The ASCAP Sundance Music Cafe is typically a genteel scene where an acoustic-driven, quiet band has an advantage over more raucous bands who try to accomodate the vibe by going unplugged or percussion-free, typically with iffy results. Hard-rocking Toronto trio Danko Jones didn't play that game Saturday, instead shoving a red-hot rock n roll poker into the bloated Sundance scene.
It's quite a shock that the best, snottiest rock show I've seen in a while came at Sundance, but it's no surprise Danko Jones (both the band and the singer/guitarist the band is named after) killed. They are a driven, consistent live band that's come through Salt Lake City in the past, both on their own and with The Supersuckers, but it's been a while. And that "while" has included Danko Jones tours with the likes of Metallica, Motorhead, Guns n Roses and other hard-rock heroes.
Knowing what the Music Cafe scene is usually like--full of chattering film festers drinking overpriced beers and cocktails and often ignoring the stage--I had imagined Danko Jones might be doing the acoustic thing for their time slot between Somalian rapper/singer K'Naan and the Manchester Orchestra.
Silly me. They came fully electrified and blasting at ear-damage volume, but it hurt so good to hear songs like "I Think Bad Thoughts" and "Sugar Hight" and see many in the crowd react in something between awe and fear. Many bailed for Main Street, driven from the room, but they were replaced by plenty who must have heard the band from the street and realized something actually rocking was happening.
Jones flickered his tongue, Gene Simmons-style, throughout the show, but especially when he introduced "our song about oral sex. Man, that K'Naan was out here singing songs 'for the children,' and I'm doing our song about oral sex." When he saw a woman seated front and center pick up a Music Cafe schedule, Jones grabbed it from her hands, ripped it up on stage and announced, "You don't need to look and see who's playing after Danko Jones! We all know it's Paul Reiser later on!" He went on to rub his hands on the piano shoved aside to make room for Jones' Marshall amp, and say, "Oooh, I've got Paul Reiser's DNA!"
Jones between-song banter wasn't all about bashing the former sitcom star-turned-singer. At other points, he tried to decipher the difference between Mormons and the Amish, and gave shout-outs to Cliff Burton and Johnny Cash and "the man with the greatest voice in the world, Ronnie James Dio" as he explained to the crowd that "we're all sexy in heaven." He even gave the Osmonds props for their song, "Crazy Horses."
In a half-hour blast of rock riffs and attitude, Danko Jones offered one of the most entertaining times I've had covering Sundance through the years. And the best part? They do it again tomorrow.