Friday, April 21, 2006

Antietam, 4.14.06, Mercury Lounge

by Charlotte Deaver

I'm getting to this a week late (!), but last Friday night I saw one of my favorite bands, Antietam, at Mercury Lounge.

I love them mostly because of the axis around which they revolve: guitar "goddess," Tara Key. This woman is deeply connected to her guitar -- to its sounds and touch, how it rocks and jams, how it distorts, the nice, high Les Paul neck. Watching her and listening to her play, it's easy to fall into "Tara worship," revering an amazing woman who plays guitar like no-one else, and who has held a band together for decades. But that rock star reverence is diffused, nicely and appropriately, by her whole musical sensibility, which is about participating in the pleasure, not idolizing it.

This sensibility was particularly evident on Friday night because the entire line up of bands and musicians have known each other and played together for years. Red Eyed Legends, a punk band from Chicago, are friends with the evening's headliner, Eleventh Dream Day, as CD hawker and bassist Jason Dummeldinger told me. Headed by Tara's old friend and collaborator, Rick Rizzo, Eleventh Dream Day followed Antietam with hard, jamming, Zuma-like rock and roll. Their set felt like one long "Cortez the Killer," only live and playful.

Both Tara and Rick play Les Pauls, so it was fun watching them duel it out together, as the bands interchanged members throughout the evening. Sue Garner also helped out Antietam with keys and vocals, adding to the spirit of community generated by so much camaraderie. But don't think that the night was all about peace, love, and understanding -- oh no. These bands were here to play.

Last week in the Sunday New York Times, Bruce Springsteen makes an implicit distinction between rock and roll as he's trying to describe his current band: "There's no straight two-and-four, no rock tempos. This band rolls." Antietam does both, I think, and that's one of the reason they are so good. Some songs display crafted riffs and melodies, cutting to the quick in driving 2/4, while others maintain extended grooves that allow for Tara to blaze away, sometimes soloing madly, but often just stretching a single note until, to borrow another's lines, "it sounds the way she feels."

Next time I see them, I'm taking my own damn pictures (I forgot my camera! Thank you, Dawn Madell, for this picture of Tara at SXSW!) and posting the very same night! If, after getting blown away by both the rock AND the roll, I can still see straight.


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