"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.