Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BruceFest: Music Seen at Bubba's Sulky Lounge, September 22, 2007

Published in the Portland Phoenix

On Saturday evening, Bubba's filled with fans eager to hear tributes to the heartland-rocker-in-chief, the gravel-voiced singer wrapped in the American flag. No, it wasn’t Toby Keith at the Tweeter Center (though that, we hear, was a great show, too). It was Portland’s fourth annual tribute to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, on the occasion of his birthday (he turned 58 Sunday).

Founded and hosted by Phoenix scribe Rick Wormwood and his band, the Rumbling Proletariat, the night kicked off with “Blinded by the Light,” the first track from Bruce’s first disc, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973), performed by Elf Princess Gets a Harley, whose frontman, Brandon Davis, drunkenly slurred half of the song’s lyrics. Few noticed, though: the words are pretty unintelligible anyway.

Next came Handsome Dan Knudsen, whose performances of “My Hometown” (off 1984’s Born in the USA) and “Brilliant Disguise” (from 1987’s Tunnel of Love) had a touch of Weird Al Yankovic. It was a great lead-in to the Peter, Paul, and Mary–influenced quintet Chipped Enamel, whose three-song set started with a cruise in a “Pink Cadillac” (the B-side of the 1984 seven-inch single “Dancing in the Dark”), moved through “Fire” (the oft-covered song not released by Bruce until 1986’s Live/1975-1985 compilation), and ended with “My City of Ruins” (from 2002’s The Rising).

But nobody was quite ready for reverb-heavy An Evening With, who started a disco-fest on the floor with “Dancing in the Dark” (Born in the USA), slowed down with “Streets of Philadelphia” (from the soundtrack to the 1993 Jonathan Demme film Philadelphia), and echoed their way through “Thunder Road” (Born To Run).

By then, the floor was packed for a seven-song J. Biddy and the Crossfire Inferno power-set: “Atlantic City” (Nebraska, 1982), “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” (Born, again), “Prove It All Night” (Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1978), “I’m on Fire” (Born in the USA), "Trapped" (The Essential Bruce Springsteen, 2003), “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City” (Greetings), and “Born To Run.” The “Free Bird”-like interlude between the last two, however, meant it was time to burn on down the road.