I didn't know exactly what to expect from a visit by Rob Crow (he of Pinback,Goblin Cock, and a slew of other bands), as I hadn't read anything about the first part of the tour that brought him to our TT the Bears in Cambridge a couple weeks back. Would it be just the man and his guitar, or had he'd thrown together a backing band to rock the songs from "Living Well", his latest solo album? What I sure didn't expect was any kind of Heavy Vegetable reunion, and that's a big part of what we got.
Admittedly, I didn't recognize any of the four players that Rob brought on stage with him that night, but just a few quick songs into the set and I knew they must have some serious history. They were just so damn tight. Way tighter than a band who was 12 dates into their first tour had a right to be. Rob hinted at that history when he said "I haven't played with Travis or Manolo in 13 years", and when the band barreled through a special mini-set at the end of the main one, I realized what he meant. Yup, on stage was three out of four Heavy Veggies: Rob, drummer Manolo Turner, and Travis Nelson (who switched from guitar on Rob's solo songs to bass on the rest), along with non-Veggies (but frequent Rob collaborators) Kenseth Thibideau on bass/guitar and Donny Van Zandt on keys. Just after a cover of Brian Eno's "Here Come The Warm Jets" (or "Here Come the Hot Pockets", as Rob dubbed it), a 75%-reunited H.V. served up "Song For Wesley", "Intro", "Couch", "Bully", and "Junior" from their mid-nineties Headhunter albums. It was something to behold.
But it was Rob Crow's solo work (and the sonic similarity to the parts of Pinback I love so much) that got me there in the first place, and the band honestly improved on the songs I'd been already liking from "Living Well". I'd only heard its predecessor, 2003's "My Room Is A Mess", a couple of times, but those songs fit right in with the newer stuff, and we even got a mini-medley of some far older solo material. Without Pinback to seemingly rope him in, Rob cuts loose with rapid-fire short, sharp, shocks of songs; brief blasts on subjects both trival and grand. Twenty-five songs in under an hour, in fact. And there's not much that could amuse my inner geek more than seeing a full band rocking through an ode to World of Warcraft ("Leveling"), or a polarizing comic book artist ("Liefeld"). Speaking of geeking, there's nothing quite like seeing someone trying to dance to Rob's jaunty, sharp-turning songs. I felt like I owed part of the ticket price to the goofy guy in front of me.
For an encore, just Rob and his guitar gave us the gift of two covers: one Misfits and one Minor Threat. It was an obvious display of his early influences, on a tour that incorporated his own personal musical history. Two songs to demonstrate why he started playing music, and longtime bandmates who showed part of how he did.
After the set, Rob mentioned how horrified he was by his performance when Pinback played the Touch & Go 25th Anniversary fest in Chicago last fall. I begged to differ, having been in the crowd and dug it, but he swears he's dreading that eventual Monday morning when the Pinback clip appears on the T&G website. Whatever song they choose to share, I hope it'll prove he's being far too hard on himself.
Catch one of the two remaining Rob Crow (& friends) solo dates, either as part of South By Southwest in Austin tomorrow night, or the final show of the tour at Brick By Brick in San Diego on March 21st.
postscript action... If anyone has any issues whatsoever with this live set being made available, just say the word (contact info in the 'nac faq). I am but a fan trying to share and spread the word. Recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav and then edited to 192kbps mp3s. Tracks are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.