Friday, January 18, 2008

The Participant: stroking my friends – or -- how I learned to quit judging, and learned to love The BadOff

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2008 at 2:54 AM

Each semester, after my students and I have written some rap songs (myspace.com/mrmichaelsclass), the second half of my ‘Music Writing’ class entails teaching them to write album reviews. Their writing is generally hilarious and mean -- the kids mostly dismiss anything not fed to them via Clear Channel -- but the reviews also boast some perfect snappy, laconic insights, descriptions and assertions that only kids could conjure. In a batch of reviews published by Gambit magazine in September of 2006, the kids critiqued a demo album by The BadOff, a modern yet almost imperceptibly retro, heavy guitar-rock band from New Orleans:

"They sound a hot mess to me. Their instrumentation sounds like biker boys driving down the road. I like the beat. Why? Because you can use it to make other songs. I don't like that the beat is louder than the singer. Why? Because I would like to hear the singer's words. The singer sounds like someone in a graveyard singing about a dead loved one. He sings like he knows how to sing, and he sings songs that you can dance to a lot. He sings like he's been a singer for a while."

Only now have The Bad Off finished the recordings my students mildly dogged. Their album Lady Day will be available for the first time this Sunday night, at One Eyed Jacks.

The kids' review was not inaccurate. The Bad Off’s music is pretty much Camaro rock. Far more sincere though, than say, Supagroup -- even when the lyrics are, “Come and get your hard stuff,” Eric Corveux’s aggressive yet beautiful voice lacks irony. The last two lines of the kids’ Bad Off review hold especially true: Corveux is a singer's singer. He also slinks around the stage shirtless, high-kicking skinny legs wrapped tight in white denim. When watching him I sometimes think I cannot believe this person and I are friends… That's meant as compliment; when Corveux performs, he occupies another planet from mine. I don’t relate at all. But though it’s hard for me to understand, I acknowledge he’s doing something I never could, and pulling it off fantastically. Man, do I wish I had Eric’s pipes… I also wish though, when listening to Lady Day, that Eric would hit more long notes. Too many words get chopped off with breathy rockstar affectations, just before the note really alights. Eric could use more Chris Cornell, less dude-from-Jet. Also a little more poetry in the lyrics, less vaguery. Though how vague, really, is, “Come and get your hard stuff”?

And in the end, these are just picky critical details about a very good band, one of the few guitar-based groups in the city that, if I come to the show and feel like sitting down, they’re music stands me up anyway. This phenomenon, however, didn’t first overtake me at a BadOff concert until they procured drummer Keith Hadjaar (Jody Smith plays drums on Lady Day). Keith was being kicked out of Rock City Morgue during Hallween last year, just when Eric and I needed a temporary drummer to help us imitate Nirvana for Turducken’s 16th annual Masked Band Ball. Performing at that Masked Ball always necessitates playing with dudes previously unknown to you. That year, Keith recreated Dave Grohl’s every hard-hitting fill and hook so perfectly (and loud enough to drown out even our guitar amps), any rock band would be blessed to have him. Soon after Halloween, Eric sucked Keith into The BadOff. Keith was for The Bad Off like upgrading from a Camaro to a Lamborghini.

I believe in Keith’s playing so much that I forced him to back-up my drum machine and me at One Eyed Jacks for last Sunday’s Cacophony Ball, thrown by Mardi Gras krewe, The Noisician Coalition. The N.C. features dudes from BINGO, Matt von Black and Ronny Numbers on circuit bent megaphones, plus actress and rollergirl Veronica Russell on siren, Gambit’s music dame Alison Fensterstock playing theramin, along with about 20 other crazy-looking people I did not know. Too bad that, with Mardi Gras upon us, Sunday night shows are basically a write-off. Having parties every night since Thursday, I myself wouldn’t have been out Sunday, were I not a participant.

Thankfully the Noisician Coalition’s sheer mass filled the place. Their first set was short and wild and fun. Their second, much longer freak-out later in the night seemed both sublimely meditative and Dionysian for all those involved. Personally though, unless the Coailiton were to map out some parts and switch their beats and musical themes up more often, then I much prefer the version of NC you hear coming up the street behind you on Lundi Gras: stylish futuristic Aliens marching in red-and-black suits that bulge with ribbed vacuum tubing and electrical tape holding together homemeade circuit-bent what the hell is THAT!?…and then they are upon you. Last Lundi Gras night as they passed seemingly through me, I swear I heard every sound in the world at once. But when all the members stood in one place at One Eyed Jacks Sunday night, it felt more like just a sonically rich drum circle, more stimulating for the participants than us outsider attendees.

The moral of all this? Be a participant!

The Bad Off (myspace.com/thebadoff) celebrate the release of their first album, Lady Day, this Sunday night at One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse, 10 p.m.

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