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November 10, 1984 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-11-10

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Saturday, November 10, 1984

Page 5

Sound system brutalizes

Waitresses

By Dennis Harvey
There are some things that I wouldn't
even wish on Journey or Soft Cell, and
one of them is the Michigan Ballroom.
Distinguished in its own way as the
biggest echo chamber on campus, the
Ballroom may be swell for yodellers
but it's a rather unfortunate place to
have a pop concert, to put it as politely
as possible and not resort to some very
bad words.
The general aural ambience is about
as clear as daybreak in San Francisco,
and just in case you are in danger of
nodding off from the strain of trying to
distinguish one instrument form
another, there's always a cheery little
interlude of screaming feedback to
provide a wee pick-me-up. Painterly
phrases like "murdered" and
"hopeless" come to mind when one
tries to verbalize the delicate interplay
between the band-victims and this en-
vironment assailant. I was not, as you
might guess, a very contented hot at
Thursday night's Waitresses/Mary's
Birthday show at the Ballroom.
But let's say a few nice things about
the bands in question before dissolving
into further tears.
NYC's The Waitresses weren't even a
real band when "I Know What Boys
Like" was first release 'way back in
1980 - Patty Donahue was allegedly
just the only person around who was
available or interested in singing on
Chris Butler's novelty ditty. It had the
kind of emotional impact that makes a
novelty legendary and can launch a
band overnight - you either found the
song hysterically funny or violently ob-
noxious. Donahue's droning singsong
tease, with the "Nyaah, myaah" chorus
and climactic exclamation of
"Sucker," all over jangly little pop
backup, was so brilliantly obvious in its
offensiveness that no halfway brainy
person could take it seriously as an in-
sult against women (or men).
Though, of course, a lot of very silly

people did. Which is probably the
reason why "I Know What Boys Like"
became the overplayed joke hit of the
century and why The Waitreesses
quickly became a real (if frequently
personnel-changing) band. It took
them an unconscionably long time
before their debut LP appeared, Wasn't
Tomorrow Wonderful? Shockingly, the
band seemingly Most Likely To Prove
A One-Hit Pan Flash produced a whole
album of bright, varied, funny, smart
poppin' wave action with a very distin-
ctive figurehead personality, as scrit-
ted by Butler and acted out by
Donahue.
Whil Devo, the B-52's and other early
U.S. cartoony-fun bands were a
deliberate turn toward jokey
surrealism, Butler turned the dayglo-
colored glasses of Flinstones-wave-pop
back onto the details and neuroses of
everyday urban life.
Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful? was,
not so far beneath its shiny guitar-
based, sax-flavored surface, in many
ways the best album about post-
women's lib life ever. (Though it is a
little disconcerting that the central
woman's point of view was authored
by a man.) It went beyond simple ex-
pressions of female anger or triumph to
may out the insecurities that the tran-
sition from the '50's
girlfriend/wife/mom idea to...to
whatever, left behind. Donahue's per-
sona was a wound-up Chatty Patty doll,
rattling off monlogues about guys,
paying the phone bill, quilt, guys,
general neuroses, and more guys in a
pre-Valley Girl whine that would have
had Maria Callas (and had some wavey
listeners, even) screaming for relief.
But she was awfully funny, and if the
modern-girl-at-sea-in-the-modern-
world scenario that Butler set up
seemed ominously constricting, the
album was still sort of conceptual
classic.
No one-hit wonders, then; unfor-
tunately, a one-album one. Despite a

