Rock City Morgue

One Eyed Jacks

July 08, 2005

Once the clock hit midnight, it was guitarist Johnny Brashear's birthday. When the topic was first addressed, he jokingly said he was 19. Then, as lead singer Rik Slave kept bringing up the birthday of Johnny Hotwheels, as Slave called him, Brashear stepped to the mic and inched closer(21) and closer(24) to the truth until he finally admitted he was 36. "But," he said, "my girlfriend's 21. Trophy wife."

This joking and laid-back attitude permeated Rock City Morgue's performance at One Eyed Jacks Friday night. They seemed more comfortable in their own shoes. Slave rubbed Brashear's head lovingly and stumbled close enough to bassist Sean Yseult for her to crack a huge smile. These guys obviously liked one other.

Rock City Morgue isn't embracing theatrical ghoulishness as much as they were, and this makes it easier to not automatically connect them to the comic book and Punk style of bands like The Cramps. Rock City Morgue played hard rock with bombastic, ear-bursting guitar solos. There was definetely some Eddie Van Halen lionizing going on. The band might have had a Punk sneer, but that's as far as it got. Yseult still has a coffin-shaped bass, and Brashear still wears all black and mascara, but their lighthearted nature onstage says that they're taking themselves less seriously. Slave left his old-school microphone and tux at home. They're not trying as hard to fit a schticky mold. Instead, they're just being themselves, and that looks much better on them. The music is certainly strong enough so that they don't need a schtick or a wink.

Yseult's piano ballads were the strongest songs of the night. Slave invested his dramatic self and the whole of his vocal cords into the songs. Highlights were "Dead Man's Song" and "Don't Leave Me Haunted." Faster songs included "Disconnected" and "No Complaints." Rock City Morgue was able to fit a ballad between a slew of faster songs because the quality of the ballad was undeniable. You had to listen.

Slave dramatically shook and rubbed his face anxiously, swiping sweat from his face with a white handkerchief every once and a while. Throughout the night he performed his usual old-timey dances, but he wasn't as energetic as in the past.

Brashear's guitar tone was clear and piercing. His playing was tasteful, appropriate to the song, and above average. He played the rhythm role well, but when he needed to speak in solo, he let loose and assaulted the audience with a magnificently related flurry of notes. I couldn't tell you how those notes are related, but it sounded damn good.

The crowd was a decent size considering the hurricane threat. They stood in a clump close to the stage.

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