Uncle Tupelo / The Dead Milkmen

By William Brents

On March 5 a packed Tewligans Tavern was treated to a wonderfully entertaining double bill featuring Uncle Tupelo and The Dead Milkmen. Technically speaking, it was really a triple bill that also included The Snapdragons, but I unfortunately had to exit a little early (that is if you consider leaving a club at 2 a.m. early), missing out on The Snapdragons.

However, while I was there I found myself getting caught up in several poignant songs intensely performed by Uncle Tupelo. Vocalist-guitarist Jeff Tweedy, vocalist-bassist Jay Farrar and drummer Mike Heidorn emotionally unloaded their frustrations about what they see going on day after confusing day. This St. Louis band innately mixes grungy guitar rock with folk and country, creating — depending on the song — soaring sonic volume or a rich, pastoral setting.

The best shows are always the ones that seem to fly right by and Uncle Tupelo's set was no exception. Before I knew it, the members of the band were packing up and heading on to another town, another show. In the meantime, my fond memories of Uncle Tupelo's powerful show will have to hold me over until next time.

Unlike most of the crowd, I was there to check out Uncle Tupelo., not the Dead Milkmen. My pre-show skepticism about the Milkmen's musical shortcomings are still valid, but if I were to say the show was rotten, I would be lying.

The ever-hyper singer and conceptualist Rodney Anonymous could have easily been booked down the street at the Comedy Club. Between their satirical, soft-core songs with such titles as "Methodist Coloring Book" and "Bitchin' Camaro," Rodney poked fun at such luminaries as George Bush, Dan Quayle, Harry Connick Jr., Jim Morrison and many more. Mr.

Anonymous also ripped all those horrible tribute bands and even threw in a few shots at a local writer for printing more than a few mistakes. Holding up the publication, Rodney said, "This guy claims we hail from somewhere in California (southern) and that we also have a deal with Atlantic."

"Well, first of all, we're from Philadelphia for Christ's sake and secondly if I called Atlantic Records and told them who The Dead Milkmen were, how long do you think it would take them to hang up the phone."

Guitarist Joe Jack Talcum supplied the most minimal guitar playing I've ever heard and his annoying whiny vocals sounded like a wounded hyena who desperately wanted to be put out of his misery. However primitive the music might be, no one rightfully can accuse the Dead Milkmen of putting on a boring show. Little things like introducing every other song as being "smokestack lightning" or having Rodney choreograph a dance the he dubbed "the monkey, junkie, honky," kept everyone moving and laughing in the Milkmen's own cartoonish way.