Fear the Sadies. Anyone who attended Schubas on Saturday night was assaulted in a most malicious, unrelenting way. I've noticed sometimes that Schubas is advertised (somewhat jokingly?) as having “hardcore honky tonk nightly.” On most nights I would be prone to question this statement, especially considering just a few hours earlier on Saturday night David Bazan of Pedro the Lion took the stage (no disrespect, though), but with the Sadies on the bill there could be no dispute.
The evening began tame enough with a movie entitled Tales of the Rat Fink. The film, a documentary about the life of hot rod & custom car designer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, leans towards the psychedelic and surreal. It is largely a montage of photos mixed with some animation. John Goodman narrates, as the voice of Big Daddy himself, and The Sadies provided the soundtrack. I have to admit, I did not watch the move in its entirety; but if anything, the film may help some understand that the name Von Dutch is much more than just fashion fodder for obnoxious celebrities.
First on the bill was Heavy Trash, which consisted of Matt Verta-Ray, Jon Spencer (yes, the Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame) and the Sadies serving as a back-up band. They formed a cohesive unit, as does any Sadies backed band/collaboration, and ripped through every track on the Heavy Trash self-titled album with style. Jon Spencer is a very engaging performer who has the presence of a televangelist combined with the moves of a 70’s-era Elvis (sans the bloated, on-too-many-meds look). I seriously mean that as a compliment …after a slew of indie rock shows lately, he may be the most electrifying front man I have seen in months. The performance could have easily been a headlining set on most nights in most venues. This set flowed seamlessly into the Sadies later set, really making this seem more of a two set show than two different bands.
After a break, The Sadies were back on stage. Much is made about The Sadies in their varying backing roles, most notably for Neko Case on the extraordinary live album The Tigers Have Spoken. The fact is the Sadies are exceptional in any package, including when they take the stage on their own. While the Sadies may not be the most mobile performers, it quickly becomes apparent that this music can stand on its own. The music does not warrant any dog and pony show, as gimmicks are simply not needed here. They blazed through tracks spanning their entire catalog, with no shortage of their trademark barn burnin’, surf style, western-inspired instrumentals.
As to be expected from a Sadies show, they were joined throughout the night by a plethora of guests, including Jon Langford and Sally Timms. The ease they display in morphing into the ideal backing band for whoever steps on stage is something to behold. The evening closed, as it started, with Jon Spencer fronting the band for the last few numbers. The evening was at its most electric with this combination, peaking as Jon Spencer jumped into the crowd to finish the set.
As the night came to a close I was left to consider two questions: Are the Sadies the best live act going? And how is this Canadian band able to play Americana, better than most American bands?
-Words and photos by Rory O'Connor...click here for the complete photoset
For the suburban faithful out there, The Sadies are playing again tonight at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn.