Local Wire

Big Blue Couch's "Crush" Brings Tidings of Discomfort and Joy of Tempe's Past

We present yet again, the Throwback Thursday edition of Heritage Hump Day.

This week we ruminate shoulda coulda with local contenders Big Blue Couch. No less of an authority on rocking hooliganism than onetime New Times music editor and future Replacements biographer Bob Mehr called it back in June 2000 when he named Big Blue Couch, a three-ma, Ann Arbor, Michigan power trio with an Arizona native on lead vocals, one of the best young bands we had.

"Bristling with jagged booze-and-blooze-fueled sentiment, the group instead manages a smart, arty brand of guitar-based rock and R&B. Tracing the band's musical genealogy is difficult, though its work incorporates certain elements of pre-Ziggy-era Bowie, bits of Television's punk pretension, and the shake-your-moneymaker ethos of the Black Crowes — while guitarist/songwriter Chris Doyle's lyrics are far less pedestrian than those of the brothers Robinson.

Singer Michael Brandon Vela's cavorting Jaggerisms aren't the only live attraction. The rest of the band — guitarist Chris Doyle, bassist Jon Demrick and drummer Jayson Gilbert — engage in some finely wrought posturing as well, the likes of which haven't been glimpsed on the local circuit since the earliest incarnation of the Beat Angels."

Shortly after this notice, the band issued a 13-track disc recorded at Mesa's Saltmine studios that featured a confusing cover where the band Photoshopped their faces into a crowd of Prohibition protestors and began down a rapid campaign of self-destruction which included the expulsion or resignation of singer Brandon (a stint in Tent City was no help to the band’s momentum either) and a notorious onstage fistfight between Demerick and Gilbert that resulted in the breakage of Long Wong's famous rear stage window. This bit of Tempe sacrilege which should've landed them in the Tempe History Museum but instead just got them banned from Long Wong's, and the band earned a 2001 Phoenix Best Of for "Best Onstage Fisticuffs." That same year, the group's wunderkind lead guitarist also got a Best Of nod for "Best Musician You've Never Heard Of.”

These days, both Doyle and Brandon perform solo shows doing acoustic music, which in lieu of the above-mentioned volatility is like that Star Trek episode where Kirk gets split in two by the transporter and shows his soft sensitive side while the other half of him is raping all the women on the ship. This BBC sensitive side will be marked by the release of solo albums by both Doyle and Brandon, as well as the re-release of Big Blue Couch's first full length from which this week's Heritage Hump single is cribbed.
Although that CD bristles with a lot of fine 1969-inspired Motor City mayhem, it's the epic "Crush" that manages to catch Big Blue Couch at its peak, going through several tempo shifts and swaying between mandolin like drills and power chording. Its seven minutes packs in everything this band did well in wallops, playing like the Stooges one minute and King Crimson the next.

"'Crush' was a great collaboration between all four members and it straight rocks," says Brandon. "Jon came up with the main riff and I added the bridge," notes Doyle. "Good memories."

Like the aforementioned Beat Angels, who are reuniting this weekend thanks to the support you have demonstrated for them in this column, could Big Blue Couch reconvene on a stage near you in 2016? Keep your fingers crossed and your windows taped up for the startling conclusion.