Cooler Rocked, the Bricks Moved . . .
But the Audience Didn't

By David Lilly

The local rock `n' roll locomotive known as Cooler charged through The Rudyard Kipling on August 4, 2001, with the musical engine at full throttle, leaving sonic wakes in its path and very muffled hearing in the ears of anyone who attended sans earplugs.

Cooler is a well-oiled, finely tuned unit that churns out hard driving, LOUD and catchy power-pop songs. Although none of them really exudes charisma (which is not a crime), they did put on a good, tight show, which proved that they're not just another band out there making noise. Mark Ritcher - the one with the conspicuously depilated scalp and dark-framed glasses - is the band's most animated performer and handled most of the lead vocals. Between songs he seemed shy but was cordial to the audience. Jeff Goebel, the tall, blond pretty-boy of the group, handled other guitar duties and additional singing. Though he is slightly more reserved than Ritcher, Goebel's performance demonstrated that he is an excellent guitarist. Drummer Jeremy Sherrer pounded out time flawlessly, keeping things steady throughout the show. Scott Darrow, who looks like a cross between Neil Young and John Fogerty, played his bass like a pro, filling out the band's sound. All four musicians appeared to be good Catholic boys. They're very good at what they do, hammering through eleven of the twelve songs on their current disc, Oh Happy Day.

Highlights included the beginning of the show, when the band stormed straight into "Girl's Night Out," provoking fond memories of Foghat chow-opening choice of "Fool For The City." "By My Side" featured Goebel's extension of the fuzz-metal intro, punctuated by Ritcher literally kicking into the infectious pop-metal body of that fun song.

The one shortcoming was that the volume was so loud in the Rudyard Kipling's small performance room that some of the sound was distorted, especially the vocals. This may or may not have affected the strangest element of the evening, which was the mostly twentysomething crowd which, despite plenty of reason to get up and dance, sat through the show, nearly as still as leaves on a tree on a windless day. Ritcher apparently took it in stride, casually mentioning how weird it was to play to people on either side of the stage, but no one in front.

Their material is fun and they're very good at what they do, but this train needs a bigger station to pull into.