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show review: A Night At The Casbah! THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT & IN THE RED

The Raw Fun of It

[In The Red as well as the other bands who played that night also have reviews forthcoming. Stayed tuned… ~Ed.]

Review By Sean Ross

The Casbah, known for its seven-night lineup, pool table benches, and low flying jets, will always remind you that small venues are the best places for viewing shows. Where else can viewers enjoy velociraptic performers stomping and raging with neuroses for art’s sake?— and not have a mosh pit! (Indeed, punks may be turning poets.)

Nevertheless, to see THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT at the Casbah is to feel the force of a well-defined band whose power chords and stentorian bass lines thrum alongside sparse, artistic drums, while up front, the mimetic and nimble Ben Johnson (who, at times, resembles Dio with arthritic hands clenching a little ball of air like it’s a fistful of truth) towers with operatic professions, then lurches with osteoporotic decrepitude, as he travels from light to dark, loud to insidious. Johnson, charismatic, leads his eager congregation with wicked smiles, taurine lyricism, and furrowed brows that would give Mr. Heat Meister a run for the money. And to observe the aging, crowd-surfing, cord-wound guru writhing above the heads of his throng whilst he belts altruistic appeal, you cannot help but admire his enthusiasm—and they gently return him to stage! Oh, loyal servants! Fan’s indeed! And rarely do punk singers compose multiple voicings, complete with diametric interludes that could disarm any four-part harmony, and get away with it, but Johnson slides from guttural droning plaints to top-throated distortions with such ease that one must pause to consider whether this Pied Piper isn’t just flouting his thrill so much as personifying his well attuned multiple personalities.

At a time when so much music is inundated with pastiche and borrowings it’s nice to return to the raw fun of it, and THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT is nothing less. But although these seasoned timekeepers style their mayhem with deep sonorous leads, strong downbeats, and quick shifts to double-time (nothing too complex), some of the progressions didn’t blend well, and the songs that could have led this listener far out of Hamelin, instead, sent me forth wondering where in the hell we are going?

~RS

[Photo from Ben Johnson’s Facebook page…]

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