TVD Live: Shit-Box Jimmy and The Very Knees at The Beachland Ballroom, 2/3

The Beachland Ballroom served as charming host to a couple of rollicking acts this past Friday night. I was mainly in the house to get a second look at Shit-Box Jimmy, who romanced me last week at Now That’s Class.

The thing about last week that was on my mind was that Shit-Box played in a cramped, intimate setting, and it worked really well. This time out they had the more airy environment the Ballroom offered, and while I prefer to see them in overcrowded dungeons personally, they still put on a great performance. The whole she-bang was for the benefit of the 3rd Annual Waterloo Alley Cat Project Fundraiser, with headliners The Very Knees. They’re another story entirely, and I’ll get to them in a moment.

First, Shit-Box Jimmy went on, in all their lowdown twangy-ness, and stomped their way through 11 songs. When I hear this band I feel like we’re getting the best version of what was going on in 1976. They came out firing with a garage pounder, and I can’t emphasize enough how much lowdown twang is in every song. It’s this kind of sound, complemented by romantic Enchantment-Under-The-Sea-Dance-melodies that make up the brunt of what they do. They can draw out a song this way and then give you an exploding chorus no problem.

Singer-Guitarist Joey Nix is the twang provider, attacking his guitar with string-breaking intensity. He’s a spastic, shaky leg syndrome patient, with a mean-mugging expression, and wild matted hair that’s getting all over the place. His vocal range rests in some kind of Jack White/Cobain territory. He wails, he moans, his face contorts and writhes painfully as he strains to reach the notes he wants to hit.

Meanwhile, the beanie sporting bassist, Aaron Beck, in contrast, is wearing this mirthful, beaming, ear-to-ear grin. He pounds out bass lines joyously, in a state of complete ecstasy, as if he’s in the thrall of some kind of opiate high. Then the drummer, Drew Siegel, is this plaid, bearded Kodiak trail guide, a log-beating paddywhacker even on some of their most down-tempo songs. He completes the menagerie of facial expressions by sporting this cocky-ass grin throughout the set.

They’re having so much fun up there. They continue their assault with Nix riding out some wild solos to good effect. They ramble out some higher intensity songs towards the early middle that skyrocket the energy level before delving into the back end with a saucy, swaggering number with a “Police Truck”-esque rhythm instigated by tweaking guitar spokes. Nix then announces, “I guess we’re going to sloooow it down for a little bit.” So we get some more romantic balladry with a thump, and that’s what ultimately closes down the set a few songs later.

While Shit-Box was very good, The Very Knees killed it. Flipping the stage, they set up on the floor and forced a turnaround of everyone. Strobe lights flashed, and weird patterns were projected on to the floor and walls. People got groovy for a little bit before this duo—David Petrovich on guitar, and Jonette Thomas on bass—began their set with a long, transcendental orchestration. Their songs are powered by Petrovich’s maniacal post-punk axemanship, with heavy, raunchy bass lines, as well as various beats and such when applicable. They seem to draw and incorporate from a variety of different influences, including but not limited to Funk, Punk, New Wave, Dance, and even Rap, but their songs are built off of strong, sexy Rock n Roll rhythms.

Petrovich’s guitar playing is menacing;  at times it’s grimy and noodly, as it gets kicked around through all the modulators and pedals he has littered across the floor. He played in a trance the whole time, unleashing a fury of catchy sonic substance. A scarecrow in red leather pants, he laid down casual, seductive vocals often in harmony with Thomas, who provided a little bit of a higher octave, and a steady supply of heavy rhythm. All the while, the third member of the group, a colorful hipster mannequin, an effigy for the drum machine perhaps, leered in the background. Strange samples hit the air such as the sound of an eerie Twilight Zone kind of announcer declaring “radios are playing their creepy sounds all over town” over and over. Thomas would sway back and forth while Petrovich would perform some kind of pirouette, then they would erupt into a relentless finger-picking crescendo.

To go with their originals, they played a bombastic cover of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” and ended with an epic mixing beats and guitar virtuosity. Just when I thought it was over, this sample of “Peace Frog” provided a beat, and they took to the floor with microphones and started freestyle rapping. It was an interesting afternote and allowed them to get crazy on the floor with their free reign. Petrovich knocked shit off of tables, threw his mic down, got in people’s faces, and squirmed on the floor in a manic huff, then calmed down, and just lay there motionless uttering lines. Then it was over, but maybe the party was just starting. On my way out the door Petrovich was still out there tearing up the dance floor, working out the spectacle he had created.

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