Having a dread for completing the myriad tax forms and hoping it was accomplished correctly is a yearly time of trepidation for many.
To help calm any frayed nerves and overloaded stress levels, Bush League All-Stars held a “Tax Prep Happy Hour” show at Rumba Café on Friday (April 14). The show was a record release celebration of “Summer’s Gold” (released April 9, 2017).
Filled with some weird and arcane tax minutiae, BLAS provided just what everyone’s frayed ends of sanity needed… relief.
Bava Choco began the festivities with an eight-song set encompassing most of their “Death Ride” EP (released January 2017). Patrick Baracus (vocals), Mike Lovins (bass/voclas), Eric French (guitar/vocals) and Corey Gillen (drums) have a sound that is seldom heard in the Midwest.
(Ed. – our in-depth interview with the band can be found here)
They opened with an instrumental desert rock groove that transitioned seamlessly into Death Ride. While many bands tend to speed up when playing live, what emanated from the p.a. system was sludge rock, plain and simple. Their harmonies were tight and audible, as the slower pace to the title track gave the song an entirely new feel.
As they channeled the Palm Desert scene of the 1990’s, the transition into The Witch was flawless. Their sound was reminiscent of early Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age. The slow groove of Balance became almost dirge-like, before kicking into a higher gear.
Without missing a beat, they went right into Dead Roses, an uptempo rocker.
They gave the crowd an aural peek at two tracks from their next EP, with the first selection titled Say What? It’s a slow grinder of a song, with a definite feeling of foreboding to it. Baracus’ vocals took on an almost evil tone for this number.
Covering Black Sabbath’s War Pigs next, they kept the tone just as heavy as the original, although Baracus was not as over-the-top as Ozzy Osbourne used to get while playing the song.
They wrapped up their set with a second new track, Fire Hose. It was another uptempo rocker with a QotSA vibe to it. The two new songs have a more positive-sounding feel to them when compared to the “Death Ride” EP.
All told, it was a short but tight set from Columbus’ conceptual stoner rockers.
After a short changeover, Bush League All-Stars took the stage for an 11-song set, comprised of new material interspersed with some older gems.
Dan Spurgeon (vocals/guitar), Jess Faller Schmidt (keyboards), Tom Schmidt (bass), Kevin Happell (guitar) and George Hondroulis (drums) got everyone’s mind off taxes, and focused on the music as they launched into Black Ops. Faller Schmidt channeled her inner Ray Manzarek with some lovely work on the keys.
Hondroulis counted off Half a Life, with the band running hot from the start. It’s reminiscent of post-Mudcrutch era Tom Petty, while still retaining an updated, fresh feel.
Eliciting laughter from the crowd, Spurgeon read from the Oregon tax code. “This was billed as a tax prep happy hour,” he said.
With upbeat guitars announcing the next song, BLAS kept everything tight with the danceable Golden Ratio. They manage to combine the best of the last three decades of pop rock into their sound effortlessly, and it was plain to see for all those swaying to the music.
Wailing guitars kicked-off Bird on a Wire. The juxtaposition of Spurgeon’s twangy vocal work laid-over a 1990’s post-grunge groove works delightfully.
After more arcane tax information for the crowd from Spurgeon, the band launched into Liver Spots. The track has a full sound, with the two guitars trading riffs back-and-forth, with a bass groove that chugs along nicely.
The funkiness of Pixie Dust was next, with Spurgeon reciting the lyrics in an almost spoken word cadence. The tempo was ratcheted higher midway through, as they let loose and rocked.
At this point, Spurgeon took tax questions from the crowd, before Schmidt’s heavy bass groove opened happy-sounding The Way Things Look. They next slowed the pace slightly with the smoldering rocker My Lil’ Runaway.
Fantastic Marigold had a Tim-era Replacements vibe to it, with Spurgeon conjuring images of Paul Westerberg in his prime.
After a final take on tax prep banality, they peppered the crowd with the pop groove of Suk it Up; the riffs sounding eerily like Elvis Costello’s “Pump it Up.”
They closed the show with an “Americana meets the Replacements” sound in the song Snowflake from “Summer’s Gold.” It showcased the musicianship of the band, and was the perfect tempo to end their set with.
Maybe I’m being selfish, but I wish the set had been much longer. That they can take the best from numerous decades and play with an updated sound brought a smile to my face.
For an hour or so, I forgot all about the tax man, caught-up as I was in the aural groove of the Bush League All-Stars.
Setlist – Bava Choco at Rumba Cafe 4/14/17
- Death Ride
- The Witch
- Dead Roses
- Say What? *
- War Pigs – Black Sabbath cover
- Fire Hose *
* denotes new song
Setlist – Bush League All-Stars at Rumba Cafe 4/14/17
- Black Ops
- Half a Life *
- Golden Ratio *
- Bird on a Wire *
- Liver Spots *
- Pixie Dust
- The Way Things Look *
- My Lil’ Runaway *
- Fantastic Marigold
- Suk it Up
- Snowflake *
* denotes songs from “Summer’s Gold”
Bush League All-Stars – Fairer