Concert Review: The Fleshtones, The Lawn Sausages, Rocky Velvet (Valentine’s, Albany, New York, January 22, 1999)

Last Friday’s concert at Valentine’s was advertised as a “Trailer Park Debutante Ball” and, amazingly, it pretty well lived up to all the low rent, big hair, bad clothing, stinky shit, great fun promise of that billing. Rocky Velvet set the evening’s tone early (and I do mean that literally, given that the notorious “all Albany shows will start two hours later than billed” ethos seems to have died with Bogie’s and the QE2) with a typically polished set of vintage twang, channeled Elvisiana and great gobs of stanky roots rock, all designed to make your sideburns grow three times faster than they usually do.

Troy’s notorious (or legendary, depending on your world view) Lawn Sausages assaulted the stage next. All eight of the band’s members looked like survivors of a small guerilla action fought entirely in RuPaul’s closet — and their amphetaminized behavior indicated that the ordeal had left them with some severe psycho-emotional after-effects. Which, of course, made for some fine entertainment, particularly when coupled with the fact that most of these dudes are (fairly) serious players who seem to have even rehearsed together once or twice before the show.

So what did they sound like? Think Blotto, only much, much, much nastier. Think Zoogz Rift, only with a slightly smaller amount of bona fide psychosis. Think Rootboy Slim, only not dead. Or think the New York Dolls, only a little bit tighter. And then think hard about that last comparison having been made not by your humble scribe, but by the Fleshtones’ Peter Zaremba, who would know such things. Think that’s impressive? I did.

Zaremba, guitarist Keith Streng, bassist Ken Fox and drummer Bill Milhizer capped the evening with a show that one Lawn Sausage described as “sickeningly good.” Well, yeah, I know, that’s not as nice a complement as Zaremba’s but, then, remember that these guys are from Troy, after all. And anyway, the Sausage was right: the Fleshtones played hard, creating their trademark “American Beat” by grafting Philly soul, Motor City madness and Bay Area organ psychedelics onto a strong British Invasion-era rock base-and then adding lots and lots of street-smart New York attitude and charisma.

The results were truly hair (and spirit) raising: I can’t imagine that it could have been much more exciting to see the Beatles or the Kinks or the Rolling Stones when they were young and fresh and first filled with the evil spirit of rock & roll. Which is, of course, all the more remarkable when you figure that the Fleshtones have been making people do all 16 dances for over 23 years at this point. Thank God these cats didn’t die (much less succumb to bloat) before they got old.

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