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Crocodile Rock

Opening bands just try harder. At least, that was the impression I got from Giant Drag, a two-person, three-instrument nü grunge act from Los Angeles that kicked things off. Fronted by Annie Hardy, a mere wisp of a girl with a great stage attitude and killer distortion, they ran through their set quickly and loudly. Her cover version of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" was inspired; the chord progression actually works when distorted, and Isaak's falsetto falls into her natural range. I could have gone home happy at that point.

The Earlies… they started off with a glorious wall of sound that reminded me a little of Hunters & Collectors, an Australian rock and horns outfit from the late 80s. The eight-person Earlies played guitar, electric cello, trombone, saxophone, flute, chimes, tambourine, drum pads, maracas, traditional drums, Horner keyboard harmonica, tape loops, standard keyboards, oddball squelchy synthesizers, and something I can only describe as the neutronium-harmonica. A harmonica or electric pan flute as big as your head. Eight members and fifty instruments.

But perhaps a band that's half-Texan and half-British was never meant to last. Their first songs were recorded and released two years before the two halves of the band ever met in person. Now on their first US tour, perhaps they got too well acquainted. The stresses of touring showed, especially in the last couple songs, as the sniping banter between the British effects wizard and the Texan guitarist/lead singer went from "don't call it incidental music" to "we're corporate whores and need the cash for petrol." The playing never faltered, but they took some of the joy out of it.

They're on the road to Minneapolis now, in a crowded van or two without quite enough cash for petrol. Sucks to be in a small band.

12.09 400 Bar, Minneapolis, MN
12.10 Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
12.11 Mac's Bar, Lansing, MI
12.12 El Mocambo, Toronto, ONT

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