Monday, April 16, 2007

This Charming Band

This ought to satiate those of you who have been waiting impatiently since last fall for a new Mongrel post: last night I saw a Smiths cover band, This Charming Band.

I should note two things. First, This Charming Band should not be mistaken for These Charming Men, who I suspect are actually better (or at least have been around longer) than This Charming Band. (Check out These Charming Men's version of "This Charming Man" (is this confusing yet?) on their myspace page, which is so close to the original it's spooky.) These Charming Men are from Ireland. The lead singer of This Charming Band bears a striking resemblance to Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, who's from Minnesota.

Second, This Charming Band and also These Charming Men claim to be Smiths "tribute" bands. I figure this is somehow more credible than calling one's band a "cover" band, though I wonder how big the difference is. Thoughts?

This Charming Band played at the Rickshaw club in San Francisco. I went with a good buddy and his girlfriend. The show was fantastic. The lead singer whose name I don't know belted out all the tunes in a voice that closely resembles Morrissey's (though his speaking voice, as my friend observed, sounds like Michael Stipe's), and the Johnny Marr wannabe tried his hardest to replicate those jangly melodies (he later left the bar with a sketchy blonde This Charming Band groupie; I'm not sure if this would make Johnny proud). A few guys rotated on bass and second guitar; I found this revolving door of musicians amusing for a tribute band. "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" and "I Know it's Over" were the two highlights for me, though the faster-paced songs got the Smiths cover/tribute band lovers dancing, some of whom made their way on stage. This included my buddy's girlfriend, who doesn't know the Smiths all too well but managed to play the tamborine admirably for one song, while I secretly wished I could be on stage playing the maracas. Notable omissions include "Ask" and "Panic." The lead singer offered "Panic" as one of two choices for the final song, but the audience overwhelmingly favored a Morrissey solo single I sadly didn't recognize and forget. Maybe I'm a fraud after all.

But I am a fraud! That's because I am not a Choir Boy. Far and away the most interesting part of the show was the presence of the Choir Boys, a group of mostly Latino Smiths fans, recognizable by the black shirts with "Choir Boys" emblazoned across the chest. Chuck Klosterman describes this phenomenon--Latino kids who love the Smiths--in his collection of short stories Chuck Klosterman IV (thanks Mugshot for the book), so I would recommend that as an authoritative source on the subject. Several of them sang along to "There is a Light" in Spanish, which for a brief moment made me feel like an outsider who couldn't have done the same despite several years of high school Spanish. Oh yeah, and there were "Choir Girls," too. Hot.

A DJ spun Britpop after This Charming Band finished. The finest moment was when he snuck in a single by The Dandy Warhols: So what do you do? / Oh, yeah I wait tables too / No, I haven't heard your band 'cause you guys are pretty new. Fabulous.

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