KEXP Presents: Equalizer Showcase, Darkroom, Chicago 8/2/07


written by Mike Turner
photos by Alex Pilichowski

Well kids, it was God damn hot in Chicago this week, some might even say “Hot as Hell” but if you’re a real American and a true rockn’rolling Chicagoan you fight fire with fire and that’s exactly what the windy city’s freedom loving, KEXP listening, terrorist fighting music fans did last Thursday for Equalizer’s third monthly showcase. That’s right internet, ya heard? Darkroom, The Chicago Reader and KEXP did it again last week on the eve of a Lollapalooza inferno of live music that would leave the entire region breathless and trembling like a violated prom date. Equalizer ain’t skeerd though, it showed up at your mom’s house with a stretch Hummer full of rock and wine coolers ready to party, so what are you gonna do? With the star studded local line up of Hot as Hell, The Great Perhaps and the Jai-Alai-Savant accompanied by the ever present dukes of debauchery DJs Johnny Kesh and Mikey Dance Panther, Equalizer was more than ready to aim its flame thrower of fuck yeah at the pre Lollapalooza competition and let it rip! It even gave you a nice wrist corsage and shook hands with your dad… cuz it’s classy like that.

Chicago KEXP fans didn’t let us down either with arguably the best attendance since Equalizer started! Darkroom was packed regardless of the VIP Spoon concert in Grant park or Sparklehorse at The Empty Bottle or Perry Ferral’s sexy bump n’ grind party at Underground not to mention numerous other enticing Lollapalooza related events throughout the city. DJ Johnny Kesh got things rolling at 9pm with his eclectic set of indie jams so rare that even John Richards probably hasn’t heard ‘em and Mikey Dance Panther was late as usual and as usual nobody cared nearly as much as he thought they did.

Hot as Hell was first to heat up the Darkroom stage in front of an already sweaty and eager crowd just beginning their four day long rock binge. Mr. Pleasure and Dr. Burn (as the two front men like to be called) cruised through a diverse set of songs drawn mostly from their 2007 release, Pocket Script. Sometimes they rocked hard and sometimes they rocked soft, but they always rocked… even if it was while staring at each other in a really creepy fashion singing just inches from each others faces. Hey, if it makes you uncomfortable you’re too old, or something, right? Hot as Hell call it “glam-sleaze-rock” I call it pretty freaking rad and Daryl Hall and Van Halen are calling each other and asking why they didn’t think of that when they had the chance.

As their set came to a close the band exclaimed to the sonically objectified audience “Thank you! We’re Hot as Hell!” And you know something… They were right, in fact we all were. DJ Johnny Kesh hit the decks again as those in the crowed slowly backed away from the stage covering their privates and whimpering and The Great Perhaps began attempting to restore the chastity of the Darkroom stage (good luck!) by moving their equipment onto it. But wait, what is this? Mikey Dance Panther has just arrived high-fiving, back-slapping and giving the “shooty-fingers” to confused Darkroom patrons as he makes his way to the stage. Just like every month it was that time of the night when bands, sponsors and fun seekers needed to be thanked and praised for their support of live music, cool radio stations and killer alt. weeklies. So, fresh from some exotic VIP local no doubt brimming with booze, babes and who knows what else, Mikey Dance Panther swaggered to the mic to arrogantly bestow accolades and drunkenly verbose praise on a band whose set he just completely missed. He’s probably never even seen them at all. Someone in the crowed was overheard saying “that guy is lucky that his charm and magnetic good looks are so powerful that audiences are held rapt in his tractor beam of sexy until he chooses to release them, because he really has no other redeeming qualities.” I tend to agree.

The Great Perhaps

With an explosion of cymbals and applause The Great Perhaps plunged into their set and Mikey Dance Panther leapt from the stage morphing mid air into a real panther, grabbing an unsuspecting virgin by the neck and devouring her as the band mesmerized the crowd under a spell of bayou inflected rootsy jangle. Blake Sloane effortlessly channeled John Fogarty as he opened his mouth to spew an avalanche of golden gravel setting aglow the murky darkroom grotto. You know, the kind of golden gravel that sounds really good against a backdrop of countrified guitar rock? Yeah, that kind… I’m still picking those musical nuggets out of my shoe. The thing is though, it would be much too confining to just slap them with a CCR/southern rock tag and leave it at that, The Great Perhaps tip toe into areas of 60’s soul and mo-town as well without relying on irony to carry the vibe and the delivery is so earnest that you almost forget that Super Mario is playing drums (he goes by Will Duncan now apparently). The point is this: placards to aide in crowd sing-a-longs are brilliant (and way helpful), rock poses are still cool and confetti is fun… Even if you’re throwing it on yourself –which they did. Oh yeah, and they have a friggin’ Light Bright on stage! Where do you even get those?

Jai-Alai Savant

As The Great Perhaps closed their set and DJ Johnny Kesh sprang into action yet again to keep the party on track, you could feel a building electrical current of anticipation throughout the room as people readied themselves for the luminous main event. Whispers shot back and fourth through ears like neurons making thoughts in a brain the size of a 1960’s super computer until darkroom hummed with harmonious voltage and it’s collective punch card read The Jai-Alai-Savant! Clad in their sparkling white suits The Jai-Alai Savant erupted into their first song as their signature white lights flashed from underneath on cue with the first notes of the jam. Front man Ralph Darden (also known as DJ Major Taylor) knows how to work a stage, and he used every inch of it to breath life into their EP “Thunderstatement” and new album “Flight of The Bass Delegate.” With frequent comparisons to bands like The Police and The Clash The Jai-Alai Savant have a lot to live up to but seeing them in the flesh for just 5 minutes will erase any doubt that they lack originality or star quality. Their show is tight and their genre bending blend of reggae slanted post punk is refreshing and fun. Ralph is a natural in the spotlight with an easy charm that screams rock star and when he leads the attack on his white thunderbird guitar the funk that follows puts all 8 of darkrooms 18” sub woofers to the test. Luckily everyone made it out alive this time but Ralph looked like he had been thrown in a car wash in his suit as he climbed off the stage at the end of the show. Don’t let anyone tell you that this guy doesn’t give 100%!

So there you have it, folks! Another Equalizer down and more on the way. What will happen next!? Tune in and find out! Johnny Kesh
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  1. Posted August 10, 2007 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Mike Turner is funny funny funny. Love the way the panther flings his words around like a bunch of flying monkeys.

  2. alikat
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    dude, i was totally there that night!

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