It's Monday night at the Drunken Unicorn, and Bobbi Ubangi is dominating the scene. The shirtless and leering guitar player for the Gaye Blades usually confines his antics to the stage, but not tonight. Instead, he's schmoozing, pounding shots, and like a trophy, proudly brandishing the black heart tattoo on his left bicep that boasts the title, "Bad Boy."
The Gaye Blades is a semicloseted affair between Ubangi (the bastard alter ego of B Jay Womack) and Black Lips bass player Jared Swilley. The Blades have never been anything more than a party band with a faux homo mystique. They don't practice, and songs with titles such as "Whore Hunt" and "Treat Me Like a Man" blast like buckshot in all of their unrehearsed garage-rock glory. To criticize the group for writing bad songs misses the point. The music is sloppy and made so for comedic effect.
But success changes everything. And as the Black Lips have become a new voice for the American Apparel generation, there is a feeling that pressure is on to make the Blades a legitimate band. The group recently released a 7-inch on Rob's House Records. It has a second single at the pressing plant. There is even talk of the group possibly going to Europe to open for the Black Lips in the spring.
The crowd is unusually stacked with scenesters who are well aware that tonight's show could be one for the history books. Chopper opens with a showy and heavy-as-hell set of bro-down rock. The lineup features former Blame Game guitarist George Asimakos, Deerhunter expatriate guitarist Collin Mee and drummer Lamar George, who looks like a T-bone steak with arms as he raises the sticks. The group is tight and loud, but doesn't sway the spiked hair and studded belts in attendance.
At the bar, trouble is brewing. Ubangi and Swilley cross paths and give each other a look of apprehension before Swilley barks, "Don't get drunk tonight!" His words spit out the way someone talks to a dog that just peed on the carpet. But he is too late: Ubangi is already drunk. When the band takes the stage, tension is overwhelming, and the whole room feels it. The lineup features Trey Lindsay (bass) and Beat Beat Beat drummer Mike Bison Beavers. After one song the crowd heckles Ubangi by shouting, "Put a shirt on, dude!" and "Turn on your amp!"
Ubangi is a mess even after he turns on his amp, which derails Swilley. Both make plenty of mistakes. After fumbling through three songs, Swilley declares they are having too many technical difficulties to continue. Ubangi slides his guitar over his head and walks away before the song is over and sits beside the stage looking defeated. He shrugs and grunts, "Yeah, Bobbi ruined it. ... Whatevs ..." A shower of beer cans rocket across the room, clang against the wall and spill their contents onto his head.
The show was a disaster – the quintessential Gaye Blades experience – and everyone loved it. Witnessing such a train wreck leaves a greater impression than would any flawless performance. The Gaye Blades make an art form out of sucking, and tonight's show proves they shouldn't be taken seriously. That's what makes the Gaye Blades so much fun, and with any luck it won't be the group's last stand.
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