Greyhound Soul, Gram Rabbit
Friday, Aug. 20
It was one of the oddest pairings I've seen in a while, this double bill of self-styled cult heroes Gram Rabbit, from Joshua Tree, Calif., and Tucson's stalwart neo-classic rock purveyors Greyhound Soul.
After a call to the venue to make sure I wasn't mistaken for thinking this bill was actually happening—during which conversation I was told that Greyhound Soul would start playing at 9:30 and Gram Rabbit would follow—I got there to find Gram Rabbit taking the stage a bit after 10:30, with Greyhound Soul still to come. So much for reconnaissance missions.
When the few people hanging out on the patio moved inside once Gram Rabbit finally took the stage, it was clear which band they were here to see. Led by the duo of singer-keyboardist-guitarist Jesika von Rabbit and singer-bassist-guitarist Todd Rutherford, and abetted by guitarist Ethan Allen and drummer Hickory Schmidt, Gram Rabbit performed a scattershot set that ran the gamut of genres. At least one song was a dead ringer for the largely forgotten '80s new wave band Missing Persons, complete with a Dale Bozzio chirp in von Rabbit's voice. It was followed by a tune on which von Rabbit and Rutherford shared vocals (as they did on the bulk of the band's most successful songs), and which sounded like a glossed-up version of textbook California psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, there was an homage to Lords of Acid, a song that could have been included on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack without anyone blinking, and a descending-chord, gravel-road country song called "Dirty Horse."
The problem was this: The band tried on so many styles of music that it didn't seem to truly believe in any of it. Or maybe that was just me. They weren't awful, but they came off as disingenuous.
Greyhound Soul, on the other hand, is all about passion. That, and four players who are incredibly adept at their instruments, and have been playing together long enough to have developed not only tightness, but a musical telepathy that can only come from playing together for 16 years. Oh, and the songs of singer-guitarist Joe Peña—whose voice seems to get more whiskey-ravaged each time I see them—which, I realized on Friday, isn't often enough. Every time I see Greyhound Soul play, I realize how easy it is to take it for granted, and vow to never do it again.