Apr 21, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
A healthy sense of humor can lift a rock’n’roll band to unanticipated heights.
Take Devo, for instance, or Alice Cooper or even Kiss.
Locally such acts as the Stompin’ Suede Greasers, Electric Chick Magnets, the Disco Biscuits and especially the Buttafuocos all thrived on satire as well as song.
Now we have Better Than Bowling.
‘Dig a Pony’
I dare you to name another local band that plays “Dig a Pony” by The Beatles – a song which John Lennon called “a piece of garbage” – and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” by Genesis – another animal-titled tune based on a Peter Gabriel nightmare.
But it’s not the repertoire that makes Better Than Bowling better than other classic rock acts. It’s the personalities.
Singer Sharon Allen has a cheery disposition and a chimera’s vocal cords. Drummer Dave Clement repairs computers by day and renders rhythms by night. And he’s open-minded enough to allow his daughter, Erika, to sing with the band. Guitarist Tom Marr is fascinated by Vargas girls. Guitarist Paul Power punctuates his picking with harmonica blasts, and bassist Tom Navagh regularly launches into surreal commentaries that even his bandmates can’t quite grasp.
Hear ’em for yourself for free at 9 p.m. Thursday April 21, when Better Than Bowling entertains at the legendary Shifty’s Tavern, 1401 Burnet Ave.; 474-0048. They play everything from “Badge” to “Black magic Woman,” and also throw in a few originals like “Furry Murray.”
The band’s motto is “It’s our job to make life fun…for a couple of hours, anyway.”
Even the heckler had fun
Still not convinced that Better Than Bowling’s all that?
Consider this roadhouse recollection from guitarist Tom Marr:
“In 10 years I’ll exaggerate this story to mythic proportions, so at least you’re getting it while it’s pretty much literally true.
“Last Aug. 29 we played a smallish boonies bar called Frank’s Moondance Tavern on Route. 20. Playing lots of gigs had definitely loosened us up and settled our material. The crowd whooped and clapped from early on except for one 30ish no-neck, fire hydrant, ex and future military grunt in camouflage shorts, dirty T-shirt and a ball cap who started joking around with the bass player early in the first set, then turned to dissin’ my white pants, haircut and even the color of my new Stratocaster (Seafoam Green – a classic ’50’s color!). I think there was a pretense of it being ‘all in fun,’ but he was surely trying to score on me.
“I told him, ‘Come on, it’s my last chance to wear white because after Labor Day they’ll call me a Jezebel,’ but to no avail. I couldn’t talk him off my back. Next tune was Hendrix’s “Little Wing” with dramatic lead guitar breaks with lots of sustain and vibrato bar. After that he said, ‘Well, if you can play like that I guess you can wear the (stupid?) white pants.’ Gave me my R. E. S. P. E. C. T., took his beer and repaired to the back of the barroom. Ha!
“I did, however, hide behind Tom Navagh (in jest) next time the no-neck appeared. Like I said, a decade from now, when I tell it, they’ll have been 10 of them, all as big as linebackers and they will have given me an ovation and carried me around on their shoulders. Maybe, they’ll have gorgeous girlfriends who all beg to have their way with me…yeah.”
Last week Downtown After Dark mourned the passing of two notable Syracuse musicians, rocker Chuck Mellone and big-band leader Jack Kreischer.
Another CNY musician has passed on. Brian David Bellus, known professionally as Brian Bell, died March 25, in Albany. He was 50 years old. He studied music at Onondaga Community College and was accepted at the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, Calif. A prolific songwriter, he performed throughout the Northeast, Mexico, Florida, Colorado, St. Thomas and Nashville. As a young man, Bell worked as a talent agent in Manhattan, where he befriended the legendary Les Paul.
Restaurateur at rest
Dominick Tassone Jr., who owned and operated Dominick’s Restaurant on burnet Ave. for more than 30 years, died March 27, in Bridgeport. He was 66.
All the Italian breads and pastries at Dominick’s are baked in house daily. Tassone always said, “No one leaves Dominick’s Restaurant hungry.”
His oldest daughter, Cynthia Harrington, now manages Dominick’s Restaurant, while daughter Debbie Camire, serves her own pastries at Biscotti Caf on North Salina Street.
Russ Tarby’s column appears weekly in The Eagle and online at theeaglecny.com. He also covers the arts and sports. Reach him at email@example.com.