Concert Review: The Great Shakes – July 11, 2003

The Great Shakes

Luna Lounge – New York, NY

July 11, 2003

Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy July 28, 2003

Mothers hid their daughters and gentlemen guarded their beers while in New York City recently, and for good reason. The Great Shakes were in town, making a lot of noise on their own home turf, and they were definitely looking to stir up some trouble.

New York’s latest response to the bland and over-produced junk cluttering up the charts, The Great Shakes took the stage of Luna Lounge on July 11 with one goal in mind: launching into a vicious and crowd-engaging set before they embarked on a tour of D.C. and the West Coast. Well … mission accomplished.

In front of a crowd that responded with shrieks and applause to most every noise the band was making, The Great Shakes ran through the entirety of their debut EP on Rich and Sexy with a vengeance but also provided a sizable glimpse of the new material on which they’ve been focusing.

For those who have yet to hear it, the new songs are inviting, unexpected, and – for a New York band driven by dueling guitars – something a little strange to behold.

While the quintet’s five-song debut was an engaging palatte of equal parts rock energy and attitude, punk venom, and trashy refrains, the new songs – at least live – were incredibly textured and more multi-dimensional.

Falling before, after, and all around crowd favorites like “Want/Got” and “Duty Free,” the band’s latest tremors still kicked and screamed, but did it with a peculiar attention to detail. Imagine, for a frame of reference, if Jon Spencer decided to step up and front Sonic Youth, all the while still hollering that all he wanted to do was get down.

Of particular note were new songs like “Residence” – which closed the all-too-short set – all angular guitar riffs and crashing verses. Kids, this is the music that Brainiac’s Timmy Taylor is conceivably dancing to in the hereafter.

But while the band went through their new songs with a frightening precision and energy, what may have been the most interesting element of the evening was the chemistry the band displayed on stage and the madness frontman Darren displayed, of all places, in the crowd.

The Great Shakes blaring away on stage, the singer – whose gestures during live performance seem to hint at that most infamous of Dead Kennedys, Mr. Jello Biafra – walked menacingly through the crowd, stealing drinks and stirring people up as he went.

While far from the lunacy of a David Yow, the act worked, and the audience seemed to stand on edge throughout the band’s set as a result, waiting for any one of them to break the fourth wall and begin lounging around in the crowd. Luckily for those of us who wanted to finish our own drink, the rest of the band was perfectly content to knocking us off our feet from the stage.

Only a year and change after playing their first show in May 2002, The Great Shakes are set to see if West Coast crowds will be as taken with them as the fans who continue to pack bars and clubs where they’re playing in the Big Apple.

If July 11 is any indicator, this is a band that’s not only going to knock over club-goers in Los Angeles, it’s a band that’s going to be making the rounds nationwide soon enough. Catch them in New York City before Darren has security guards at his feet and the only crime in your cocktail is the price you paid for it at the concession.

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