Close Your Mouth, Hit That Riff

March 20
by Keith Lyle

HOBOKEN, N.J. - Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. A corny sci-fi movie made in 1956? Some new, sugary breakfast cereal based on a Saturday morning cartoon? Nope. Actually, they're an off-beat instrumental rock trio from Canada.

So you're one of those purists who maintains that rock 'n' roll ain't nuthin' without a singer, a frontman, a lyricist, a poet … a guiding muse to dictate the character of the band. Who needs words when you've got music? Take down your David Lee Roth poster. your Morrison poster, your black-light enhanced Jimmy Page poster and pay homage to what rock is really about - guitars and drums, man.

Shadowy Men return listeners to a past era when guitars said more to young rock fans than singers. Guitarist Brian Connelly unassumingly conjures loads of drama from his sleek hollow-body guitarist. The focus is on rockabilly and blues delivered with the occasional country twang.

The majority of the set was based on numbers from the band's latest, Dim The Lights, Chill The Ham. Despite the record's cult popularity, it's the "Kids In The Hall" theme, "Having An Average Weekend," that still gets the greatest response. The band dove in freestyle and the crowd grooved right along.

The Shadowy Men seems to really appreciate the large, enthusiastic audience. Judging by some of the stoies bassist Reid Diamond was telling, the Toronto trio have seen their share of half-filled halls and confused faces during their U.S. jaunt.

New York's Vacant Lot did much to set the steady dance vibe that soaked the charged Friday night crowd. The band didn't stray far from the Buzzcocks, Ramones, Romantics realm so, yeah, they knew how to loosed up some knees.. Vacant Lot don't employ their bouncy, driving guitars and unpolished vocals in the pursuit of much more than a good time. Loud, sweaty and simplistically celebratory, Vacant Lot throw a good party. These guys clearly stand by the credo that when you find something good, you stick with it. If you too can agree with those terms (meaning you don't mind that most of their songs sound the same) you might check them out some weekend.

Love Battery (yes, they really went on first) modestly churned out a big, psychedelic guitar grind. The Seattle foursome were vibrant and strong but never severe. Musically, it was a solid set but otherwise the group appeared a bit languid. Perhaps they loaded up on too much of that Maxwell's grub before going on.