one and two. They’re likable on a musical and a personal level, and the size of the Outback suited their intimate, intricate brand of mellow-out rock. It’s clear that each of the five members has his own set of influences that push and tug the music, and this eclectic amalgam results in what could have been the bastard progeny of Roger Waters, Mac McCaughan, and G. Love on a good day.
There’s talent here, although they get a bit sloppy from time to time and they haven’t quite achieved the thickness of texture I’m hungering for when I see three guitars on stage. While they’d be the first to admit that their musicianship hasn’t quite made it to the level they (and you) want it to, catch ‘em on the up and up, and be continually impressed by their constant maturation.
    Dollar number three was well spent on Boa’s all-too-brief collaboration with archirappers Weapon X and the Pink Panther (who could forget those words of wisdom, "Yo, chill, take a blunt to the head"?). The Pink Panther’s performance (and cunnilingual commentary) were especially inspired that night (and his left hand rarely strayed from his crotch or shirt collar). None too subtle, but it was a hell of a good time, and everyone would’ve dug some more. I’ll even throw down another fifty cents for the freestyle encore.
    I want to like Vandyke Brown. I really do. They lay down some thoroughly butt-wiggling grooves, and they’re as tight as tight gets without popping. I’d give my final buck-fifty to witness drummer Joey Reed (who looks an awful lot like Tim Robbins) throw down his elegantly complicated beats and watch the band’s rhythmic interaction. As a unit, they’ve got their shit together, and thanks to that, I’d say I broke even on the show.
    But here comes the “but.” They’re glossy, they’re polished, they’re catchy in a way that tends to drive people a little bit nuts. Their lyrics take a stab at the existential but come out lukewarm in a Collective Soul kind of way, and their style in general… well, it’s pretty anonymous. Unabashedly derivative, Vandyke Brown seems best suited for its next two shows: frat parties.

Undergrave at Tokyo Rose

By Amy Briggs

I love a breath of fresh air, especially in the smoky confines of Tokyo Rose’s basement. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
 This Saturday, expecting the unexpected, Charlottesville’s gothic armies flocked to their favorite weekend haunt for a night of novelty in the way of dress and dance. The evening’s prologue consisted of a fashion show, clothes provided exclusively by the Asylum, Richmond’s purveyors of dark garments and darker accessories.
David Bowie and danceable industrial tuned the makeshift catwalk, as models slunk onstage in varying degrees of synthetic materials (most of the ladies wore vinyl dresses, if that gives you any idea). They even presented a gentleman in a skirt— an interesting, out-there concept that has been trying to infect mainstream consciousness for a couple of decades now. Good luck with that.
Although I’m tempted to launch onto the sidetrack of progressive fashion, I’ll resist and give mad props to Undergrave, who put on a performance of near perfection. Following the sashays, on a stage littered with dolls and plastic bones, this four-member machine stormed away with an energy bordering on mania. The collaboration/side-project of some of this town’s finest basement-playin’ folks, including Gopal Metro and Mike Johnson, Undergrave appears to derive its strength from some good old-fashioned chemistry and tight musicianship.
Over in the corner I deliberated for a while, trying to pinpoint their sound, which I eventually plotted somewhere between the poles of Bauhaus and X, circa 1981. All the elements— clipped, crisp beats; rumbling, loping Gang of Four bass; spare guitar hook flourishes; gruff wails; and lyrics of Halloween morbidity— cemented them in that venerated time years past, back in the punk heyday and burgeoning Goth scene… back when things meant things, before Duran Duran. Sigh.
Although the lyrical content at times dipped into the Poe tale word bank, it indicated an actual, internal anguish, dusting along the unsettling fallouts between man and self, man and society. Every song was presented with a ferocious intensity; Mr. Metro alternated between staggering around stage with an expressionless stare, making eye contact with the Great Beyond (located several feet above the audience), and pouring every ounce of his air into a fist-clenched microphone.
As I watched the crowd bob back and forth in shifting swells, the clouds of smoke parted, and I realized— in a flash of stage lighting brilliance— that the tides are changing. Since the mid-’90s, Charlottesville bands have been intermittently plagued with listless rock disease, the loathsome, jaded ineffectualism that drowns creative drive for the sake of coolness. Undergrave is part, if not the primary element, of an antidote, a nod back to the genuine. These are four talented musicians, happy to be playing music that they enjoy. And I’m happy they’re here.
Bela Lugosi, arise.