Dash Rip Rock / Honeydogs – Gabe’s Oasis (Iowa City, IA)
Almost from their inception, Twin Cities band the Honeydogs established a toehold with Iowa City audiences; carefully-spaced appearances have assured ever-larger and increasingly rabid turnouts. With Seen A Ghost, the band’s third disc and major-label debut, entrenching them as one of the area’s hottest-selling acts, this gig was hardly a cake that needed icing. Yet Dame Fortune (or, more likely, Ol’ Beelzebub his ownself) stepped in when New Orleans’ infamous hyper-yahoos Dash Rip Rock became an eleventh-hour addition.
Following a promising set of sturdy country-and/or-rock by the Eric Straumanis Band, the alcohol-fueled dragster that is Dash Rip Rock seized the stage. Propelled by the manic barrages of drummer Kyle Melancon, guitarist Bill Davis and bassist Hoaky Hickel sawed through an almost nonstop collection of blazing covers, smartass rewrites and beer-through-the-nose originals. Leader Davis kept the whip-hand tight as leering clown Hickel careened; all the while, the monstrous Melancon gave ample evidence as to why this long-running combo has a Spinal Tap-like rep for going through drummers like paper towels.
Toes-to-the-floorboard takes of “I Saw The Light”, “Singing The Blues”, “White Lightning” and “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” wrapped around suds-snorkers like “Bumfuck, Egypt” and a moronic ska-bash of Jim Croce’s “Time In A Bottle”. And then, like the breaking of a moist Delta wind, they were gone, leaving the dance floor stinky and stunned. By the way, so rare are Dash appearances in the upper Midwest (it was their first Iowa City date in more than ten years) that an agreeable pair of chuckleheads made the six-hour drive down from Minneapolis upon catching word of the show on the Internet.
The only downside of Dash’s insertion on the playbill was that the Honeydogs’ set was more compact than customary. Still, the best of frontman Adam Levy’s crowd-pleasers got their due. Few current bands have four singers who sing this well together, just as few who rock this hard have such a delicate touch. The elegant guitar interplay between Levy and Tommy Borschied snarled and snapped beneath the lyrics without resorting to wankish soloing or faux-hero posturing. Bassist Trent Norton has mastered the McCartney-esque technique of boldly, seamlessly goosing the melody, and drummer Noah Levy was a paragon of driving economy.
Above and beyond the Honeydogs’ songcraft and playing expertise, though, is that elusive quality of genuine, unbridled enthusiasm. This post-Fab foursome exuded a healthy cockiness in their ability and material reminiscent of NRBQ’s halcyon days. Cornering, braking and accelerating smartly, they evoked Liverpudlian visions of Carl Perkins and Buck Owens (“Busy Man”, “Kandiohi” and “Those Things Are Hers”); a whiff of The Band (“John Brown”); Revolver-era Beatles (“Tell Me” and the brilliant “Rumor Has It”); Twin City homeys the Replacements and Kirby Puckett (“Your Blue Door” and “Glee”); and some of the prettiest country-rock around. Rip Rock-ers Davis and Melancon added their vocal stylings to a deliciously odious cover of The Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” (uh, six voices when two were too many?).
A genuinely earned encore yielded the aforementioned “Glee”, a rare full-band version of the heart-wrenching gem “Miriam”, and, finally, the band’s spot-on cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Couldn’t I Just Tell You?” Uncharacteristically (slightly) muddy sound notwithstanding, this night’s show summed up, from the ridiculous to the sublime, why we all cared about this stuff in the first place.