Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chain and the Gang, the Hive Dwellers at the Smell! Los Angeles, CA. May 22, 2009.

I've had a couple of Ian Svenonius experiences; the most recent was during a slide show he presented in promotion of his book, The Psychic Soviet, at the Mountain Bar a couple of years ago. He came off as a rather friendly fellow, though surprisingly introverted. Prior to that, he'd been fronting then-band Weird War at the Vera Project in Seattle, about five years ago, wearing a tunic and taking a moment here or there to go-go when not stating matter-of-factly that he'd sue a nearby drugstore for not being open when he needed a decongestant. I'd written Weird War a few days later to thank them for coming to town, and he'd written back and apologized for giving such a lousy show. How humble.

This weekend, however, Svenonius came to town to preach against the dollar with new act Chain and the Gang, a K Records group that shares its lineup with supporting band the Hive Dwellers (fronted by Calvin Johnson). He didn't have a cold.

As the Hive Dwellers – don't forget the “the,” says Calvin Johnson – the band looked a bit bored, and in turn the audience was either very polite or so impressed with the indie legend before them on stage that all glitches were forgiven. See, Johnson suffers from Bill Murray Syndrome, though he wouldn't call it “suffering,” and certainly Bill Murray wouldn't do a free-movement dance alongside his dry crooning. Johnson doesn't smile to let us know that his jokes have a punchline, and it's not clear whether his shtick is a shtick at all. He's become in his latter days what Jonathan Richman's become in his latter days, witty with a delicate fingering on the guitar, sort of an unexpected counter to his – ah – singing style, though his refusal to use a microphone meant we had to struggle to find that punchline while the band battled the pounding beats of the bar next door and nearly gave up.

Chain and the Gang was a ball, though – Svenonius, still perhaps the best frontman around, donned a spiffy white suit and 'fro, and made conversation as though it weren't being spoken the way it was recorded, turning out all sorts of leftist talk that rambled into nonsense territory and let us know that there was still humor behind the rhetoric. He's consistent as both writer and performer, truthfully. And he still spends his stage time hovering back and forth between speaking against the hypocrisy of liberty and taking a moment to go-go.


The Demagogues of The Cargo Culte said...

Nice post, great pics. The Cargo Culte attended the show that evening as well. We had high expectations as we had seen video of the show in Atlanta a few weeks ago. It was a good show, but it seemed like the band started to run out of steam towards the end. You can't blame them, as it was fucking hot as hell in there.

China said...

Hey! Thank you. Yes, my feeling was that, in truth, if Ian hadn't been the one fronting the band, it wouldn't have been so successful. The band looked really, really bored during the Hive Dwellers' set, though...

(P.S. Your blog is kind of awesome.)