Once upon a time, I would’ve written up a review the next morning, because I’d have space to fill in the Eye’s Scene pages. That hasn’t been true for a long time, but the mental habit of summing up the few shows I still attend has yet to evaporate. For the sake of clearing my head, here’s this:
Music was only part of the draw that night. Let’s be straightforward about that. The other, significant, attraction was rock’n’roll’s constant companion, libido. Them Blakes are hot. The Strix Vega boys are also no slouches in the appeal department. Both bands deliver finely honed, melodic songs. The Blakes pull more from the garage rock side of the spectrum, while the Vegans lean in a folk/alt-country direction.
If we kept a yearbook of the Humboldt Music Scene, Strix Vega would be voted Band Most Likely To Succeed Elsewhere. Each year. Imagining them playing the early slot in summer rock fests is easy. They’re so likeable, their songs as appealing as chocolate-chip cookies fresh out of the oven, evoking both desire and comfort. The movie scene where Strix Vega’s soundtrack contribution would kick in comes just after the guy has been dumped because his girlfriend thought that when he failed to ask her to marry him it was because he was a heartless cad, when in reality, he’d bought a ring and prepared to propose, only to hesitate because he didn’t want her to think he was just another tool of the patriarchy. And then his boss fired him for being unwilling to scapegoat the undocumented immigrant for the boss’s cheapskate, safety-hazard-inducing habits that caused the death of his best friend. There goes our hero, duffel bag in the back of his 1972 Nova, fighting back the tears as we cut back-and-forth to the montage of girlfriend-memories… Strix Vega’s melancholy “Mad Rain” coloring it all, “People… and money… fade away….” Ah, they sure do, buddy. They sure do.
Back in 2007, Spin magazine described The Blakes like this: “Soak the Kinks in cheap booze, reignite the Stooges’ strut and add some modern Strokes of ambition, and you have The Blakes.” Three years later, that description still works, but some of the rawness has been smoothed over. No less rocking, mind you, but the band’s sound has an added eloquence. Where prior performances of the ripping “Two Times” instigated an I’m-so-turned-on-let’s-do-it-in-the-alley vibe, this night’s version sauntered out prettied up, teasing, slightly restrained and therefore even more crazy-making. The Blakes’s ability to seduce has grown only more sophisticated; their ability to craft perfect gems of songs continues. From the afore-mentioned Brit rocker channeling to the crooning of “Don’t Bother Me” (“I’m caught up in your legs/I don’t wanna get out”) to the irresistible American garage pop of “Pistol Grip,” the kind of song that sends you up front next to the speakers so you can just drown in it, The Blakes deliver. In a just world, they’d be playing to far larger crowds. I’d love to swap out every overplayed mid-90s former hit song on the radio with something by The Blakes. Until then, I’ll just keep playing them on the iTunes. Over and over.