I went to the Plough and Stars last night to see "Bad Art Ensemble" (a People's Republik bartender is the frontman). The bar is a tiny joint with a heavily brogued bartendress who poured a fine pint and a blinking "HOT NUTS" dispenser on the wall. The band consisted of 8 dudes who looked like vagrants and whose performance modus operandi was to just fuck around and get drunk. In short, they were awesome.
The music was kind of a mix between Ska and They Might Be Giants. One song in particular reminded me of Istanbul (Not Constantinople). I'm not sure if the stuff they were performing was original music or covers of bands I've never heard of. Their repertoire included audience-request "Cops Are People Too", the theme from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the "HOT NUTS" theme.
The band consisted of the following assorted members:
- The vocalist was about 5'3" and looked like a miniature Gonda (if that means anything to you). He had long scraggly hair and a scruffy beard and crooned into the mike while holding a pint of Guinness in his other hand. When he wasn't singing he just sort of chilled out in the corner and checked out this chick who was dancing near the band.
- The drummer displayed a number of tatoos and sported a blue wife-beater. During the middle of one number he just got up and went over to the bar to order another drink, keeping time the whole way with his drumsticks, and then sat back down at the drums and jumped right back in with the rest of the band.
- The trumpeter was definitely the most wasted of the group and was decked out in pseudo-intellectual blazer and long foofy scarf. By the end of the night he was clutching a glass of scotch in one hand and would occasionally toot out a few notes with his horn in the other hand.
- The guitarist and bassist were kind of hidden behind the drummer, and the guitarist had to get out of the way every time somebody wanted to use the men's room, since it was crammed behind the band. I think I'd characterize his vibe as "sheepish".
- The trombonist and saxophonist (is that a word?) both maintained a higher level of sobriety than the dude with the trumpet, probably because their instruments require both hands to play. The sax (which is a woodwind, by the way) had some pretty hot licks, and I really back the twangy sound the trombonist was laying down.
- The eighth dude arrived in the middle of the set, joined the band (while being mocked by the singer) and whipped out a pair of bongos which he proceededly to play feverishly. He looked exactly like Donny from The Big Lebowski and was totally rocking out (he occasionally went nuts and started wailing on a cowbell, using the bongos as his percussor).
All told I had a great time. Between the intimacy of the venue and the relaxed attitude of the band, I felt like I was hanging out in somebody's basement watching my friends jam (I do not have any friends who jam in basements, alas). The music was eclectic, but groovy, and the whole scene was pretty sweet.
Thanks to Ehren and Scott for suggesting the planz0r.