Railroad Jerk and One Tricky Deal

By William Brents

A year and a half ago when I heard that Louisville's legendary Tewligans Tavem was closing its doors, I was consumed with the same hollow feeling I once had as a little boy when my best friend, Dennis, moved away.

Yes, Tewligans was dark, damp and possessed a certain basement allure, but the hallowed rock club also was the site of many memorable musical experiences of yours truly.

Although I've yet to see Dennis again, I did return to 1047 Bardstown Road, now known as The Cherokee, hoping to chalk one up for old-times' sake.

The June 9 triple bill was promising: Railroad Jerk, Dancing French Liberals of the 48 and Tammy and the Amps, a band shrouded in mystery.

Curiously, judging from the thin crowd, the word on Tammy and the Amps didn't get out. That was just fine with everyone involved, especially me. Due to a basketball injury, my right ankle was a balloon and I was a bit worried about getting stomped.

Seated with a clear view, a beverage in hand and one leg propped up, I was ready for this oddly named band from Dayton, Ohio. In all honesty, I knew that Tammy and the Amps were led by ex-Pixie bassist and current Breeder Kim Deal and I'm pretty sure the other early birds did too.

Last year at this time Deal and the rest of the Breeders were one of the biggest acts playing the Lollapalooza festival. I'm sure Deal was happy about that and it appeared by her big smile and easygoing mood that she was equally enjoying herself performing in a closet for a few moths compared to Lollapalooza's roving masses.

Their set consisted of eight originals written by Deal and clocked in at a lightning 24 sweet minutes. Deal has a niche for writing twisted ditties that weave in, out and around aggressive guitar pop. "Pacer," "Empty Glass" and the smoldering "Tipp City," clearly proved this strength. One experimental tune was a little disjointed, but it finessed enough weirdness to make it a keeper.

Deal's vocals were lean and somewhat reserved, except for the last song when she let out a shriek that would've made Axl Rose cover his ears. Tammy and the Amps breezed through the Breederesque set so solid and clean that true Breeder fans really missed out.

Hailing from Seattle, Dancing French Liberals of the 48 —— formerly known as The Gits — followed with a fun, spirited punk rock set. I believe this veteran band could teach a course in Punk Rock 101. These guys are purists — loud, fast and very Ramones-like. Not one breather in the pack of sharp, pulsating songs. In short, a very good band with a very bad name.

Railroad Jerk, a primitive bluesy rock band from New York City, rumbled the rest of the night away. Vocalist/guitarist Marcellus Hall's shadowy moan and punchy guitar riffs on "Bang the Drum" and "The Ballad of Railroad Jerk" left me numb and smiling. Or maybe that was the pain killers kickin' in.

Anyway, the band's musical philosophy is simple and direct. Strip the instrumentation to the bone, sing it with fiery gusto and hold on.

If this show is any indication of future shows, then the Cherokee is going to rack up some noteworthy memories of its own.