with Soul Coughing at Avalon
by Lex Marburger
photo by Rich Rodichok
It was one of those days. You know, gray skies, freezing rain… A Saturday, too, and I had stayed up really late the night before. I was in one of those moods where I really didn’t want to see anyone, I just wanted to curl up on the sofa, rent a movie, drink some sherry. Just take the day off, get some energy back. I know, sounds like a personal problem, right? Still, I had promised to see Firewater and Soul Coughing that night, so I bundled up and prepared to push my way through hundreds of people I didn’t want to be around just to get to the bar.
Arriving at Avalon, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not too many people were there (yet), and there was some cool Gypsy or Middle European music on the PA, so I grabbed a drink and made my way across the floor to scope out a good spot where I wouldn’t be bothered by the various unsavory types who were there. Actually, in my mood, all types were unsavory right then. There were the backwards-capped frat boys, some pseudo-skater punks (and a few real ones, too) girls with shirts a few sizes too small (I didn’t mind them so much), and some nondescript folk who, under different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have minded hanging with. A lot better crowd than the last show I saw there, Beck and Money Mark (as it turned out, I ended up seeing the show in the same spot as last time, too), where the crowd was so antithetical to my nature I almost left.
Soon, the lights dropped and Firewater came out, complete with bass saxophone and violin. Tod A immediately launched into “Bourbon and Division,” a dark cha cha (no, really) which pulsed and throbbed under the hands of this wedding band gone bad. I realized that even if I didn’t really feel like being here, I could still have a good time. Taking the crowd though a journey of the bourbon-soaked wanderer, Firewater played most of their album Get Off The Cross… We Need The Wood For The Fire (Jet Set), most noticably their last tune, a deep groove with keening, distorted violin and throbbing drums. Their set put me in a warm place, I actually started to feel glad that I had gotten out of the house.
After an interminably long set change, and a dramatic increase in crowd size, Soul Coughing came on and proceeded to “rock the house.” With songs as infectious as the bubonic plague, how could you not like these guys? Well, there’s Dodie’s rather limited range and… ahem… unique vocal style. The heavy funk and upright bass got the crowd moving and sweating, while Mark’s keyboards threw everyone into a frenzied state. I’ve always been amazed at how accepting people are of the sounds he puts out. I mean, if you separated his tracks and played them solo, it would immediately be put into the “avant-garde painful music” section. It’s fantastic stuff, from the seagull calls of “Sugar Free Jazz” to the screeching of “Bus to Beelzebub,” his electronics are about as commercial as Jandek (haven’t heard of him? I told you he wasn’t commercially viable). But the audience didn’t care, they screamed and hollered and jumped up and down, even when Dodie broke into short versions of “867-5309 (Jenny),” “Like a Prayer,” and “War Pigs.” They immediately brought a smile to my face with the announcement, “I understand that Laibach is playing next door, and we’re a friendly band, so why don’t you help us out and say hello to Laibach.” Immediately about a thousand people shouted “Hello, Laibach!” in their friendliest voice. Priceless.
After multiple encores, I left the club feeling refreshed, sated, and cleared, with those nonsensical lyrics running through my head. “Four and five, therefore nine / Nine and nine, therefore eighteen / Eighteen and eighteen, therefore thirty-six…” I still got that movie. Bad Lieutenant. I couldn’t be too happy, y’know?