Kiddie in the Middle
Last Wednesday’s triple bill at Jones Beach was rife with potential significance: With Aerosmith and Kid Rock co-headlining and Run-D.M.C. giving support (which may have meant carrying guitar cases, given what little they actually did), it was ostensibly a meeting of pioneers in the fields of rap, rock, and rap-rock. But tell that to the mechanics and firemen who filled the crowd, less than half of which had arrived before D.M.C. closed their set with “King of Rock,” as important an early blueprint for rap-rock as Licensed to Ill. The 1985 near-hit may also have been an early influence on Kid Rock, whose D.M.C.-indebted rhymes have been set over less hip-hop and more Southern rock in recent years (he says so hisself on his new single), so much so that the uninitiated might have guessed that he raps only because he can’t sing.
Amid pyrotechnic flashes and bikini-clad dancers, Kid fucked around on several instruments and segued in and out of his handful of hits, using a flurry of classic rock teases as connectors. By the time he broke into a perfunctory “Detroit medley”—Seger, Nugent, Supremes, and Eminem—the gimmick had grown slightly stale, and you wished he’d give his Skynyrd-schooled band the chance to really go off.
When Aerosmith finally emerged, they appeared to have taken MTV’s central lesson to heart: Looks count as much as bigass choruses. Both Steven Tyler, thinner than Liv in checkered pants and a tank top, and Joe Perry, who elicited oohs from the women in the crowd when he removed his shirt, have done well on the watermelon diet. The enthusiastic crowd seemed to have been weaned more on Rocks than recent MTV staples like “Cryin’ ” or “Jaded,” and the few youngsters in attendance had to put up with several boring, harmonica-laden blues romps, most of which lasted longer than D.M.C.’s entire set. The final encore brought the inevitable three-way jam on “Walk This Way,” a novelty remake which in fact presaged absolutely nada about the rap-metal boom of the late ’90s, just as Wednesday night had zero to say about said boom’s future. As Joe Perry laid into the song’s signature riff, the rock star, rap-rocker, and rappers danced in a line, fireworks flashed, and confetti shot from the stage. Only the driving rain kept the fans from hoisting their lighters in rockist approval. —Christian Hoard
Messin’ Round With That Other Guy
Guitarist-songwriter Jason Loewenstein spent the ’90s living in the shadow of Lou Barlow, back when Lou Barlow actually cast a shadow large enough to live in. Known to legions of pallid fanboys as “that other guy in Sebadoh—no, not Eric Gaffney, the other one,” Loewenstein’s often unassuming Sebadoh material existed somewhere between Barlow’s solipsistic ruminations and Gaffney’s god-awful sludgefeasts. On his recent solo debut, the wired and witty At Sixes and Sevens, Loewenstein sounds more self-assured and supercharged than anyone would’ve guessed. Onstage at the Knitting Factory August 24, he was even more so. Gleefully attacking his overdriven guitar, he barked out lyrical non-sequiturs and private half-truths like a guy emerging from his basement to publicly smash his four-track.
Part of Loewenstein’s live intensity was no doubt due to the presence of his new bandmates, bassist Kevin Mazzerelli and drummer Bob D’Amico (Loewenstein plays everything on the album himself), but geography surely had something to do with it as well. This was a local coming-out party. After years of living in Louisville, the triple-A town in Chicago’s indie-rock farm system, where local comers dream of playing vibes in the big leagues, Loewenstein broke ranks and recently moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn. There’s certainly some New York rocker in his sound, along with the old “Beantown bruiser” bash that recalls Sebadoh’s Boston heyday.
New York, we are told, is in the throes of a “rock renaissance.” Fair enough, but will Loewenstein be welcomed into the court? Roughly, it breaks down like this: The Strokes are ’77, the Rapture and Radio 4 are ’79 to ’81, the Liars and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are ’81 to ’83. Then there’s Loewenstein, whose band could be your (my) life.
At the Knit, on songs like the self-explanatory “Crazy Santana,” Loewenstein the shit-hot guitarist re-created the golden age of Mascis, when a generation of ax-grinding Baby Busters dreamt of Kraft mac-and-cheese. On backbeat-heavy numbers like “Funerals,” he was a declamatory disciple of the Volcano Suns. But the highlight was the knowingly titled “Angle,” a two-minute journey from punk (specifically, the Pretenders’ “The Wait”) to the jagged Slint-y sound of his old Kentucky home. To wit, Loewenstein and Co. encored with the Damned’s “New Rose.” Heads were duly smashed on the punk rock. —Greg Milner