The Obscure @ Slow Bar, Saturday Night

Easily the best Obscure show I’ve seen — sound, performance and the rest. The Obscure now have two fine guitarists subbing for the departed Doug Tewksbury — Andy Wilhite of 27 B Stroke 6 and Jason Phelan of the What Four. For the first third of the set, Andy was the second guitar (along with singer/guitarist/interpretive dancer, Mike Gogola) and Jason shook maracas or tamborine and sang harmony. They had one or two three-guitar songs and then a couple where Mike put his axe down and just flopped all over the floor. After years of struggling to balance their garage rock sensibilities and the sloppiness that implies with good performances of their great songs, I think they’ve got it.

When they do make it work (which is more often than not these days), you can see how hard it is. The rhythms of their songs are shaky and frantic — much different from straight ahead punk beats. And their songs are generally a couple of minutes longer than punk songs. Keeping rhythm, melody and energy up for four or five minute songs is not always easy. At times, the Obscure just sound desperate not to let it all collapse in on them. And, when it doesn’t, the payoff is grand.

I think the crowd at the Slow Bar knew it. Here was a band that wasn’t acting. They really were that desperate. Nothing’s polished with them. When Mike flopped around on the floor, he meant it. …And that’s why I told him afterwards that if he had thrown up (as he feared he would), it would have been even more rock n roll.