Sweet Lizard Illtet – with Soul Coughing at The Middle East Cafe – Review

Sweet Lizard Illtet

with Soul Coughing at The Middle East Cafe
by J. Hoben

I arrive at the Middle East. To my dismay, I find that Soul Coughing is not the next band. I light a cigarette and scowl.

“I hate opening bands,” I say to myself. Yeah, I know, I’m a dick ’cause I don’t like opening bands, and yer best friend and yer brother and even yer sister are all in opening bands that are really good if I’d just give ’em a chance and jeez louise… sorry man. That’s just the way I feel.

Anyway, right after that Neanderthal dough-boy the Middle East calls a bouncer almost threw me out for sitting on the floor (the new original sin, I assume. What’s up with that? It’s not like I’m stealing people’s wallets or contributing to the delinquency of a minor [not tonight, anyway]. Just minding my own business, not in anybody’s way and it’s “Get Up Offa That Goddamn Floor!” Asses of the world unite! We’ve got rights, fer Chrissakes!) Five guys calling themselves Sweet Lizard Illtet take the stage. The house lights dim, and they begin to play. I’m frozen – half with fear, half with admiration.

It appears as if these cats are sharing with the crowd some kind of performance piece based loosely on “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” only this time around, Johnny doesn’t win the golden fiddle; matter of fact, he doesn’t even show up. It’s just Satan and his (not so) merry band of demons weaving tunes full of power, distortion, noise, fiddles, rap grooves, punk and even a banjo solo or two. As they wrap their set up, I come to a conclusion: Opening bands rule. I’m convinced.

I’ve been listening to Soul Coughing’s Slash/Warner Bros. release, Ruby Vroom, for about a month now. They’re a part of that new rap-jazz-blues-6%-“other”-music style that’s creeping into the scenes across America. For Soul Coughing (at least, for three of the four members) that scene was Brooklyn. With Ruby Vroom, they proved they had a unique style – alternating singing with spoken parts, emphasizing different instruments for different moods, etc. I know they won’t let me down live.

Just before Soul Coughing takes the stage, the room grows thick with the stench of reefer. Everyone knows they’re in for a treat. The band looks a lot older than I thought they would, but I guess the tightness they have together as an act doesn’t give itself to the young very often. They open with “Moon Sammy,” an excellent choice (based on the crowd’s reaction alone); everybody there – and there were A LOT of ’em – falls right into the groove laid down by the band. I was impressed with Ruby Vroom; but seeing these cats live, I am far beyond impressed. Yes, they are tight as hell; but perhaps more importantly, they’re performers as well.

Speaker/singer/guitarist M. Doughty (whose stage antics can only be described as being not unlike those of a drunken street mime in an invisible box which is constantly changing its proportions) does an excellent job of getting the crowd involved in the music he and the boys throw down the like law. I think it’s safe to say nobody is disappointed.

12:?? p.m. — I leave the Middle East before the headlining band comes on. I hate headlining bands; it’s my latest conviction.