My first steps into the Cavern were met with a Dallas-loving sound check. The Happy Bullets practiced riffs from local pop-rock faves like The Deathray Davies and The Tah Dahs before opening, as if to claim music residency in the city. I wasn't ready to buy that, because at previous HB concerts, all I'd heard was forgettable smile-pop that reminded me of a tamer Pennywhistle Park. Friday at the Cavern was different. I felt like I was peeking into a giddy garage rehearsal as the band members, all grins, blasted hit after hit while paying more attention to each other than the crowd. That doesn't mean the show was sloppy, as the bedroom jangle of Go-Metric USA and the spacey pop of ELO blended together in impressive fashion. And, as if to ease my worries that the performance was a one-time fluke, the band debuted songs like "Good Day," whose horn-fueled bravado proved that the HB may be next in line for local music stardom.
The same couldn't be said for Wurlitzer Prize, whose formulaic snoozer of a set was summarized by lead singer Del Perez: "I'm like Bob Pollard [of Guided By Voices], only without the scissor kicks." Afterward, I wanted headliners The Tah Dahs to cheer me up with their lovesick fare, but that didn't happen. Thank God. I never really fell for the band's reduction to a three-piece until Friday, when singer/guitarist Roy Ivy stuck a syringe of venom into the trio. His voice turned to snarls and howls as he exorcised demons in song, and older cuts like "Temporary," which were born as cute odes to love, had been pumped full of nitrous by a hard-core rhythm section. The Tah Dahs' precarious walk between love and hate jumped from reggae to flower-pop, from Happy Days to KISS, but other than some trouble with tempo, the band turned its influences into an aural ass-kicking.
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