"Oh, yeah? Name one song from the album. Sing your favorite part!"
As we drank together at Hotel Congress during the second night of the Great Cover-Up, Vikas Pawa obviously wasn't convinced by my claim that The Monitors' latest recording, The Monet Shot, had become my favorite release by his band. Moments earlier, Beth Holub (who played viola and electric bass for Hobnail Boot until their breakup eight years ago) didn't seem certain that her former group rated highly with me, either: "You won't be coming to our show tomorrow, will you?"
It was that oddly defiant tone of self-deprecation that made Tucson's indie-pop bands so appealing almost a decade ago. Few of those groups exist in 2010, but the musicians continue to cross-pollinate in the current scene—or, in Hobnail Boot's case, at least arrange a holiday reunion show. At Sky Bar that Saturday night, in the aftermath of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, the more attentive members of the crowd consisted mainly of friends and family, but a few curious UA kids stopped their pool games for a song or two.
Tweemo was the tongue-in-cheek name of Hobnail Boot's 2002 CD, but their opening set veered more toward cerebral musicianship (as demonstrated by their respectfully executed cover of the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere") than delicately winsome cleverness. David Ragland (also a member of the cheerfully profane David Neff and the Retroskeptics) has a particular flair for venom and absurdity in his lyrics.
The Monitors are no strangers to those qualities, either, playfully skewering the John Mayer songs from their Cover-Up set a couple of nights before as drummer Morgan Schlaline took his turn on the mic to recite certain abysmal lyrics as beat poetry.
With five albums available for free download, all recorded and released over the last two years, The Monitors are approaching their eventual decline and fall with the enthusiasm of three old friends who truly enjoy playing together. The four members of Hobnail Boot—one now living in Chicago, another in Boston—were able to publicly relive that same enthusiasm for a single evening. It was worth showing up and singing along ... even to the songs with titles I've never bothered to learn.