very lucky break in getting to do the
theme for a fairly successful TV series
(Square Pegs), The Waitresses seemed
to be going nowhere in particular,
releasing an EP and a 2nd LP that
failed to expand on the first's viewpoint
or musical approach.
An article last year in the Village
Voice hinted vaguely at internal
problems - first Patty left and Chris
stayed, then Patty came back and Chris
left...in any case the current lineup is
sans Butler and the saxaphone. Their
commercial moment is probably gone,
and the question of whether the current
band can write strong material is as yet
unanswered.
Still, the Ballroom show was
promising -- frustratingly, what it
promised is that this might have been a
great show if it had been aurally
decipherable. The Waitresses' bright,
tricky sound, with their gimmicky stop-
start structures and eccentric in-
strumental frills, got bulldozed into a
thick greyish paste most of the time by
the general sonic din (with occasional
feedback flavorings).
There were indications here and there
in the mess that the band would have
been in fine playing form, and that the
songs from the uneven second and third
records, like "A Girl's Gotta Do What A
Girl's Gotta Do," might have been
much improved in live performance.
Eventually the band seemed, despite
everything, to be having a fairly good
time, and Donahue - still doing the
complete Class Snit act, one are on hip,
the other holding the insolent cig - is
certainly an amusing presence. At
least one unfamiliar song, titled (I
think), "I Need One That I Can't
Have," looked to be a big winner. But
the understandably very short set was
generally reduced to hash, so much so
that some extremely familiar songs
from the first album were scarcely
recognizable. Yeah, they did "I Know
What Boys Like" and "No Guilt" and
"Christmas Rap" and stuff. No, from
all indications, it's not quite time to
write off this band yet. No, I couldn't
tell you for sure how good they are now
-I'd have to hearthem first.
Opening act Mary's Birthday, from
Detroit, understandably threw in the
towel after only five songs. A three
piece outfit with drum tracks, they had
setup problems that got things started
very late, then they experienced the
joys of having their keyboards reduced
to a vague background haze while the

bass and guitar bounced playfully off
the ceiling, etc. etc. As for the lyrics,
one can only speculate - I'm pretty
sure they were in English. One or two
songs had a simple enough sound to
come across fairly coherently, and they
sounded pretty promising.
An excellent choice to pair with the
Waitresses, Mary's Birthday plays
(one suspects) bouncy, likeable dan-
cepop with no pretenses toward
anything but fun, fun, fun. The idea of a
band actually throwing party hats and
kazooa (which probably cost them
about as much as they got for the show)
at the audience sounds rather strain-
ded, but these guys (especially given
the unfortunate circumstances) are so
obviously having genuine 100 percent
nothing-but FUN at what they do that
no smirking is possible, let alone
allowed.
The crowd, a bit surprisingly given
the delay in getting started and the the
granite Wall of Sounds, loved them -
perhaps somewhat out of sheer sym-
pathy - but you can't dance to what
you can't hear. Mary's Birthday has
just put out their own EP, Quite Con-
trary, and that may be well worth a
listen - I certainly hope they return to
Ann Arbor soon under better condition,
because this sort of unconctrived silly
fun is always in short supply.
(EQUALLY TRAGIC FOOTNOTE:
Having had my fill of the murkiest
dirge this side of SPK and Toiling
Midgets, your friendly Daily concert
junkie tripped over to Joe's truly Star
Lounge for some music. L.A.'s Long
Ryders were just launching into the fir-
st of two encores, and never has 15
minutes of sheer unadulaterated
brilliance .made me so wrist-slittingly
miserable about having missed the
previous 60. Country-tinged stomp
music with psychedelic frills, the
Ryders had 'em literally jumping up
and.down and screaming for more, un-
til they couldn't (play more, that is).
"Byrdsy guitar sound" seems to be a
tediously recurrant critical phrase
these days, but - man! This band
made those guitars ascend to heaven
before our very ears. Given the fact
that they probably won't be popping in-
to town again for at least a few
weeks/months, I would recommend the
Frontier Records Long Ryders LP
Native Songs, sight unheard - yeah,
they were that good.)

Patty Donahue, lead singer for The Waitresses, performs Thursday night in
the Michigan Union Ballroom.°

Russian virtuoso brings violin to Rackham

By Neil Galanter
A rock-steady bow arm, fleet and
unerring for the melodic phrase and all
the technical things possible on the
violin.
These are among some of the many
things that have been said about
Viktoria Mullova's violin playing. The
24-year-old Russian emigre will give a
recital tonight at 8:30 p.m. in Rackham
Auditorium assisted by pianist Charles

