Review by Andrew
Walking into the unassuming Darkroom on Chicago Ave. you are greeted with the red undertones of the bar, something that is all too trendy in nightclubs. However, the color scheme falls in line with the theme of the bar and venue when you realize the photographic negatives of vintage rural depictions used as coasters for your drink. More traditional art lines the brick walls and the soul-funk grooves set the mood. On Thursday the club featured Archie Powell and the Exports in a night of music themed "Jesus vs. Santa: The Battle Rages On," sponsored by Magic Hat #9, an appropriate drink given the ambiance.
Son of the Sun provided an opening set reminiscent of '60s psychedelic pop as well as Pink Floyd’s more outerworldly moments; it almost makes perfect sense that they’re from Buffalo, a bridge between the two geographical poles of psychedelic. But with so much of the "P" word thrown around, don’t think these guys are some hazed-out nostalgic knockoffs. Singer/guitarist Zak Ward's energy emanated even from behind the reverb-drenched vocals that enhanced his voice more than it hindered it. A West Coast croon could turn into an Iggy-deadly scream instantly. Hints of Modest Mouse meant all the psychedelic was to be taken with a grain of Upper America left-of-the-dial rock’n’roll.
And then we were introduced to the Exports. All sported red onesies, entering the stage to a vocal rendition of "Carol of the Bells." Then Archie joined. So many moons ago, there was an SNL skit that provided one of the best moments a group of mediocre comedians could create, a cheesy holiday jingle called "Christmas Coming to the USA." And as far as I know, it was a song written for that sketch. And here Archie Powell and his Exports were covering this track? I could tell from the start this was going to be a great set. A glitter blast followed, knocking holiday cheer into even the most Humbugliest of music critics. The group moved onto originals "Fighting Words," "Enough About Me," "Loose Change," and "Mattson is a Flake," before returning to caroling with a state of emergency version of "Run, Run, Rudolph." After the cover, the band returned to their too-country-for-rock, too-honky-tonk-for-punk sound. The great thing about Archie Powell live was not only his energy that cranked the album’s already 10 up to 11, but how it transferred to the Exports, including those obliged to sit behind a kit or keys (although the latter was highly resistant to the idea of remaining seated). The encore of the Beatles classic "Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?" only got louder and more persuasive as it went on, complete with six-string and ivory solos, and set closer "The Darndest Things" provided everyone one last chance to dance. In the battle of Jesus vs. Santa, Archie and the Exports were clearly the winner.