Al Perry, Hanson Olson, Nina Curri, Kevin Daly Rhythm Room Wednesday, July 18
By Michael Cryer The Rhythm Room put on an acoustic, punk rock show last night. Billed as a night of AZ troubadours, none of the supposed troubadours -- Nina Curri, Kevin Daly, Al Perry or Hans Olson -- were sure what a troubadour is. Well, Olson knew -- he even had a ready-made song for the evening. Troubadours, by definition, are wandering musicians, and if they can be wandering, sarcastic, fed-up musicians, then last night's billing fits.
Even though there was an element of punk rock subversion throughout the set, Curri's opening was more blissed-out than punk. Curri's beatific quality differed from the other songwriters. Her stage presence asks you to join whatever dream she's having. It's a good dream, too. One with a voice that makes you want her to keep singing.
On the other hand, Hans Olson is a motherfucker. That's all that needs to be said, really. He does the the work of three dudes on stage, even if he's playing over a looped track. There's an effortless thickness to that guy's blues. His voice, charred. His guitar, heavy. His harmonica, precise. It took this reviewer a while to figure out he was playing over a looped backdrop, only because one of Olson's coolest gimmicks is a mic'd-up, BB-filled metallic box he hits with his left heel, a device he picked up from Tucson's best bluesman, Rainer Ptacek. The device is a perfect, lo-fi hi-hat.
Tucson's Al Perry joked about following Olson saying, " . . . the world must be backward tonight." Not so. The lineup was a natural progression. Olson's humility and sarcasm easily transitioned into Perry's understated punk attitude. After Perry covered the Blood Spasm's "We Got Cactus," someone asked him to play the punk version. Perry quipped, "I just did." Perfect.
If there's such thing as irony with a heart, Al Perry's got it. It's a combination that's almost impossible to pull off -- just ask David Foster Wallace. The '80s and its indifference are back in a big way and not just aesthetically. The same cultural atmosphere that started in the '70s and moved into the '80s is here again folks. And that's a good thing for music.
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Curri wasn't so punk rock, and Grave Danger's Kevin Daly wasn't so acoustic, which didn't matter so much to the few who remained to hear Daly's closing set. The crowd shifted between 10 to 20 people all night. Daly smirked at the leftovers as he ran through a myriad of originals, most notably a narrative about the "Two-Mile Train" that splits Tempe in half several times a day. Jesus showed up a few times tonight in Daly's set too, but not in his encore "Hey, Kitty, Kitty." Nina joined Daly on stage to back him up. The singers didn't have to duck any bottles, as most in the audience embraced the refrain "scratch that/her fur."
Not much politically correct about punk rock, even if you're a "troubadour." A law-breaker...
Critic's Notebook: Overheard: "John Wayne was a troubadour." No, not at all. Best 'Fuck You': "I just did." Best Instrument: A BB-filled metal box. Punk Rock Detail: Al Perry's pink shoes.