Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mike Roe & co. rock the house

...And by "house" I mean an actual house, where people live, eat, sleep, watch TV, etc.

This past Sunday saw a gathering of phenomenal talents and those of us who've enjoyed them for--in some cases--decades. This was a house concert featuring Mike Roe of the 77's, a band that has been around, in one configuration of the other, since the late 70's. Possibly since 1977? Just a guess. Their first album was one my earliest purchases of what was termed "Christian rock" and later "Christian alternative" and now, well, whatever you call it, they're not likely to have it at the Wal-Mart. The album was called Ping Pong Over the Abyss (an inside recording engineer's joke with apocalyptic connotations--again, a guess, but this time a better-educated one). It showed a number of influences including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and the punk bands of the time that I mostly ignored except when they were on Saturday Night Live. The 77's incorporated all those styles and more into their own and only improved from there.

The concert was a preview of the forthcoming 77's album, featuring some very old songs in the gospel blues vein, given a respectful rock 'n' roll treatment without losing the dignity or power of the original message. It also featured our hosts, still in cultural transition from their former home of Chicago, performing as The Wayside as opening act.

As a bonus, some of the key figures from other bands that shared the small but intense spotlight with the 77's during the 80's shared the--uh, dining room with Mike: Jimmy A of Vector, Steve Hindalong of the Choir, Phil Madeira of--well, lots of things--and Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer (Matt actually bowed his cello in the kitchen due to space restrictions). Really a cool day.

Mike joked that whenever he finds himself in the "throes of despair" on any given Sunday afternoon at home in Southern California, he cheers himself up by imagining that folks in Nashville are getting together to play the old songs, just like he was doing that day. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like (as far as I know). But at least this day the fantasy was a reality.

Go to the 77's myspace for some samples of past glory, and the official 77's site for everything else. And don't forget to wipe your feet; you weren't raised in a barn.

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