It became painfully apparent on Sunday that I had been at a loud ass rock ‘n’ roll show Saturday night. I had all the usual symptoms; ringing in the ears, crick in the neck, and that hint of PBR delivered dehydration. However, it was – as it most often is – completely worth it.
A CUSSES show is always a good time. Saturday night’s romp at The Jinx with Atlanta’s Baby Baby was no exception.
I accidentally slipped to stage left, mere inches from guitarist Bryan Harder for this show. Typically, I stay further back, as I am resisting the compulsion to wear ear protection at rock ‘n’ roll shows. (I am beginning to think it might be a good idea, though. I am pretty sure my 50 year old self would be thankful.)
At my first CUSSES show a while ago, I was immediately drawn to the charismatic stage presence of singer Angel Bond and drummer Brian Lackey. However, having positioned myself differently this time, I stood witness to the greatness of Mr. Harder. I’ve heard the majority of Saturday’s playlist before, but there were little nuances in Harder’s guitar work that I’d never noticed before. I suppose being inches away helped.
At the outset, his blaring rock riffs are most noticeable in CUSSES’ music, but the subtle composition he takes with the versus is brimming and rich without being overstated, leaving plenty of room for Bond’s vocals. Helping to arrange his configuration is a custom two-pickup setup on his Fender Stratocaster, and a vast pedal board that he works like a wizard fine tuning a concoction of tonal witchcraft.
What seemed to escape me in previous listens is Harder’s bass work. In several of the bands tunes, Harder ditches the traditional distorted rock anthem sound in favor of a rich bass sound and bass-guitar riffs, successfully adding another layer to the band’s musical texture.
CUSSES’ hard-rock is as good live as it is recorded. The elements that make any rock band, and especially a trio, exceptional are sometimes hard to pinpoint. The biggest and most obvious marker I’ve come to realize – as is the case with legendary rock trio Rush – is every musician in the band is exceptional at what they do.
Since first hearing CUSSES, I’ve never felt like they were lacking any instrumentation. As some might criticize a trio for the lack of a bass player, or keys, or a second guitar, CUSSES is full of sound and little B.S. I think this is due to the talent of each person in the wielding of their own instrument.
Bond and Lackey were, as they usually are, on it. Without knowing about Bond’s recent health issues, you probably couldn’t have guess it at this show. And Lackey, well that dude just rages to his own, and really everyone’s, delight.
CUSSES blasted through an estimated 12-song, hour-long set that included tracks from their forthcoming second album, Golden Rat. I talked more about that album this past week in DO Savannah (here), and where the band is with its release.
Towards the end, they broke out one of their more popular tunes, “Worst Enemy,” from 2012’s self-titled debut album. It seems it’s also a favorite for Baby Baby’s lead singer Fontez Brooks. He joined Bond on stage for the chorus, which threw the already rocking crowd into a frenzy, resulting in the most raucous part of the show.
During my very pleasant and long sit down with Lackey and Bond (they are really nice people) for the DO article, we meandered through an array of topics. In talking with them about their past, Lackey had mentioned that while in Los Angeles he had worked in Art Direction, something he was still passionate about. It’s an element that they are working to include in the growing CUSSES project.
They talked extensively about movie projects and videos and a host of ideas they have for the future of the band. Some of which is already a part of their live shows. Saturday, they had the usual projection screen behind the band, and their regular set of LCD lighting. As they opened the set, 1968’s sci-fi flop, and cult classic, Barbarella (starring Jane Fonda) began to play.
Not only were the fans treated to some good rock ‘n’ roll, but also the opening hour of the film. It was strangely wonderful at times how their music played so well over the movie. I think it might have made this cheesy classic a little better, in fact.
Baby Baby likes to party. Their on-stage antics with the crowd and each other reminded me of the cool kids in high-school that didn’t care about much other than having a good time. Opening at 10:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, (yeah, that’s right, early night for the Jinx!), these dudes had more fun on stage than half of Savannah did romping the streets outside.
Baby Baby is musically tight as well, and with straight rock tunes and even some pop anthems in there, it was hard not to have a good time. By the end of their set, half the band was shirtless and everyone in the pit was dancing. They finished off with a singing contest between the band and the crowd, which I am pretty sure the crowd won.
What makes good fun rock? The beat and the heavy guitars would be my assessment. With an amazing drummer in Grant Wallace, and a percussionist/backup vocalist in Colin Boddy, as well as some stellar keys from Ryan Burruss, the guitar of Brooks, and heavy bass from Hsiang-Ming Wen, Baby Baby has all the right elements for fun and rock.
I am pretty sure they closed with their own rendition of Guns & Roses “November Rain,” but their version was quite different, in a good way, so I am still not sure if it was a full cover, or some sort of re-write. Either way, it was enjoyable.
The single-band opener for this CUSSES’ show was a good move. Typically, CUSSES has two bands open. Since the first band rarely goes on before 10:30, it can make for a very late night (close to 3 a.m. as I recall).
Saturday though, CUSSES was done by 1:11 to be exact. Which was about all the fun this old man could take.