Boiled In Lead with Tooba Blooz At Uncle Pleasant's

By Paul Moffett

Mark Smalley, owner and general manager of Uncle Pleasant's, was nervous as he awaited the beginning of the first Sunday evening concert staged as part of his new expanded musical policy. Although the show was scheduled for eight-thirty sharp, it was beginning to look like it would be late, as the sound checks were running behind.

Hal Taylor, the tuba player for Tooba Blooz was rolling around in a wheel chair, his foot heavily bandaged as a result of surgery following an accident in which he drove a sewing needle several inches into his foot. He could hobble around a bit, but his wheelchair had to be lifted on and off the stage, slowing his progress.

Smalley put plates, utensils, and containers of food on the bar for the members of the band and muttered about the turnout. Onstage, members of Boiled in Lead went through their sound checks, as more people began to drift in.

By about eight-forty-five, a goodly number of folks were in the audience and Tooba Blooz began to get plugged in and up and the wheel chair was hoisted onstage. Finally, just before nine, lead singer and guitarist Denny Wilson opened the show. The Dayton, Ohio, band started as a three piece, with Wilson on guitar, Rod Bartley on drums and Taylor on tuba. As the evening progressed, they were occasionally joined by "Captain Carl" on harmonica, vocals and occasionally on electric bass.

The group ran through some original material, showing off Taylor's tuba playing as he handled both the bass parts and instrumental breaks. A parody of "The Flight of the Bumble Bee," called "The Stumble of the Fumble Bee" was a virtuoso performance, as the tuba sounded like an entire hive of angry bees. The fact that his foot throbbed whenever he blew on the tuba no doubt contributed to the angry tone.

The penultimate tune of opening set was a Fats Waller piece entitled "The Viper's Drag," in the middle of which Taylor played his tuba and an effects box simultaneously, resulting in some sections which were quite reminiscent of recordings of whale songs. The piece then became "If You're Going To San Francisco," segued into Bowie's "Rocket Man," complete with s-f soundtrack noises before returning to the Waller tune. The set closed with a solid cover of Rod Stewart's version of "I'd Rather Go Blind" from Every Picture Tells A Story.

By the time the headliners took the stage, the room was near-capacity and Smalley was smiling broadly. Boiled In Lead then proceeded to live up to the image of their name - hot. A fast Irish reel or so into the set, they offered "Madman Mora Blues," a song written by John Van Orman and based on a true story of a friend's encounter with psychiatric rigidity. The tune was recorded on their album, From The Ladle To The Grave, on Atomic Theory Records.

Unlikely tune then followed unlikely tune - an "Irish" dance tune, written by a friend and played at the fastest bluegrass parking lot shootout speed, then a song about the assassination of William McKinley, then a tune said to be "Macedonian" in origin, which featured fiddle player David Stens'hoel on electric mandolin.

"Stop, Stop, Stop," first recorded by the Hollies in the late 'Sixties, became even more frantic and Eastern European in flavor, driven by the impassioned drumming of Robin Anders, who spent the evening hidden behind a kit which contained more than the usual number of cymbals, bells, and odd percussion instruments.

The traditional Irish and Celtic tunes which make up the bulk of this group's performances hardly seemed to be the same tunes that they started out as. Somewhere in the middle of one piece, "Whiskey In The Jar" appeared and disappeared. "Mary, My Fine Daughter," also on their newest album, took on a harsh and brassy sound entirely appropriate to the lyric, which was sung by Todd Menton, who handled guitar and most of the vocals. Drew Miller's bass gave the tunes the kind of punch usually associated with the fast attack of acoustic acts.

BiL's press package notes that they set out to play traditional tunes in punk clubs as loud as they could. This assertion, together with the article in the Saturday Scene which reported that they played at "ear-splitting volume," might have put some potential listeners off, but it was not so, as the volume level in the club was much less than it had been previously.

By the time BiL had finished their first set, it was well after midnight and the crowd had begun to thin out. Your reviewer was forced to leave due to deadline pressures but not before finding out from owner Smalley that Boiled in Lead would be returning, perhaps as early as October and perhaps not on a Sunday evening.