JJCNV Trunk Space Saturday, July 14, 2012
Phoenix trio JJCNV -- which used to stand for Janis Joplin Crap N Vomit until the deceased singer's estate made them stop using her name -- is known for being weird. For half a decade, the band's reputation for extravagantly odd stage costumes and naming their songs random things like "Dell Mmmeat" and "Frankie the Beaver" has attracted as much attention as their loud, crunching alt rock. The band released a brand new album, Brainiac Handsome, at its show Saturday night.
Maybe it was the humidity, or maybe it was all part of the stage act, but something felt off.
Taking the stage, singer and guitarist Dana Stern nattily wore a navy blue vintage dress, while Pete Hinz, the band's bassist and vocalist, wore jeans and a T-shirt that said, "A: Me Q: What is both HOT and COOL?" Drummer Jeff Barthold looked to reach the heights of of past zaniness, with a pink wig and a flowy white cotton nightie.
Things got bad weird when their set began with an awkward bit of bickering between Stern and her hubby/bandmate Hinz. It seemed he wanted a cigarette and she wanted to just start the show already (it was nearly midnight by the time they began). The tension between the two persisted through the first three or four songs, until Stern acknowledged it, at which point they just made funny faces at each other for a few seconds.
"Hi, we're JJCNV. This is our first show," Stern sarcastically remarked after another underwhelming round of scattered audience applause at the end of the fifth song. She screamed louder at the end of each song than anyone in the crowd (and not just because she had a microphone).
The lukewarm audience participation and response was par for the course of last night's show, though. Even Man Hands, whose set of impassioned guitar rock was the most genuine-feeling of the night and a clear highlight of the show, had lackluster support.
It's not that anyone played particularly poorly, it just felt like people seemed zoned. Perhaps all the weirdness has caught up with us all, and we were dazed, trying to figure it out.
Critic's Notebook Last Night: JJCNV release show at Trunk Space
The Crowd: Rockabilly ladies and nerdy dudes, mostly it seemed to be a constant flux of friends of one of the five bands funneling in and out.
Overheard Outside the Venue: "Oh, that band? They've been around forever."
Personal Bias: I feel like either I am about 10 years too young for this show or this show is about 20 years too late. Random Notebook Dump Part Deux: Why are there so many bands on this bill? It's like a death march of different styles of '90s alterna-punk.