eye (2006-23)

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Casey Jones Has Left the Building

I, Audience: Hobo

Local Album Review

Casey Jones Has Left the Building

So the news that he’s leaving, moving to Copenhagen to live with his wife, a Danish reporter, came as something of a shock. It was as though an architectural moving company had pulled up to the Sunsphere and begun digging it up from its roots, carefully enveloping its golden orb with bubble wrap for safe travel. We stood in disbelief, unblinking in our sorrow and our pride. That’s our monument, we thought silently. That’s our ambassador to the world.

There’s not space enough in this column to list all of Jones’ contributions to Knoxville’s creative community, but trust us, we’re counting them in our hearts. And by god, we’ll be at his farewell show, this Saturday, June 10, at the Urban Bar, to deluge him with our thank yous. The show is free and will begin at 10 p.m. Bring plenty of beer money and your last requests.

I, Audience: Hobo

The Yard Dogs Road Show is a troupe of more than a dozen musicians, Buffalo gals, carnies, flappers, gandydancers and dervishes with a ringmaster and a freak or two thrown into the mix, all running through a seamless two-hour show. One in which bellydancing segued into a quiet torch song followed by a hammy medicine show routine. A little Fellini rock and Lynch roll, with everyone playing multiple roles (including roadie duties, cleverly getting props and equipment off stage by working it into the act). Terrific as the band was—electric guitars, banjos, drums, horns and accordion plus junkyard percussion and assorted noisemaking doo-dads—and even with all the bombastic showstopping numbers, the most perfectly executed piece of musical theater was when one of the harem dancers casually produced a cigarette and lit it from the flames coming from the fire-swallower’s mouth, becoming for just a split second a tired old barfly in spite of her spectacular “Oriental” outfit. There were other jaw-dropping combinations during the evening’s mélange of music, costuming and stagecraft as the cast took turns at center stage; a favorite example being when one of the guitarists, over-emoting like a rookie Vincent Price at his first audition, took a turn as emcee only to be overcome by an absurdly prolonged case of stage fright. 

At the end, the escalating tongue-in-cheek naughtiness by the versatile trio of female fan dancers made one wonder: When was the last time women performed in pasties at the venerable old theater? By the ghost of Ziegfeld ! Heavens to Betsy! Someone call the Mothers Agin Bared Breasts!

Local Album Review

Recorded in 2005 at Independent Recorders under the supervision of local legend/madman/misanthrope/musical genius Carl Snow , Speed Shifter ranks among Knoxville’s greatest punk recordings. What we have here is a fully-formed band that has long since mastered their formula. Like AC/DC or the Ramones , Speed Shifter sticks to the basic blueprint with little variation. Hey, if it ain’t broke….

Drawing influences from classic butt rock (see Thin Lizzy , Deep Purple , Motorhead ) and early punk sounds, Speed Shifter cranks out 10 testosterone-laden paeans to the wild life in a brief, but chock full o’ jams 28 minutes. As with all of the best punk albums, Speed Shifter ’s brevity works in its favor. The LP blasts off like a string of M-80s with linked fuses, leaving listeners with ringing ears, wondering what hit ‘em.

The band’s only flaw is a tendency to lean perhaps too heavily on the Misfits influence in songs like “Freedom Fries.” That said, there are certainly worse bands to mimic. And vocalist Pirkle has the kind of strong baritone voice that is required to pull off such material with aplomb. He’s at his best, however, when he lets the southern twang creep in on “Ride” and “Goosebumps.”

Speed Shifter’s ace of spades is guitarist Swift, that tall, Nordic guy at the bar who never talks because he’s too busy smoking cigarettes. An alumnus of several semi-popular Knoxville punk acts, Swift has finally found the perfect band in the form of Speed Shifter. The group’s mid-tempo riffage is ideally suited to showcase Greg’s charging lead guitar sound, which features enough divebombs and pickslides to make your head spin. Stylistically similar to Ritchie Blackmore and Scott Gorham , Mr. Swift is morphing into Knoxville’s blue-collar Keith Richards . This guy can easily drink and smoke a mere mortal into their grave on an off night.

Speed Shifter is available for your listening pleasure at better local record stores. Or you can pick one up at their upcoming date at the Corner Lounge with Serene Scream and The Other Half . Find the band on that newfangled interweb at www.dirtyuglymusic.com or at myspace.com/speedshifterrockband .

© 2006 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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