Sweep The Leg Johnny/The Casket Lottery/Proudentall at The Bottleneck, 04.27.2000
It is both disconcerting and enjoyable to enter The Bottleneck for an early/all-ages show. After spending countless nights in a smoky, dark club filled with jaded rockers, patrons can take advantage of the venue's skylights (sunlight can actually enter The Bottleneck?!?!?!) and gaze upon fresh-faced youngsters.
Proudentall offered the kids a mixed bag of tricks that included songs from its recently released CD, What's Happening Here, as well as a newer, unnamed tune that becomes more elegantly chaotic each time it's performed. Whereas Proudentall's past few performances seemed to lack both inspiration and a real knockout punch, tonight's concert saw the band injecting a sense of urgency into every note. Singer-guitarist Matt Dunehoo's voice was spectacularly clear, and the band played with a renewed sense of enthusiasm as a slowly building yet appreciative crowd witnessed its return to prime form.
Before ripping into its set, The Casket Lottery offered a disclaimer, revealing that its members were suffering to various degrees from fatigue. Due to a weekend tour with Sweep the Leg Johnny, the group's members racked up 30 hours on the road in a three-day trek that had them traveling from KC to St. Louis to Denver to Lawrence. However, once the group launched into "A Dead Dear" from its new release,Moving Mountain, a tune that ended with a wide-eyed Nathan Ellis screaming "Dead! Dead! Dead!," it quickly became apparent that any apology in advance for a lackluster performance was unnecessary. The Casket Lottery played several invigorating selections from Moving Mountains as well as some fresh creations, including the stop-and-start rocker, "A Priest Walks Into A Bar," which contains one of the most wonderfully silly yet sickeningly great guitar parts in recent memory, and the epic yet intimate "The Bridge."
Chicago's Sweep The Leg Johnny closed out this Midwest showcase in style by challenging the definition of rock music. This group adds a saxophone to the standard guitar, bass, and drums lineup while not surrendering to the party-rock cliches that plague most guitar-based bands that seek horn-section intervention. Turbulent, dark, and angular, Sweep The Leg Johnny's staccato-spazz attacks blend jagged indie rock, prog rock, and the spastic free jazz of, say, Ornette Coleman. Frontman Steve Sostak surveyed the crowd like a beast of prey, staring directly into the eyes of the fans in the front row while puffing his cheeks out and wildly blaring his saxophone over a backdrop provided by one of the most solid rhythm sections to ever grace The Bottleneck's stage, drummer Scott Anna and bassist John Brady. Guitarist Chris Daly's guitar parts sometimes became camouflaged into the chaos, occasionally provided accents, and sporadically dueled with the saxophone for prominence.
The band's members maintained dour expressions, which they turned on one another instead of peering out into the audience, but somehow Sweep The Leg Johnny managed to get the crowd involved. Sweep plays a brand of rock that is so amazingly smart that it makes the herky-jerky nature of its transitions seem smooth. The band ran through a set of songs that focused on its terrifyingly amazing recent release, Sto Cazzo!, although it did perform a handful of numbers from its previous album, Tomorrow We Will Run Faster.
Powerful, brutal, and noisy yet amazingly delicate, Sweep The Leg Johnny is a don't-miss live act, offering an uplifting, intense show that relies less on showmanship and more on the classification-defying sounds coming through the speakers. Blending chaos and melody into a high-protein shake that leaves an aftertaste to savor has never been an easy task, but Sweep The Leg Johnny has learned over four years of touring that it's worth a little extra work to concoct a great-tasting combination of remarkably odd flavors.