77s Concert Review

Austin, TX (5/94)

This is an unabashed 77s rave. I love these guys, and they continue to amaze me. They're just this band, you know? And they just happen to be the best, you know? Why haven't they ever made it big? Beats me - but it's been one of my gripes with the industry for a long time that they never really promote them. (That seems to be changing with their latest release - about stinking time!!!)

If you don't like long reviews, just know that you are insane if you pass up a chance to see these guys, and jump to the playlist farther down.

I was really psyched to hear the 77s were finally coming to Austin - the drive to Dallas (4 hours) gets old quickly. Kudos to Charles Gates (of Heaven's Metal fame) for bringing such awesome talent to Austin!

They didn't let me down. This was their 16th concert in 18 nights (the Buzz Stop tour is 6 nights on, 1 off), but Mike's voice was the only major casualty, and he generally pulled it off, anyway.

The 77s are rock and roll. They've always been leading edge, from their early, new wave days through alternative, through this alternative retro recording, and they've always been awesome! Every one of them is an awesome musician, but together they are an even more awesome band.

They sauntered onto the stage, Mike without "the ugliest hat in rock and roll" (as Tom Moellering described it last year), but with a very 60s, psychedelic shirt someone in Iron Butterfly might have worn. Mark Harmon was Cousin It on bass; I must confess I lust after his hair.

Aaron Smith had some way qool, loud, orange, purple & yellow pants with matching hat, and David Leonhardt was just his usual California-looking self. The set started out with a haunting, melodic instrumental from their latest album, Drowning With Land In Sight, Mezzo. It was an uncanny feeling - my daughter gave me a funny look and asked, "Is this the 77s?" Then they kicked into Woody, and she screamed, "this is the 77s!"

Alas, the next song I missed because I was out in the lobby buying the CDs they had just announced were only available on the tour, and my backup note taker isn't sure if it was Sounds of Autumn or Snowblind. Neither one sounds quite familiar now.

They followed that with a slightly more intense version of Look, and a very extended version of Nuts for You (Jonathan! Your favorite!) that thoroughly outdoes the album version (setting the tone for the rest of the concert).

The only major oops was in Kites Without String. Mike's voice was already shot from the previous rockers, and it took him a while before he could hit even close to some of the notes, but he eventually settled in close to the groove. They digressed at this point, turning KWS into an Iron Butterflyish, raw, jungle beat sort of song, with a classic pop guitar & bass sound, which worked with Mike's voice at this point, neatly turning a liability into a whole new groovin' sound! This first serious jam begat many more.

The 77s-doing-everybody-else-doing-the-77s continued with a l o o n g version of Don't, This Way, in a kind of early Echo & the Bunnymen feel. The Jig is Up was done next in a sort of ELP without keyboards style (don't ask me!)

Mike isn't a ripoff artist. He gives credit where credit is due (read the True Tunes interview where they discuss Zep), and he seems to have a blast making fun of all the stock rock & roll shtick. He can grimace musically with the best of them! Quite often through a set, he poses and postures, as he gives a song a certain vocal sound you immediately recognize, then breaks into a self-deprecating grin and goes on to blow away whoever he's imitating.

Indian Winter was one of the best songs of the night (a hard pick). They started out with a loose Indian percussion thang like on the album, then Mike cracked me up with an off the wall cover of the opening verse of Running Bear and Little White Dove. (Most of the crowd missed it, but hey - I grew up in El Paso.) Towards the end, they went into Jam Mode. First, a sort of Yes thing, then an extended Allman Brothers-style jam that had me pegged back in my seat - how do they keep topping themselves?

Cold, Cold Night sounded three times more Stonesy live than on CD. For a while, Mike was rocking back and forth slowly, to that laid back beat, cranking out billion note per second droning guitar, which mutated into stuff so tasty I could hardly stand it.

Dave Leonhardt's Thank You was another milestone. Think of Cream with two Claptons on guitar, and a hoarse, rabid banshee on vocals. By now even the mosh pit has calmed down - lots of folk are still rocking, but lots of them are just standing there with their mouths open, too.

In typical 77s style, they topped even that by out-Zepping Zepplin, with a stop-n-go version of "a little gospel song", Nobody's Fault But Mine, which began with a great guitar duet, and wandered all over the place in ways Page and Plant could only dream about. These guys shredded the 60s, threw the pieces to the wind, and rocked the house down!

They only did one encore, but it counted for two. Pray Naked, at last! Looong and hairy, like it should be, and eventually it mutated into "what you've been asking for all night - the A Train!" The Classic Aaron Smith drum solo. The rest of the band took a powder, and just watching Mark out in the audience, lost in rapture watching Aaron, was a treat.

Dave, Mike & Mark ran back up and delved into Mercy, Mercy in cut time. Is it legal to play the blues this fast? They ranged through a medley of other pedal-to-the-metal blues numbers, which Mike broke up with the essential Elvis imitation, before settling down to finish off PN in style.

Somewhere in there, I know that they did Snake. But I didn't take any notes about it - I think I was just enjoying it too much.

Mike broke more strings than I have seen anyone break in a long time, and never missed a note. I talk about Mike a lot - he's the front man, the basis of the 77s. But they were all incredible.

                         THE 77s SET
                        Song             Album
               Mezzo                     DWLIS
               Woody                     PN
               ack! thbbt!               DWLIS
               Look                      PN
               Nuts For You              PN
               Kites Without String      PN
               Don't, This Way           S&S
               The Jig Is Up             DWLIS
               Indian Winter             DWLIS
               Cold, Cold Night          DWLIS
               Thank You                 ???
               Nobody's Fault But Mine   DWLIS
               Pray Naked/Blues Medley   PN/AFD/88
               AFD = All Fall Down
               DWLIS  = Drowining With Land In Sight
               PN = Pray Naked
               S&S = Sticks and Stones
               88 = 88

Last updated: 1 Jul 1995

Copyright 1994, 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514