Naked Biker & The End of a Band
When you think of a Harley-Davidson biker dressed in all black there are certain images that pop into your head. Maybe it’s the rebellious bikers of Easy Rider or the rough and tough Hell’s Angels, but here is one more to add to memory: naked streaker!
On Friday Evening at The LeGrand The Alrights played for a small, yet intimate audience. And I mean INTIMATE!
The parking lot had maybe 15 cars in it and inside the bar it was almost completely empty. We stood outside debating about going in, but finally decided to give it a try and order one drink. That one drink led to a few more, and one heck of an exciting show.
Perhaps it was also no coincidence that in a town called Twig we would end up seeing a twig and some berries.
Back when I first wrote this article in 2005 The Alrights were one of the top bands of Duluth and received much acclaim for their new album High School.
This is the rest of my first article from the first time seeing them live and the crazy night that forever locked them as my favorite Duluth band.
They are modern rock of Prince or Maroon 5 with John Lennon intuitiveness. Toby, Chavo, and Danny are also the guys who rocked out as Crazy Betty a few years ago but play less hip-hop and more hip-rock now. This kind of music was not lost on one biker sitting at the bar.
This gentleman, who I will refer to as “Harley,” was dressed head to toe in biker garb. He was sitting at the corner of the bar yelling out during breaks, “get up there and play some music!” He looked intimidating dressed in all black and seemed a bit road wore. He was wearing cowboy boots, jeans, a Harley-Davidson T-Shirt, and a hat. He had long, stringy, gray hair, and an accompanying gray beard. Imagine a guy who had just rode in from a Hell’s Angels rally and then picture Blue from Old School. (For the older crowd maybe the Juniper Berries guy in Monty Python’s “Life Of Brian”)
During the second set I walked up to the bar to get another beverage. “Harley” had left his spot, but his jean jacket remained on the chair. As I was ordering and The Alrights were rocking away here comes “Harley,” NAKED!
He was waving his arms in the air as he ran through the bar making loud noises.
At first the Nelly lyrics popped into my head, “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.” But what was happening here?
“Harley” ran through the bar and out the door, and then he took a second lap for good measure. The bartender tried to slow him down by snapping photos as he was making his way out the front door. “Harley” then ran by all of the windows and returned a few minutes later fully clothed acting like nothing had happened.
After the scene I asked the bartender to see the photos to possibly use in my article. Well, let’s just say that the photos were a bit too racy and it was bad enough that I had the mental picture, let alone to subject you poor readers to such a scene. I also asked the bartender if this sort of thing has ever happened before. She told me that it was a weekly thing, but you never know.
So, when you go to Twig you may end up seeing some great music. You may also see the town symbol, dangling and swinging to and froe as “Harley” runs through. You won’t be disappointed by a boring evening though.
The next article that I wrote about the Alrights tried to describe their CD “High School.”
High School begins like most days of old… The ringing of the bell to start the day and mass screams of guitar with heavy rock to keep you up.
Wake up, it’s time for school kids, and the Alrights are on your headphones as you enter the building. Their first song, “Call Her Name” is a painful ode to memories sleeking around to an upbeat bassline.
Don’t get too caught up in the old days though, “Heaven Sends Her Regards” comes rocking in next. Imagine Prince singing with the Strokes playing behind him, launch John Lennon’s piano into the sky, and then let it ride the chorus to a pinnacle of music. You now have a picture of the contemplation and revelation that this catchy ditty has about questioning faith. This song also features a great Cello in the background played by Ed Willet and inspired by the Beatles through the mind of singer/songwriter Toby Churchill.
“In A Way” comes next and takes the listener walking down the sidewalk with a modern strut on piano. This song does for walking what Saturday Night Fever did; it makes it look and sound so cool. While walking we reach the “City Underground” and the life of a Donald Trump, suit and tie, day to day, modern slavery career. The song states, “I wear a suit and a tie, yes everyday, making lots of money dressed this way… My family, they don’t understand. Don’t they know I do it all for them?” In the song the lyrics show the loss of individuality when growing older and having to provide for a family.
“Jump for Joy” is about what is happening in the mind of the worker. Banging piano with hints of the workers’ chains attached clang in until the song quiets and Toby sings in a questioning of value. The end of the song says, “So lock your door, don’t ever leave”.
At this point the CD slows down for “If It Is A Dream.” Quiet guitar and singing make this tune have the feel of if Oasis had ever gotten together with Otis Redding to sing “I’ve Got Dreams”. This dream was about summer love though, and the memories of fleeting Grease-like emotions. That small town where at 16 you met the new girl in town and she loved you. In the fall she would head back to school and find your true social status and you’d be forgotten. Living for a moment in a dream and hoping it lasts forever. The sadness of this song makes the next two a bit perplexing in the scheme of the CD.
