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Thick Syrup Night Starts Strong January 16, 2008

Posted by glenhooks in Show Reviews.

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ALERT:  Weekends in Lotta Rock are now officially one day longer, thanks to the new Monday night Thick Syrup shows at Sticky Fingerz.  Plan accordingly.

Thick Syrup main man Travis McElroy birthed his brainchild before a way-larger-than-I-expected crowd with a blistering local line up:  Smoke Up Johnny, The Moving Front, plus the three-man combo of David Slade and Matt Quin (American Princes) and Burt Taggart (Big Cats) opening.   

Slade hit the stage like an epileptic bag of banshees, intent on earning frontman status for his set, and man did he get there!  His not-quite-falsetto rowrrr pinball-caromed off Taggart’s stellar bass work and Quin’s smashing work on the skins, working the crowd into a state we usually don’t get from an opening act.   My favorite nonmusical moment of the set?  When Travis walked up to the stage to show Slade a brand new, for real, complete with red hearts, “David Slade” tattoo on his arm.  Slade’s reaction is priceless (see the video that Travis left on the Princes’ MySpace page (www.myspace.com/americanprinces).  What can you really say when a guy permanently inks your name on his arm?  I didn’t understand the reasoning when I watched the tattoo happen several days before, but after the set I’m steadily approaching a state of enlightenment.

The Moving Front took over next, with a slimmed-down lineup (minus both the departed Collin Miles and recent guest keyboardist Pete Jones)  and frontman Jeremy Brasher pulling triple duty on rhythm guitar, keyboard, and lead vocals.   TMF is my favorite local band, but their last show was somewhat hit-and-miss as the guys worked out new material and struggled with the dynamics of a new lineup.  All evidence from Monday night indicates that the kinks have been utterly worked out.   Brasher seemed back at home behind the keys and more comfortable with the guitar, belting his trademark full-throated raspy yowl over the spectacular lead guitar work of Mark Lewis.  TMF kicked off a very strong post-punk set with an energetic take on “Zombies” and quickly moved into crowd favorites like “South Side,” “Throwing Rocks,” and “The Equalizer.”  New material showcased the strong drumming of Micah Fitzhugh and the solid basswork of Brian Rodgers, who doesn’t get nearly enough kudos for the strength of his background vocals.    Rumor has it that TMF is working on a new album and perhaps some out-of-state tour dates–I seriously can’t wait. 

The night, though, belonged to Smoke Up Johnny,  who followed two tough acts by utterly invading the stage and making it cry uncle.  Bespectacled frontman Alan Disaster (vocals, rhythm guitar) paired up with damntastically good guitar work by Corey Bacon and pushed us all into the van for a full-throated, string-popping trip to oblivion, bellowing songs about Little Rock teenys (“12th Street”),  the void created by fallen friends (“Hey Hey Mr. Wylde”), and even a profanity-laced Otis Redding cover (“How Strong My Love Is”).  Drummer Jon Rice spent the set seriously killing it on the drums while bassist Matt Floyd pushed his four-string lowtones through our chests like a jackhammer pickaxe, all the while grinning like he’d won life’s lottery.   The night ended with a demolition derby of ringing ears, spilled beers, and that feeling that we’re going to see these guys go places. 

Kudos to Travis and Thick Syrup for a strong beginning to what looks to be a great Monday night must-attend.  Next week:  Damn Bullets, Justin Carr, & Ghost Company, 9:45.   Thick Syrup tattoos are optional, but encouraged.





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