Foxy Shazam and Free Energy Headline SPIN Tour

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Foxy Shazam / Photo by Richmond Lam
WRITTEN BY
Mark Lepage

"Show me your ass, baby! Show me your ass!" Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam was yowling in Montreal's tiny bar Jukebox, and despite the crowd pressed up against the foot-high stage, he was calling out a bandmember -- probably bassist Daisy, with the two-tone frightwig -- while Alex Nauth blew strip-bar trumpet over Sky White's Queenly keyboards in "The Only Way to My Heart (Is With An Axe)."

And that was for openers. On a vile Nor'easter Friday night, two bands were here to jam themselves into the streetfront window of a second-floor venue so tiny the stage-left members were obscured by the p.a. But you could see the '70s just fine from there.

And both bands, co-headlining their recently launched tour sponsored by SPIN, wore that decade like Ric Ocasek's Moodring. First up, Philly's Free Energy, some of whom once played in a band called Hockey Night. All we needed was a Flyers-Habs brawl to set the vintage vibe: instead, twin cherryburst Les Pauls and fistfuls of power-pop songs whose candy-apple hooks crunched by before you'd recognized the Ridgemont High melancholy at their core.

"I get that it's rainin' out," singer Paul Sprangers told the smallish crowd in his sweet-stoned way, "but I gotta be free..."

Scott Wells spooled out the hammer-ons while Geoff Bucknam cranked the three chords of "Free Energy" (the song), and... was that cowbell? Orphans began trickling in from the storm. The band was into escape-from-ennui anthem "Dream City," "Bang Pop," and the funky white boogie of "Something in Common."

Sprangers was exulting "I had a muthafuckin' smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's!" -- a can't-lose local reference -- and as Wells tossed and pretty much caught his axe in the cramped space, the whole was effortlessly, Americanly appealing.

"There was a point there in rock'n'roll when staring at your shoes was necessary, I guess," Bucknam said after the set. "We take energetic performance as the starting point."

Next came Foxy Shazam, a band that took Meat Loaf's bombast not as excess but as baseline. The feather boa to Free Energy's Chucks, Foxy Shazam pumped the louche glam into van-mural soul, with Nally in jet-black Prince Valiant and Freddie moustache (available for sale at the merch table as "The Eric", no joke) preaching the gospel.

"What a goofy little venue. I love it!" Nally gushed in his helium speaking voice. But singing... As his Cincy freaks rolled out the Bruce-in-a-whorehouse testifying of Oh Lord, Nally soared into the chorus, his pennyloafers in the air while he belted it from a headstand.

Nor was that his only Ritalin moment.

He danced with a potted plant, then drank out of someone's shoe during "Connect Me." He demanded cigarettes from the crowd, lit four at once -- and ate them.

"Do you like... Janis?" he asked the crowd. Cheers. "Do you like the Doors? Simon & Garfunkel?" More cheers. "Well that shit sucks, here's a Misfit song for ya!" They tore the cover off "Hybrid Moments," while Nally worked his Prince mic-stand moves.

A closing a capella version of "Evil Thoughts" sent the crowd buzzing back into the rain with their asses spanked, feeling a crazy little thing called love.

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