Mnjo Nixon and the New Duncan Imperials

By Mark Smalley

The tone of the evening was decidedly twisted, but the rock was as real as it gets. It was Phoenix Hill Tavern. Thursday, July 28. Double bill: The New Duncan lmperials and Mojo Nixon.

The New Duncs opened the show in the midst of their "white trash" stage set, consisting of multiple broken, back-lit TV's at odd angles, pennants strung around the stage, strobes and flashing red lights. The band was decked out in their gaudy matching tuxedos (which they traded for dresses later in the performance) and trademark straw hats.

While the New Duncs generally get press for their outrageous stage antics or the strange humor of their songs ("Runnin' With a Fork In My Mouth," "I'm Schizophrenic [No I'm Not]," "Motel 666"), they embody the spirit of rock and roll as much as any band that I have seen. Controlled anarchy. Whatever you call it, it works. This band just flat out rocks.

Wet Dog, Mojo Nixon's keyboard player, joined NDI about half way through their set. I initially tried to ignore him, assuming he would toss in the obligatory quirky riff or two and not really contribute to the song. Wrong. This guy is a real honest-to-goodness honky-tonk piano player and I was grateful that he didn't leave the stage until the end of the set. If NDI ever adds another member, Wet Dog has my vote.

After a sweaty, satisfying New Duncan Imperials show, I expected to be somewhat disappointed in the second half of the show. Not a chance. Even though NDI (plus Wet Dog) backed up Mojo on stage, it was anything but more of the same. NDI shifted from madman mode to professional-back-up-band mode easily (including lovely matching emerald green dresses worn bv evervone but Mr. Nixon).

Mojo Nixon opened his show with "Destroy All Lawyers," urging "spay and neuter 'em so they can't breed," followed by "Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With a Two-Headed Love Child." Mojo, playing an acoustic Guild guitar, jumped into the "dance pit" for a solo that was simple but very effective.

"You know you a Mojo-holic when you bring your own love sheep," Mojo commented in reference to a woolly stuffed mascot in the crowd. Some of his more ardent fans broke into a demonstration as Mojo explained "buck dancing": "When you can't move the top of your body and the bottom half moves like Uncle Jed, that's buck dancing." He also mentioned a couple of famous Louisvillians during one of his semi-coherent but outrageously funny rambles —"I came to Louisville lookin' for a statue of Hunter Thompson — where the h—— is Terry Adams (of NRBQ)?" Unfortunately the funniest of his ramblings cannot be printed in this newspaper, as they were filled to overflowing with profanity and bizarre sexual references.

"Goodtime Dammit has been voted most likely to show his . . ." With that encouragement from Mojo, the drummer came to the front of the stage and raised his dress, exposing more than many of us wanted to see. After rousing versions of a few more Mojo standards like "Vibrator Dependent," "Are You Drinking With Me Jesus" and "I Like Marijuana," the set was closed out with a tribute to the king of rock and roll. "Elvis is everywhere. Elvis is in every person but the anti-Elvis. Elvis is in everybody but Michael J. Fox and Rush Limbaugh."

And so goes the gospel according to Mojo Nixon. Amen.