Concert Review: The Bogmen and Michael Eck (The Metro, Saratoga Springs, New York, January 27, 1996)

Time was, if you were a teenager living on Long Island you had no choice but to loudly proclaim in your most lemming-like voice that local legends The Good Rats were the Island’s most tasty musical export. Time is, kids from Long Island can now justifiably puff with pride when claiming the Bogmen as their own. The band from the North Shore’s Huntington (imagine Colonie with an ocean-view) leaped straight from the bars to the big leagues last year with their Arista debut Life Begins at 40 Million, and have since had two singles (“The Big Burn” and “Suddenly”) sanctioned worship-worthy by the Radiopriests of the God Alterna-Baal. Not bad for six grubby escapees from the Island’s clam barge fleet.

The Bogmen’s show at the Metro last Saturday lived up to the hype from the git-go to the git-gone; opening song “Piss Tongue” wielded a groove that reached out, locked forcefully onto the audience’s hip swivels, and made us all go wiggle go shake through ninety minutes worth of unreleased new cuts and tried tracks from 40 Million. Front-bogman Bill Campion is one of the most exciting happy-psychotic singers I’ve ever seen — his lyrics are dark, but he obviously feels so damn good singing them that you willingly allow yourself to be sucked into the passion of his moment. Campion’s stage presence and his lyrical refusal to color within rote industry coloring-book lines most reminded me of Gordon Gano circa 1983, when Gano’s Violent Femmes were at about the same point in their career as the Bogmen are at now.

The other Bogmen perfectly supported Campion — they sounded a little like so many things that they sounded in whole like nothing else. “The Big Burn,” as an example, opened with Brendan Ryan’s mutant Japanese koto-sounding keyboard squiggle; Campion and Bill Ryan then layered on choppy sustained guitar parts straight from U2’s Joshua Tree over a conga line bottom laid down by bassist Mark Wike and percussionists Clive Tucker and P.J. O’Connor. The combination of those sounds simply shouldn’t have worked — it’s a testament to the Bogmen’s musical creativity and adroitness that they could not only conceive of such a thing, but then execute it in such a way that people are willing to pay to listen to it.

The Metro’s schizo-sound-around didn’t work well for opener Michael Eck — he’s a forceful presence, but a man and his guitar simply can’t outbelt a six-piece R&B band upstairs and a throbbing disco-beat from the next door dance floor. Eck’s high intensity coffee-house folk also seemed to be lost on the flannel and ball-cap clad throng milling restlessly before him, anxious to bounce up and down and yell “Whoooooo!” at the Bogmen. Pity, as the few audible bits of Eck’s lyrics had a disarming relevance given the number of young males packed in the room (e.g. “Patrick loved drink and Patrick loved song/Patrick loved everything that makes a young man go wrong/Patrick loved life and Patrick was right/So drink a toast to Patrick cause Patrick has died.”) Party on, oblivious dancing dudes. Whoooooooo!

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