“The Sickness,” a crowd favorite sang by Danny Cosgrove, begins with an awesome slow guitar and turns into poppy hand clapping, digital, hip-hop. The next song “Validation” contemplates death from the view of a young twenty-something poet. Before you go turning off the CD and ending it all, the next song drags you back in. “Alright by me” is jazzy with a love theme and lets you rest for a moment.
“Young Man Blues” can be best described by closing your eyes and picturing Bob Dylan writing for John Lennon and a southern gospel choir singing about questioning art. The main theme is when Toby sings, “I’d rather be famous ‘cause I’ve been watching, it turns to gold whatever they’re touching.” It Contemplates the old conundrum of selling out versus being an artist.
The CD ends with two songs, “Almost Never Always” and “School Revisited.” “Almost” is Maroon 5 mixed with some simplistic “Blah, Blah, Blah” lyrics. It must be noted that drummer Chad “Chavo” Amborn plays one great drum solo that makes this song stick. Lastly, “School Revisited,” is a simple exit like the White Stripes do on some of their minimalist numbers. It is a song about the passing of a father and not wanting to go to school. Hit repeat for full enjoyment.
Then a few years later The Alrights released an EP and I got in some hot water for saying it was the best thing I had heard in some time. Here was that review:
Mark your calendars folks, Saturday at the Tap Room one of the best albums that you have heard in your life is being released with the acronym of MOTSLCLOVAEFTKNA.
“The main point of the album title is a funny way of suggesting the longing we all have to understand something we could never understand,” Toby Churchill said. “The graphic on the EP is a boy reaching out for the moon, which is smiling back at him, so I think that sums up the feeling.”
Usually in a music review I will go through and try to sound all cute with quotes and descriptions of songs using big words like “saturnine,” “verve,” or “pinnacle,” but this album is just too good for that. It is the album I have been waiting for, and even better, than my favorite band The White Stripes’ recent release.
This is that one CD that everyone MUST own. It is not a “want” item in life, but a “need” that you cannot live without.
Bands like Trampled By Turtles are like drinking beer, an acquired taste usually from the friends you hang out with or an exposure to a new form of music at some point. The Alrights are more of a serious drug than beer though... like injecting heroin (Not that I have done it, or condone its deadly use). From the moment the CD starts the music hits you like the ear equivalent of when Ewan McGregor falls into the floor in Trainspotting. As Ewan, or “Renton,” said, “Take the best sex you’ve ever had, multiply it by thousand and you’re still nowhere near it.”
If you don’t know, The Alrights consist of Toby Churchill (Vocals/Guitar/Keyboard), Danny Cosgrove (Vocals/Bass), and Chad Amborn (Drums/Beat). They are a three-piece group that has been working their butts off with regional tours and local shows while recording their album in Minneapolis with Ben Durrant at Crazy Beast Studio. That’s the same studio that recorded Chicago’s Andrew Bird’s latest album Armchair Apocrypha.
The first song on the Alrights CD, “When I Get Born,” is catchy, and has a beat that drives into your soul. A xylophone sound from the keyboard accentuates the infectious feel in the changes, and Amborn bangs away on the skins into the next verse. The sound at times is like a bubble floating to the surface only to be greeted by an “ahh” being sung like in those old Coke commercials.
The next song, “Happy Birthday Universe,” reminded me of Sgt. Pepper’s by the Beatles. Soft piano, intricate lyrics, and an almost fatigued voice from Churchill highlight the tune. Then an organ resonates in the background and the choruses drag out with little accents and splashes of various sounds. A circus feel can be felt, mixed in with a sluggish slowness that plays with the listeners’ ears. It’s almost as if The Beatles had reunited in the mid- to late-seventies.
“All This Time” comes next with a modern feel that is the farthest away from what you would expect in an Alrights song. Lots of accents and timed out perfection rings throughout the tune. For the people who don’t like the rock or pop side of the band, this one has the depth and sound that you would love.
“Love Love Love Love Love” steals the CD, however, and should be playing on a radio near you very soon. This song is Danny Cosgrove’s and it turns the album on its head. He sang and wrote the infectious ditty and repeats the chorus, “Love Love Love Love Love” again and again until it worms its way into your mind.
The end of our short trip is “All I Know Is Rock ‘n’ Roll” and has a really strong Beatles “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” kind of feel. It is like that last bite of some great meal and how you savor it. It also makes you want to play the CD one more time.
This Homegrown on Saturday night at 11:30pm will be the last Alrights show. It also is the end of an era.