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Aural Report

Music Millennium at 33-1/3
Cool as hell
by Kurt Dahlke

aybe it's just coincidence, but things work out pretty damn well down at Dante's, Portland's love/hate club for the new millennium.

One helluva place: smoke, flames, perdition – what's not to love?

And as a record store for any millennium (two stores, actually), Music Millennium celebrated its recent 33-1/3 birthday with a twisted Nashville-style rondelet amongst Dante's diffident drink-slingers.

My first server is great, and she knows it when I lay out the fine tip for her courteous service. Small groups huddle around tables and stools, facial features made ghastly by looming shadows. Smoke, flames, perdition. I love it!

Dante's would be great as just a bar, but thank the dickens they put on live shows, because the sound is always good and I love the guy who works the door – it's such a refined experience. Plus, there's always some huckster lurking around to take a name and fake phone number in exchange for a couple free packs of smokes.

The satirists are right: hell, if nothing else, is cool.

Anyway, Terry Currier's record shops have prospered in P-Town for a third of a century now, while the man himself bucks the trends. Witness tonight's lineup: a pair of intellectual, sensitive country-rockers. The Other Side Of Nashville, as they call it. This ain't no Randy Travis we've got coming up.

John Bunzow: drawn to rock like a leaf in a whirlpool.

First is John Bunzow; earnest and heartfelt in delivery and drawn to rock like a leaf in a whirlpool.

Bunzow leads a four-person crew through a driving set of original, tight, head-bobbing rockers. For every series of verses about a man in anguish sung in high, dusty bronze voice, there comes an extended, out-on-a-tightrope, rock-star guitar solo – all duly smoking and notable for childlike enthusiasm.

Before finishing up, Bunzow goes deeper into eclectic wonderland, bringing out some reggae-influenced country rock with extensive soloing.

Ah, the wonders of live music.

Lonesome Bob on Dante's stage is a huge, solid, round, sweaty force from Nashville by way of New Jersey. In tight black T-shirt, baseball cap and jeans, he looks more like the friendly neighborhood mechanic than the angry wordsmith on his recordings.

Lonesome Bob: bitter wisdom and stentorian vocals.

Even his stage patter is a bit corny, with repetitive focus on the fact that we're all irredeemable sinners. Is this Bob's preoccupation, or just the vibe of the bar?

Certainly his songs' inhabitants dwell in some purgatory, often angrily thrashing about, barely able to restrain themselves from acting on their darker thoughts. Others, with bitter wisdom, accept the duplicities of their lives, resigning to their fates with grisly foreknowledge.

During these songs, Bob rocks; his stentorian bass vocals roar through the melodies while he thrashes acoustic guitar.

Bob's more sensitive side shows on a song from his newest album, Things Change.

"Heather's All Bummed Out" tells the gently joking story of a disconnected, disaffected 30-ish woman who finds something missing in her life but can't seem to deal with it.

Bob's sensitive side: sad and happy at the same time.

Insightful and intelligent lyrics accompany the sing-along chorus and friendly groove. Kind of makes you sad and happy at the same time.

One thing that makes me very happy is Bob's band, featuring Tim Carroll on lead guitar. Bob knows it's Bob's show, so it seems momentous, the times when Bob steps to the side a bit and looks at Carroll. Because Carroll then lets loose another deep-fried, terrifying solo.

He starts hopping up and down with uncontainable energy as his hands slide up and down the neck, ringing out intuitive twists of sound until Bob brings things back to the words again.

A goodly group of folks – but not nearly as many as Terry's retail values merit – enjoys a type of music that many never knew existed. Such as things are, though, the two sets end early ... at least for Dante's.

They yet may bring out a DJ to keep things rocking till hell won't have it, but I've just been to country-rock heaven, so it's all cool.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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