The Von Bondies at the Magic Stick
Detroit, March 9, 2004
On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of marker-scarred scream queens clogged a suburban Detroit mall to see their girl Avril Lavigne put forth a set of acoustic Matrix claptrap. These weeping tweeners were the everGirl younger sisters of the sketchy Jake Busey chachis found cramming the Von Bondies gig at the Magic Stick later that evening. With the white Sassoons and the looks to kill, both groups flock to the hive that’s selling. It’s no secret, but their in-droves presence at both events proves it. Canadian strumpets and sleazily cool baroque modern rock – Americans’ll buy anything if a talking dog with a wad of cash in his mouth tells them to do it. Well, c’mon c’mon then, ’cause the Von Bondies show is about to start.
A blacked-out Z28 lurked before the Magic Stick. Garage-kept and glimmering, its chunky fender lines and rhombus light wells shone like Reagan-era bling. The car was so awkward, and yet so haughtily cool – just like Carrie Smith. Later on, when she stepped to the mic to sing “Not That Social” midway through the Von Bondies’ blistering set, the slender bassist threw off a light grin at the raucous response. “Oh, this old thing?” she seemed to wink, before making the monitors thump and the clueless converted. They’d come there, the chest wax’d and Mudd jeans’d, because rock and roll radio had told them to. “C’mon C’mon C’mon C’mon,” the girl harmonies had seesaw hummed as the husky man’s voice bent in an addictive crying swoon, and even their younger sisters had looked up from their Teen People to take notice of the riff. Here they were, already sated with “Going Down”‘s gritty-ass throb, already realizing this sweaty show wasn’t the pathetic plastic bullshit of a Trapt or Seether. Here they were, getting a collective hard-on for the awkward and wary sex appeal of a girl and a bass and a smoke-tinted come on. “I’m not that social,” she breathed. “I’m just a good drinker.”
The sold-out crowd ate that shit up, as they did the entirety of the Von Bondies’ brief but stingingly effective set Tuesday night. The band had made its share of enemies in town, and had even played a couple of halfhearted gigs to a lot of folded arms on the very same stage just a few months before. But here they were in a good mood and looking slick, jamming a preamble to their inevitable summer tour for a largely happy-for-them hometown crowd made even larger by the influx of suburban blank slates who’d heard their single on the FM radio. Goddamn if it wasn’t some folksy corporate synergy for the cadre of corporate mooks sticking out in the Stick’s downstairs bar. Those all-access lanyard geeks knew about Warner’s clever relaunch of its Sire Records imprint, the one where the label mines the glories of its punk and new wave past, now that all those cool New York bands they signed back then have become talking points once again for clued-in revisionists and fashionistas. Those dudes probably couldn’t be happier to see the crowd’s rough makeup to be half dunce, half hip. The enthusiasm showed the wisdom of Sire’s positioning of the Von Bondies as the new Talking Heads, with all of the underground cache and triangle peg accessibility that branding strategy (’cause that’s what is) entails. Their eyes said all of this from under Jetta haircuts; we didn’t consult them personally, but my pal Klein did buy them shots.
On stage, the Von Bondies were launching mirthfully between a lack of communication and a pawn shoppe heart. They made the girls want to be with the girls; the boys just looked at Marcie and said “Thank you for sending me an angel.” Don Blum crashed away on his economical drum kit, perpetually underrated, preposterously manic. In the center was the gawky, recovered Jason Stollsteimer. He sliced at his electric guitar and fully unleashed that husky wail, the one that comes from a place where he used to be shy. C’mon c’mon, he’s saying. Come on, and I’ll make all of you believe.