Doing the Continental

The LeRoi Brothers and Pat MacDonald at the Continental.

Until I heard them at the NAMM party on Saturday night at the Continental, I’d forgotten how good the LeRoi Brothers sounded. We were hanging out with actor-musician Chris Mulkey, who’s playing the new coach on NBC’s Friday Night Lights, when the LeRois cranked up and damn, they smoked their hipshake Texas rock like it was 1982.

That’s partly because Steve Doerr and Mike Buck have held the guitar and drums down since they were a trio with Don Leady on bass. That means I think of bassist Pat Collins and guitarist Casper Rawls as “the new guys.” Which is in no way true but makes me feel better about feeling old because I remember when Joe Doerr was the young buck in the herd. But there they were, 25 years on, kicking ass with “Chain of Love” and other songs heavily cobwebbed in my memory. It's like running into an old friend you didn’t owe money to. I made a note to dig out my vinyl copy of Check This Action.

Heading out to meet Chris Gray at Ego’s for 3 Balls of Fire’s midnight set, I was stopped outside the Continental by a vaguely familiar face. “Hey,” greeted the skinny bespectacled stranger. Uh oh, did I owe money to someone? “Jo Carol Pierce?” he asked. Whew. I shook my head no, flattered to be mistaken for her though we don’t look anything alike.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Your face is familiar and I thought you were her.” I tried to nod graciously. “I know – Margaret!” He seemed so pleased with himself I couldn’t help but smile.

“Pat MacDonald,” he reintroduced himself. Holy moly! I hadn’t seen Pat in years - at least a decade, maybe more. In fact, the last time I remembered talking to him was when Timbuk3 played Hawaii in 1988. We yakked a bit and he invited us to see his show the following night at the Continental, then joined us at Ego’s for the late night instro injection. That was some good mojo too – Chris Mulkey and David Holt as guest Balls with Burnin’ Mike Vernon’s new rock bottom line of bassist Jimmie Randall (Jo Jo Gunne) and powerhouse drummer Mark Evans.

I missed the first part of Pat MacDonald’s set on Sunday night, in which he probably played songs from his new CD, Troubadour of Stomp. Too bad for me because Troubadour is full of the good stuff - lowdown, swampy, sexy, menacing, especially on “Shake Well,” “Too High,” and “I Never Will” - but he was so revved up on the stomp board his set ran over by almost 20 minutes. He’s always had that dark silver way with words and predates the current one-man band trend by about 15 years.

By the time I thought to scribble a few notes, he’d dissected “Only Human” and hammered “Standard White Jesus” from his Timbuk3 days. It was time for a few covers, baptized in MacDonald holy water and left to dry with new wrinkles and textures. The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” waded into that river and he stood in as preacher for a sublime rethinking of “When Doves Cry.”

Wrapping the set with a medley that included the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” the red Continental stage glowed like a glimpse of hell’s own circus. MacDonald morphed into the dark angel in devil’s drag, beckoning me into his strange carnival of sideshow music so wicked it redeemed the soul and left me feeling purified.

Now that’s a good trick.

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Continental Club, LeRoi Brothers, Pat MacDonald

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