Blacker-Dabney-Ricketts Party, 1996

Yesterday's BDR concert was perhaps Stale Urine's technically best performance to date. The instruments were tuned and balanced almost perfectly, and the band really seemed to come together as Benedetti's long-dreamed-of ``Mound of Sound.'' Naturally, the band had to find new ways to annoy both die-hard fans and innocent bystanders.

The band warmed up with a few runs through of ``Wax Man,'' with Benedetti providing the token vocals. It was a pretty amusing take on the old classic, and showed they sound pretty good even when not really trying.

The rest of the performance was completely new, a pretty impressive accomplishment, considering Jon Lange had just come down from Seattle and had maybe a few hours to rehearse. The first real song was ``Land of the Lost,'' which seemed okay. It was overshadowed by the rest of the songs, and I don't remember much specific about it. I guess it didn't suck.

Next they told us they were going to play a protest song, which was composed of only Benedetti on acoustic guitar and his and Radfords vocals (I think.) Quickly the audience realized what we were hearing was ``Fight For Your Right (To Party)'' by the one and only Beastie Boys. This set the tone for a night made up nearly exclusively of covers--I guess that's how they managed to have an all-new set.

Next came a cool cover of the Pixies' ``Here Comes Your Man.'' I dunno if this threw off the rest of the audience as much as me, but I certainly couldn't have guessed they'd do something like this. I think Geoff Matters (fresh from a mile at KELROF) played electric guitar on this one.

Then came the only original (apparently) of the night: ``(We're) Spies.'' It's kind of a modification of "Rob Cobb's Job" twisted into the typical ``spy music'' genre. It ruled, although the lyrics could stand to be polished a bit. This was the only piece Lange sang on. I think Jim Krehl, having sprained his ankle at KELROF, played jazz guitar.

The band then turned to a concept piece by La Monte Young, apparently called ``Piano Piece For David Tudor.'' It involved offering a glass of liquor to an accordion, and waiting until the accordion either drank the glass, or refused it. Benedetti placed the accordion and the shot glass in the center of the courtyard (which, by the way, was fairly empty. Maybe thirty people watched the concert, most up against the walls of the house.) After a few seconds, Benedetti determined that the accordion had refused the drink.

The band reassembled, with Villani taking up the vocals for the rest of the concert. They charged, completely unprovoked, into Skynyrd's ``Gimme Three Steps'' and played without a hitch. The audience began to fear, correctly, that the brief, two-piece foray into normal Urine territory had come to an end, and we were to be subjected to further, not-completely-sarcastic covers.

Next came Christopher Cross's Academy-Award-winning ``Arthur's Theme.'' For the first time in the concert, Adam's rhythmic deficiencies resurfaced, prompting yells from Benedetti and frantic attempts by Radford, who was also singing, to keep the song on track.

The band finished up with an extended jam of ``You Dropped a Bomb On Me,'' a weak attempt to rehash their success with ``China Cat Sunflower'' over the summer. Early in the song, various band members would stop playing to go get a drink, or go the the bathroom or whatever, but this got old and they all remained on stage for the rest of the song. The groove was more interesting and more varied than ``Sunflower,'' and, crucially, not as long. Most of the audience remained to hear the whole thing. Again, the Urine failed to drive their fans away, even with this overwhelming barrage of precise, lackluster covers. Their slip-up in including ``Spies'' and the La Monte Young piece proves that even they are incapable of deliberate badness. Until the band can reconcile their artistic integrity with their desire to entertain, this divided front will continue to mean victories of will for the audience, and years of quality ambivalent entertainment for the world.

Alan McConchie
Independent Music Critic Extraordinaire
May 26, 1996

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