Detroit Cobras, Reigning Sound, The Sweat BandPlush, Monday, Oct. 31
During an impeccably curated triple bill on Halloween night proper, virtually the entire history of rock 'n' roll was celebrated in a mere 3 1/2 hours at Plush. All three bands saluted their forebears in varying ways, spinning their homages in differing methods of modernity.
Tucson's own The Sweat Band opened their set in the spirit of the holiday. Wearing matching duds that bore the name "Sweat County Jail," they entered the club with their heads bowed, shackled together by chains, taking baby steps to the stage. Once there, said chains were placed on an anvil and split apart by an ax-wielding friend who was in on the joke. (There is no other word besides "cute" to describe it.) Once freed, the coed trio proceeded to engage in an Olympian (as in, Olympia, Wash.) take on Zeppelin-esque riff rock that engaged the listener by way of industrious start/stops, and the increasingly confident vocals and guitar playing of Marina Cornelius.
The Reigning Sound's set began with a number that approximated what the MC5 might have sounded like if they had played Buddy Holly songs, and from there proceeded to assimilate virtually every winning rock trope from the past into a seamless whole: '70s arena rock, Brit punk from the same era, '50s-era moonlit balladry, bluesy garage rock and even a Dylanesque detour--all were paid proper reverence during the band's 65-minute set (which somehow didn't feel too long). Every song felt like it fell into the two- to three-minute range, and probably did. Oblivians and '68 Comeback vet Greg Cartwright channeled all of it through his gravel-dragged marvel of a voice, the only common denominator being the undeniable melodic hooks of each song.
After an overlong change-over, the Detroit Cobras took the stage to embark on an approximation of what an early '60s girl group would sound like in a post-punk world. Other bands--most notably Sweden's Raveonettes--have embarked on such a mission, but none has nailed it quite so succinctly. At once charming and rough-lived, the combo's forte is digging up long-forgotten, R&B-inflected shoulda-been hits, and giving them their proper airing, some 40 years later.
Halfway through the band's set, local music vet Jefferson Keenan turned to me and said, "I've got a stupid question: Is there such a thing as the return of the rock 'n' roll dance band?" to which I replied, "You're looking at it." "And is that OK?" he asked, obviously rhetorically.