LOCAL LIVE! In Denver, About Denver, Musically Denver!!!!
Bonerama/The Radiators - Gothic Theatre, Denver - June 18th, 2010
Bonerama is not for the squeamish. First, there’s the band’s name with its obvious reference to…well, the obvious. Then there’s the problem that occurs if you put the band’s name into your browser followed by “.com.” What pops up has nothing to do with the band or even music. What you’ll get is a special interest website dealing with a…well, special interest. (Not recommended.) If you do happen to make it to the official website, boneramamusic.com, they’ll suggest that you become a “Boner Donor.” That’s deflating, just thinking about it. But if you can get past all that, the music is worth it. Fronted by a three trombone front line attack, this New Orleans band plays funk, blues, rock, jazz, traditional New Orleans music and classic rock covers such as King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Definitely not for the squeamish.
The Radiators, in contrast, drive much closer to the middle of the road. Perhaps because of that, the Radiators were the headliners Friday night and Bonerama the opening act. Judging from the crowd, the Radiators were the more popular band and, after all, when has the popular taste ever been wrong? Alas, it’s happened again. Whereas Bonerama encouraged the women (presumably) to “Shake Your Rugalator,” The Radiators at times trod dangerously close to territory typically inhabited by Jimmy Buffett (whose entire persona and music are geared specifically for the squeamish).
The Bonerama front line is actually depleted in that they formerly boasted FOUR trombones. Possibly because of downsizing caused by the current economic realities, they now get by with only three which is, of course, about three trombones more than just about any other band. I’m not saying trombones are all that unusual or that there isn’t some call for their services out there in the wide world, but one trombone player I know keeps track of his gigs with a “Year-At-A-Glance” calendar. Maybe it had something to do with the loss of that critical fourth trombone, but the band also recently replaced their Sousaphone player with an electric bass player.
OK, seriously (but it’s hard to be serious with four or even three trombones in the room) these guys are more fun than hanging out at certain special interest websites. This is a party band; no thinking deep thoughts, no navel gazing, just dance, baby. The energy and enthusiasm is highly infectious causing Mardi Gras to break out, even in Colorado. Friday night, Bonerama started their set with the Hendrix tune “Manic Depression.” To hear a familiar chestnut like that performed with three trombones is almost comical at first, but it pretty quickly becomes obvious that the guys know what they’re doing and that they’re definitely on to something.
The rhythm section of drums, electric guitar and electric bass lays down a punchy, rock-like or funk foundation as needed and the bones out front engraft a New Orleans brass band sound for some hybrid-fusion mischief. As if a three trombone front line wasn’t unusual enough, they run their bones through wah-wah pedals for a psychedelic edge. In addition to the bone-work, the three players on the front line take turns singing as well. And although they throw in some classic rock tunes now and then, they played mostly originals on Friday night. Their tune “Shake Your Rugalator” was clear evidence that this ensemble doesn’t take itself too seriously (in case we hadn’t figured that out already). (What, exactly, is a “rugalator” anyway and would it come in handy during a “bonerama”?)
As might be expected, the three bones play together with arranged parts and then break off and take turns soloing sometimes with the other bones in support, sometimes not. Occasionally, the three would get into some manic lick trading with each player stating only a few notes and the next player picking it up and adding a few more followed by the third then circling back to the first for a frenzied bone breakdown.
The Radiators also played many of their own tunes, but they seemed so ordinary compared to the opening act. On occasion they got into some tasty jams anchored by solos from the two guitarists. The Radiators’ set didn’t really hit a groove until one, then all three Bonerama bones returned to the stage for some cover tunes like the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling” and the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” It just goes to show, if you want to have a good time, don’t be squeamish, bring on the bones.