Abramovich.
Mullova, who was the first prize win-
ner of the 1982 Tchaikovsky Com-
petition in her native Moscow, became
a familiar face in the West through the
coverage of the competition on
television, long before she defected
from the Soviet Union a year after her
victory there.
She was granted asylum in the U.S. at
the same time audiences and critics
greeted her openly in many American

cities such as New York, Chicago,
Baltimore and Los Angeles, among
others.
Born in Moscow in 1959, Mullova
studied with Leonid Kogan at the
Moscow conservatory, and by the time
she was twelve, gave her first public
concerto performance. She went on to
win first prizes in both the 1980 Sibelius
and 1975 Wieniawski competitions, as
well as her victory in the Tchaikovsky.
Her future engagements include a
recital debut in Korea, a tour of Japan
with Seiji Ozawa and major Japanese
orchestras, as well as a debut with The
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by

Ricardo Muti, with four concerts in
Philadelphia and one at The Kennedy
Center in Washington D.C.
Mullova's recital this evening will
feature a variety of works to include:
Mosart's Sonata in B flat, Brahms'
Sonata No. 1 in G, Tchaikovshy's
Serenade Melancolique, Prokofiev's
Sonata No. 2 in D, and Paganinni's La
Campanella. Tickets are available
today at Burton Tower from 9 a.m. till
noon, and at the box office before the
concert, which opens at 7 p.m. For
more information, those interested call
the University Musical Society at 665-
3717.

Men

S

Glee Club

celebrates 100th

I

By Jerry Markon
"Let's sing a song for Michigan, and
friends forever true, Let's sing again,
like loyal men, Ann Arbor all for you."
Written way back in 1909, by future
Music School Dean Earl V. Moore, that
verse from his "I'll Never Forget My
College Days" expresses, in the words
of the current U of M Songbook, "a deep
and personal attachment shared by
college people everywhere."
Last night over 100 excited alumni of
the Men's Glee Club proved that their
personal attachment to the University
has survived the test of time in a
reunion banquet that was part of the
celebration ceremonies honoring The
Men's Glee Club's 125th anniversary.
Gathered in the Michigan League,
these spirited singers gleefully
reminisced about past days with un-
bridled found nostalgia. Tonight, their
rusty but still talented voices will take
center stage when the alumni join the
present Glee Club in a reunion concert
to be held at Hill Auditorium at 8:00.
The pre-banquet "happy hour"
produced many a happy face, and
most were quite eager to talk about the
past. In fact the older the member, the
more their willingness to talk seemed to
increase.
"Oh, heavens, I could talk for
hours!" exclaimed Herbert Schalee, a
member of the Class of 1920. Delighted
at the opportunity to delve into his
college day memories, he said his fon-

dest memory was "sitting in a packed
Hill Auditorium, exactly 65 years ago
this month and hearing the last Ann
Arbor performance of Enrico
Caruso."
What did he think of the current Glee
Club? "Time could only change this
club for the better," he said.
Former club conductor Leonard
Johnson (1975-81) said, "There's so
much continuity in this club that there
is a wonderful sort of deja-vu," and
humorously recalled being locked out of
one concert during intermission, and
having to be let back in "in full view of
the audience".
Herbert Wagner Sr., a 1922 graduate,
recalled being in the club with future
presidential candidate Thomas Dewey.
He also remembered a certain
animosity that once existed between
undergraduates, saying, "Back in those
days, freshmen and sophomores were
deadly enemies." He recounted one
particular incident when, "We were
serenading Kappa Alpha Theta sorority
when a whole horde of sophomores
descended on us. The house mother let
us in, but one of the sophomores caught
me by the ankle, but I wrestled away."
The police eventually had to cart the
embarassed members of the club home
"four at a time."
"We had the time of our lives!" Mr.
Wagner exclaimed, "Imagine being in
a sororiety house until after midnight!"
Hearing him, his wife Lilias leaned
over and quipped, "He wound remem-
ber that, wouldn't he!"

Humpty uumpty aumpty
Tobey, lead singer and songwriter for All Fall Down, brings the band to the
Halfway Inn at East Quad for its debut tonight. The show starts at 9:30 p.m.
with special guest Ragnar Kvaran.

Earn 8 Credits This Spring
in NEW HAMPSHIRE
THE NEW ENGLAND

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