Cheap Time at Yucca Tap Room, 9-14-11

Cheap Time, Vegetable, and Ryan Rousseau and his Desert Children Yucca Tap Room Wednesday, September 14

There are those who like to think of punk as an idea as much as a sound. I like to think I'm one of them, and seeing Tennessee-based rockers Cheap Time, and local bands Vegetable and Ryan Rousseau and his Desert Children last night at the Yucca Tap Room seemed to prove the point.

The three bands had nothing in common beyond volume, but that was enough to unite things, with each band taking the stage to the general support of the audience. Even the DJ selections were all over the place, bouncing from the Dum Dum Girls covering The Misfits to Gary Numan. It wasn't your "typical" punk, but who likes "typical" punk shows?

I caught the debut of Desert Children at Lost Leaf a couple weeks back at the Lost Leaf. The latest project from Earthmen & Strangers/Tokyo Electron/Destruction Unit member Ryan Rousseau has already grown tighter as a band. The band's psychedelic juju is tempered by its brevity (well, relatively speaking -- in this genre, five or six minutes is pretty short).

Rousseau's voice and those of keyboardists Meglow and Olivia were obscured by thick layers of reverb, but the treble of Rousseau's acoustic guitar cut through the mix to betray his loud/fast past.

It's been too long since I've seen Vegetable live. The trio's jerky post-punk sound hasn't mellowed like Rousseau's, coming across as violent and abrupt as the band's excellent first single.

"Sol" and "Castration Frustration," the tunes from that record, received proper renditions, but the band's newer material (or newer to me, at least) felt even more rhythmic and propulsive. I don't know when the band plans on releasing a full length, but I know I want to hear it.

Cheap Time's latest record, Fantastic Situations (and Similar Situations) finds the band adding some psychedelic edges to their buzzing pop sound, but live, the band eschewed all flare in favor of a straight ahead attack.

Three piece bands have a special place in my heart. There's something fantastic about the sonic space afforded by the stripped down setup. Guitarist Jeffrey Novak took to his wah-wah pedal some, but mostly just blasted power chords while bassist Stephen Braren performed melodic runs on the bass.

I don't know exactly how long the set lasted, but it only felt like a few minutes. The band took no time between songs, just blasting them out one after the other. Novak thanked the other bands, thanked that crowd, and reminded us that they were from Tennessee.

You could argue that all three bands were "punk," but last night wasn't the kind of show were people really cared about distinctions. It was music -- at times askew, at times straight ahead -- but always punk in that big idea way.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Cheap Time, Vegetable, and Ryan Rousseau and his Desert Children at Yucca Tap Room

The Crowd: A random smattering of punkers and indie kids.

Random Notebook Dump: Fun seeing a Queers shirt on the drummer.

Best DJ Selection: I loved the Dum Dum Girls taking on "Last Caress."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.