BoDeans At Thunderdome

By Cary Stemle

The BoDeans blew into town on a snowy, frigid Saturday night in early November and proceeded to warm up several hundred hearty fans at the Thunderdome.

The Milwaukee quintet is touring on the strength of its latest, Go Slow Down, their finest, most even recording.

The songwriting/singing duo of Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann was relaxed and totally in command as they mixed old favorites with new material.

Llanas, whose voice borders on squeaky, has matured as a singer. He ripped into his parts like a man with something to prove. Neumann, whose smooth guitar drives the sound, is Llanas' second skin, joining for harmony vocal lines that sounded like four voices.

The BoDeans sound is tough to pigeonhole. They broke onto the scene as part of the roots rock movement, but they mix in a good dose of blues and soul. Their writing, always good, has grown substantially on Go Slow Down.

It's been a few years since the BoDeans played Louisville, and the sizable crowd was fired up — the ones who were brave enough to venture down to the main stage area.

The Thunderdome, an odd, tent-like structure that's a recent addition to the Brewery complex, is truly a strange place to see a show. Patrons enter from Baxter, into what looks like a typical small pub. Down a flight of stairs, beyond a railing that is perhaps 75 feet long, is the main stage area. It's an asymmetrical room, with the stage tucked in at an angle.

There's no telling how many people the room can hold — it's like an old-fashioned festival seating show.

The faint-hearted who don't get there in time to secure one of the few choice spots along the railing can opt to stay up top and watch the show — on a large video screen. That's right. With the band no more than 100 feet away, there was a good number of people relegated to watching it that way.

Not that being cramped at a rock 'n' roll show is necessarily bad, or unexpected. It's just that you should be forewarned about what you're getting into when you attend a big show there. As one friend commented, it's a classic "pile 'em in and sell 'em drinks" setup.