Last Night: 400 Blows at Bryan Street Tavern

400 Blows, El Paso Hot Button, New Science Projects
Bryan Street Tavern
October 6, 2011

Better than: Staying home and watching A-Rod strike out again!

Maybe a couple dozen people ventured out last night into the sometimes seedy confines of old East Dallas to catch a fine triple-bill of noise, inspiration and perspiration.

Headlining was Los Angeles act 400 Blows, a swarthy trio of post-punkers led by the enigmatic Skot Alexander, a guy who bears a striking resemblance to a young(er) Albert Brooks. But, before Alexander and crew even took the stage, those lucky enough to be attendance were treated to two opening salvos that were nearly as sweet as the band perched at the top of the bill.

First up was Denton's own New Science Projects, a nerdy and paint-covered four-piece that powered through a satisfying set in spite of broken strings and spotty sound. Leader Dale Jones didn't even replace the broken string on his guitar; the ever-eccentric Jones simply decided to press on, only stopping to address the crowd with non-sequiturs and vague ramblings about too much reverb in the microphone. But the mostly punkish songs were funny, loud and gleefully shambolic.

Next up was the one man band known as El Paso Hot Button -- and Mickey Reece is one talented dude. The guy can strum a guitar and use his feet to work a drum and cymbal like no one else. Hell, somehow he even triggered a fog machine a few times during his set. Reece's songs could use a full rhythm section, though. After a while, any one man band starts to sound like a gimmick. And Reece's tunes are too good to be relegated to such status.

Finally, at around 11 o'clock, 400 Blows hit the stage. Dressed all in black, frontman Skot Alexander worked the stage like an insane auctioneer. The guy's got charisma to spare as he led 400 Blows through most of the songs from the band's most recent release, Sickness & Health.

Special kudos to drummer Kevin Fitzgerald who has a unique and demanding style that somehow brings order to the chaos that is 400 Blows. Sporting a black eye, Fitzgerald kept the trio locked in from start to finish.

Sounding like the Minutemen playing Stooges' covers, this trio's combination of brains and brawn is really a sight and sound to behold.

A band this solid deserved more than 20 people in attendance. Granted, there were some sports fans sneaking out to the bar on occasion to watch the Yankees choke (again), but there's just not any good reason why this show drew such a paltry crowd.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias
: Any band that doesn't take itself too seriously is OK with me and the guys in 400 Blows are the epitome of tongue-in-cheek cool. Hanging out before the show, they were happy to talk solely about baseball and beer. It was like hanging out with your buddies from college. Nice.

By The Way: Skot Alexander and crew could have hit town in a foul mood seeing that they didn't even get paid for Wednesday night's show in Austin. Even though they were given a guarantee, they left our capital city with empty pockets.

Random Note: Dale Jones from New Science Projects had the quote of the evening when he said, "We don't come to Dallas that often because everyone hates us here." Hey Dale, here's one Dallasite who doesn't hate you.

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