Smile Politely

The roundup from Heavy Trash at Cowboy Monkey


Saturday night the Cowboy Monkey played host to a rock-n-roll revival. Whether they be angels or demons, the Whiskey Daredevils and Heavy Trash pitched a tent, invoked the spirits and became possessed by the bourbon-drinking, Cadillac-driving ghosts of the forgotten South.

wd1Hailing from Cleveland, the Whiskey Daredevils tore it up. The band is an unholy alliance of the wild-eyed Greg Miller belting cathartic lead vocals into a vintage microphone, Gary Siperko on rusty guitar, Leo P. Love on drums and vocals, and Ken Miller on bass.

They opened with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and chugged like a hell-bound locomotive through songs like the brand-new “Never Saw Johnny Cash,” the yodel of “Jimmy Rogers,” and crowd favorite “Bacon Martini” (during which, I might add, Miller played with his jeans zipper-making me fear he was going to pull a Jim Morrison, Florida-style).

The Whiskey Daredevils plowed through “Senorita” and “Trucker Bomb,” which extols the virtues of…well…trucker bombs (you’ll have to look that up-it ain’t no Mt. Dew, folks). Miller paced the stage like a mega-church preacher, face frozen into a maniacal grin, as the band channeled Bo Diddley. They vamped a while, then exploded into an improbable medley of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Pinball Wizard.” Afterwards, Miller declared he was actually ordained by the Universal Life Church, before braking the train and dropping us off at the gates of rockabilly hell.

ht1The show-stopping Heavy Trash—based in the godless New York City—then took the pulpit and proceeded to bring down a rain of fire and brimstone. Sam Baker (on drums) and veteran bassist Simon Chardiet backed up the legendary Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray.

Framed by a red velvet stage and a black pompadour, Spencer was a diminuitive Elvis beezlebub. This is what Southerners must have referred to in the 1950s as “devil music.” I was hypnotized. I imagined what rock must have been like way back when it was new music, fresh off the big-band-wagon-and before the Beatles, the Stones, Black Sabbath and Metallica. Somehow, this primitive roots rock-n-roll seemed more dangerous than its superstar spawn. This made people swoon, convulse, whoop and holler.

Jon Spencer hiccupped with a reverb-heavy Gene Vincent stutter, and growled like the creepy, straight-from-the-bowels-of-Hades Hasil Adkins through songs from Heavy Trash’s new album, Midnight Soul Serenade:   “Isolation,” “That’s What Your Love Gets,” “In My Heart,” and “Gee, I Really Love You,” along with Verta-Ray’s rocker, “Good Man.” 

ht2The band often changed tempo and mood two or three times within the same song, exorcising evil rock spirits in three chords. The Cowboy Monkey congregation was healed. Spencer invoked the converted to speak in tongues, wave their hands and wail in ecstasy. Girls danced with the religious fervor of true zealots.

After a generous encore, Spencer walked out, passing through the crowd, hugging strangers, laying on hands.


All photos by Jamie Newell.




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