Radio Birdman Proves Rock and Roll Soldiers Never Die!
Few people remember the New Order, a band Ron Asheton formed with the MC5's Dennis Thompson after the dissolution of the Stooges and probably even less know their song "Rock and Roll Soldiers" where they claim to be "fighting the war against the jive", but it certainly struck a chord with me as more and more it seems to be a battle to keep a working band on the road and getting your music heard. The proliferation of media on the internet and the countless bands makes it hard to gain an audience and even harder to stick to your guns. Despite all this, Radio Birdman soldiers on, now 30 years on and sounding leaner and meaner, in the midst of only their 2nd US tour ever. Their devotion to Detroit style high energy rock and roll remains unshaken and their fire burns brighter than ever!
Last saturday in Baltimore I witnessed first hand the explosive full tilt boogie of a band that has lost none of their fire and breathes rock and roll with their every step. Rob Younger on vocals shows just why he has become a cornerstone of the Australian punk scene both as a mentor and performer. Small in stature only, more than anything his voice, still strong as ever, resonates as a major part of the bands sound, a howl from somewhere very dark and dank, a banshee's wail that cuts like a knife. It's the perfect foil for the slashing guitars of Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak. The Detroit native Tek burns our eyes and ears with his powerful sound as if he had motor oil running thru his veins, turning the band into a high octane machine smoking down the rock and roll highway.
Obviously, this type of undiluted scorch has little place today in the trendy pop music scene. Like soldiers, the band remains focused and just plows thru the muck of contemporary music. Far from being retro, fashion conscious, hipsters they remain true to their calling, a bastard child born of the MC5's "Black to Comm" and the Stooges "TV Eye", and I, for one, am grateful for their decades-spanning contribution. Revered in their Aussie homeland and relegated to medium sized clubs and cancelled dates in the US, its just another embarrasment for US music fans who continue to find their best artists welcomed with open arms overseas while ignored at home. (due to Mr. Tek, I claim partial ownership of Birdman for the US!)
The rock and roll pedigree of the band is of the highest order and their assault is a testament to the sound, fury and vision of a few iconoclasts who stood the music world on its ear with their testimony, chewing up their influences and spitting them in our face. Boy, did the near capacity crowd get spat upon in Baltimore as the band treated us to ultra savage covers of Blue Oyster Cult's "Hot Rails to Hell" (here we go with more smoke and fire metaphors!), the Who's "Circles", and a take-no-prisoners rip-roaring take on the Kinks "Till the End of the Day"! Smoking, indeed! Of course, I was disappointed that there was no "TV Eye" or "Looking at You", but you cant always get what you want. It was a life affirming show I am glad to testify and an inspiration to all who aspire to carry the rock and roll torch! Kudos are due as well for the opener, Awesome Color, a New York band whose debut is on Ecstatic Peace. Their heavy fuzzed out attack proved worthy of the opening slot as their set left me only wanting to hear more, so I bought their CD. It turns out their bassist is even a George Brigman fan and their guitarist laid down some truly Brigman-worthy heavy licks as well!
So it seems to be the thing to do would be to catch Birdman on the rest of the tour if you can and pick up their Zeno Beach CD as well. To make it easy, here are the rest of their dates. If you could put the essence of rock and roll in a bottle, it would be labeled "Radio Birdman"! Do you understand?
Thur 5th: Ottawa Bluesfest - Ottawa, Ontario
Fri 6th: Lee's Palace - Toronto, Ontario
Sat 7th: Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH
Sun 8th: Blind Pig - Ann Arbor, - MI
Mon 9th: Double Door - Chicago, IL
Wed 11th: High Noon Saloon - Madison, WI
Thurs 12th: Triple Rock Social Club - Minneapolis, MN
Friday 13th: The Recordbar - Kansas City, MO
Sat 14th: Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO