Chicago's Duenow Outshines Kennedy in Hollywood Show
Brian Dowell
12/12/2004 3:13:37 PM

Kennedy/Duenow?Mike Galaxy's Christmas Party?Lava Lounge; Hollywood, CA?December 9, 2004

?The Lava Lounge is one of the few modern businesses that is exactly what its name suggests....a fake, seedy Polynesian bar, complete with thatched bamboo covering on the walls and silly Disneyland Tikki god furnishings. There's no stage here; bands play in one of the club's dark corners at floor level, making them very difficult to see. This place is what the basement probably looks like at Jimmy Buffett's house. Perched in a dirty strip mall on the western edge of Hollywood, less than a mile from the Chinese Theatre and a block from Sunset Boulevard, the very small Lava Lounge was the location for local music promoter Mike Galaxy's Christmas party. Galaxy, a skilled old school, slap happy hustler, who specializes in getting music fans and journalists to go see shows that they wouldn't ordinarily go see, looks like what would happen if they let Hobbits join the Ramones. Clad in a leather jacket, glasses, long hair and a wispy beard, Galaxy skillfully worked the room, raising the comfort level of all invited guests and making sure people were well supplied with alcoholic refreshment.??This kind of Hollywood party wasn't quite trendy enough to attract any real celebrities, so the partygoers were all borderline hipsters, a collection of southern California's "slightly pretty people." Still, there were a good number of them and they appeared to be in good spirits as they listened to the evening's entertainment; Chicago's DUENOW, and young Los Angeles trio, KENNEDY.??"We came to your city to assassinate Nick and Jessica." It was a compelling opening remark, and the fun of listening to Duenow didn't stop there. Consisting of a married couple, lovely blond Dorothea on drums and backing vocals and tall, skinny muscle-shirt sporting Zack, on guitar/harmonica/and vocals, they immediately brought to mind the White Stripes. They have the same heavy blues influences, the same "I can't believe there's only one guitar onstage" effects, and, in some songs, similar "Black Francis with a fake southern accent" vocals. Another comparison that could be drawn, by unimaginative rock critics, is to the new favorite band of mentally unstable girls everywhere, Dresden Dolls. Even though Duenow's music, influences and the instrumentation is completely different, this duo does offer the same weird sexual chemistry and honest, witty lyrics.

However, deeper listening to Duenow's music suggests that this is no rip-off. The Chicago outfit adds some spicier ingredients into the heady mix, including heavy doses of country and rap. In addition to being an interesting singer and generally witty songwriter, Zack is quite a skilled fast rapper, using it to great effect in a couple of their songs, including their ode to alcoholic trailer park mothers, "Six Pack." Duenow's songs were both catchy and funny and pretty disturbing. They even did a song about a father having phone sex with his runaway daughter, and it only came off as slightly crass and misguided....that requires some skill.

Whatever the elusive "it" is in current popular music, that magical ingredient that distinguishes mediocre bands from bands with the potential to be great, Duenow's got "it". Both band members are attractive and talented. Respect must be paid to a guy who has the balls to throw in a harmonica fueled cover Eminem's most well known hit, "Without Me", and not only pulled it off, but offered a very interesting and sincere interpretation! His better half, Dorothea has supposedly only been playing drums for a year, but you'd never know that she was a novice; she pulled it off with great aplomb. Overall, even though my tastes are old, crusty, and resistant to most of what passes for new rock music, Duenow reached in and touched my inner redneck. I think they'd have that effect on most adventurous audiences who had both an appreciation of absurdity and enough self-honesty to admit that they were still white trash at heart. ??Duenow was certainly a hard act to follow, and the evening's headliners, Kennedy, wasn't to be up to the task. The spacey trio, and self described "greatest band in the known universe", Kennedy featured a strutting, preening lead singer who was dressed in jeans, a tuxedo shirt and Elton John glasses. His manner suggested that he thinks he is much sexier and more talented than he actually is. He introduced all of his songs with witty remarks like "This song is about my cock," and "Here‚s a song about fucking Jewish chicks." Lyrically, all of Kennedy's songs seemed to be written by bored, sex obsessed ten year olds. I'm no prude; in fact, you'll probably find no greater appreciator of crude humor and basic human degradation. However, even I got tired of Kennedy's brand of witless nymphomania after a few songs. Most of the music they played sounded a little bit like old Flaming Lips records, although Kennedy is nowhere near as talented or ambitious, and unlike the Lips, Kennedy's inherent weirdness seemed contrived and doesn't really seem to lead anywhere. The band does deserve extra points for energy and commitment; the singer took his shirt off, and waved it around, and danced around the audience, but that seemed to be a spectacle that no one wanted to witness. When the band started to play dance songs, using prerecorded keyboard tracks, most of the audience and I were turned off by the ghastly spectacle. If a band wants to use crude humor and shock value, it helps to do so with the proper wit and context. Maybe Kennedy could stand to learn how to do so from their opening band. I found myself wishing that I could see more of Duenow and less of these three Kennedy guys. Hopefully, for his future bookings, music honcho Mike Galaxy will feel the same way. ??I'm not usually much for letting bands whore themselves at the end of my reviews, but I thought Duenow was really worth checking out, more so than any band from the Midwest I've seen in quite a while. For more info on Duenow, check out their website, ? 


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