Review: Rolling strikes with Midnight Bowlers League at Market on 7th
Pizza. PBR. Rockabilly music.
This is probably how a lot of guys would choose to spend their 10th anniversary. The guys from Midnight Bowlers League sure did.
In honor of their 10th anniversary of a band, they booked a concert with fellow rockabillians the Cadillac Bombers and Sarge and the Aeromen. And they did it at Market on 7th, one of the most laid-back and unfussy bars in Ybor Ciry, beloved for Pabst and Jager and pizza, and a burgeoning site for live music in 2009*.
Great bar, Market on 7th. You know how most bars smell like cigarettes and alcohol? Not market. Market smells like pizza -- that good, cheap, late-night pizza that fuels you back up after a night of drinking and dancing and puking.
Right next to Carmine's and across from Gaspar's Grotto**, Market on 7th is clean, easy to pop into, and located just west of the hot mess that is the Prana-Tantra-Level III Bermuda Triangle of clubbiness.
First up were the Cadillac Bombers, who kicked things off with a solid collection of rockabilly hits, notably Janis Martin's Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll, on which vocalist Kalamity Kat Cassidy sounded excellent. I didn't much dig a downbeat cover of Peggy Lee's Fever, which was a bit of a set killer. But they totally made up for it with a highly original punk-rockabilly-grunge (grungeabilly?) cover of Soft Cell's Tainted Love. Really very cool stuff.
Then came Sarge of the Aeromen, who share a stand-up bassist (Mike Daley) with the Bombers, but who all wear military-style jumpsuits, which makes them different somehow. You'd have to say their eclectic style was all over the place -- both punkier and more country than the Bombers, both tighter and more rambunctious. They were tightly wound balls of old-school swing, propelled by Mark Warren's outstanding guitar and Ryan Arsenault's sparkling keys.
But I would be lying if I didn't say more than a few audience members were distracted from the music by (1) a pair of sundress-wearing, PBR-drinking young ladies cutting a rug in front of the stage, and (2) the bachelorette party that came in mid-set wearing a virtual rainbow of wigs. Warren called it a "Lady Gaga fan convention," and having seen a Lady Gaga concert back in April, I can tell you, he's pretty dead on. You can kind of get a sense for the scene here:
And then came the anniversary boys, Midnight Bowlers League. Singer Tim Masters and guitarist Nafa met 10 years ago at their job in a library, and they bonded over their interest in vintage music and instruments, and have been making music together ever since.
And when I say vintage, I mean it. Of the three bands who played, they sounded most like they could have blended in back in 1955. They played Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Marty Robbins, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dale Hawkins and more, all in tribute to "a decade of ridiculous bop and twirl," as Masters put it.
The boys played without a setlist, and the result was a loose, freewheeling show, filled with requests from the audience, tales about going to the pokey, and a few fun off-the-cuff moments (a hilarious rockabilly cover of Nelly's Country Grammar; a verse of Flo Rida's Low spliced into Bill Monroe's Blue Moon of Kentucky).
My favorite song was Ronnie Dawson's Rockin' Bones (a track later covered by the Cramps). But there was no question the party hit its most fevered point when they launched into Folsom Prison Blues. The dance floor filled up with pompadours and sundresses and people there to celebrate the Bowlers.
It was my second rockabilly experience of the summer, and again, I really dug it. But then, it's tough not to have a good time at a laid-back bar like this.
NOTE: Observant readers may have noticed the first line of this review, in which I indicated that this was the 50h concert in my "50 concerts, 50 venues" summer project. Obviously, first and foremost: WOO-HOO! Secondly, I will have more thoughts on all that I've seen, all that I've learned and all that I've loved on this journey, but it'll take me a few days to collect them. Keep an eye out later this week on Soundcheck, then read Friday's tbt* for a complete wrapup of my summer concert tour.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
* Although, can I just say, it's not exactly easy to figure out what's going on at Market on 7th. The bar's Web site doesn't list upcoming concerts, which makes it difficult to know who's playing there in advance. That's why it ended up being No. 50 on my summer concert list instead of, say, No. 10. (The Emerald and The Globe have a similar problem.)
** Actually, between sets I popped out to see what else was going on in Ybor, and the party at Gaspar's looked pretty kickin'. It was apparently the birthday party of someone named Vivian, and the band, Johnny G. Lyon Band, sounded pretty great. The dance floor was full of -- well, it would be rude to call them "cougars," so I'll just say, "fun-loving ladies of a certain age." Then, later, on came a chartreuse-clad drag Cher impersonator named (I think) Beverly Wilde, who sang Happy Birthday to Vivian and whom I later saw sprinting -- sprinting! -- up Seventh Avenue in heels. I have to say, if I didn't have to be at Market on 7th Saturday night, this was probably the party where I'd have wanted to be.