Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Either these guys are recovering assholes or great liars.  

The Good Old Days

   When Porchsleeper guitarists Brian Raleigh
and Derek Vertin were seniors in high school,
they had a mutual friend who needed a place to
stay. He spent the last part of the year moving
between their two houses. Apparently when he
would act up, his two friends would threaten to
banish him to the porch. Eventually they just
referred to him as Porchsleeper.

   I wonder where that guy is now. I wonder
if he knows that his two friends, now grown and
married, with desk jobs and mortgages, have formed
a weekend warrior alt-roots/country-rock band and
named it after him. Perhaps he is in the long
list of people who get an apology from the band
in the liner notes of its wonderfully depressing
first CD, Every Day is Better Than the Next.

   I saw Porchsleeper in the barnlike performance
space above Rubber Soul Records in Ypsilanti.
Raleigh, Vertin, and bassist Zac Johnson manhandled
the guitars. Leery of the small space, they played
a set of lovely lyrical story songs that left me
feeling quite melancholy. Johnson even played a
banjo at one point.

   Then Raleigh said "Okay, we're through being
quiet now." The drummer gave a fast eight count and
we got a look at the real soul of this band as they
launched into an uptempo rock tune with twangy riffs
and simple, direct lyrics: "You're the kind of girl
that I like -- The kind that don't like me." The
previously cautious drummer, Steve Bekkala, gave the
skins something to think about, and all three
guitarists sang harmonies. It reminded me of the
rock scene in this town in the 1980s, when lots of
bands played straight-up, honest rock 'n' roll,
served with plenty of drinking.

   Either these guys are recovering assholes or great liars.
In the ballad "If I Told You," they sing about basically
stalking an ex-lover and lament: "Now I know I let you
down, every time I slept around." But I hung out with
these guys after the show, and they're polite as choirboys
and obviously devoted to their wives. Either way, their
songwriting brings back delightfully painful memories of
what it was like before the kids and mortgage -- drinking
and crying and fighting and drinking and making up --
all set to catchy, driving, unpretentious,
and unapologetic rock.

   I can honestly say that there wasn't a song in that set
that I didn't like. Better yet, Porchsleeper's back-to-
basics drinkin' and cheatin' heartbreak college rock put
me in the mood for some trouble. I don't know about you,
but in my midlife, diaper-changing, stable life, there
is some room for drinking and cheating and crying and
drinking and making up. So serve it up, turn it up, and
don't blame me in the morning.

   Porchsleeper opens for Havilland at Frenchie's in
Ypsilanti's Depot Town on Saturday, June 12, and
for Grand Champeen at the Blind Pig on Wednesday,
June 16.

- Charmie Gholson
   The Ann Arbor Observer

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