The Rainmakers/The Red Elvises (Saturday, May 19, 2012 @ Knuckleheads) Ticket price: $15.00
371 days after my first visit to Knuckleheads, my friends and I returned there last Saturday night for our third encounter with the Rainmakers during that stretch, and this show was the best of the lot. The crowd wasn’t quite as large as last year’s reunion gig, but it was 30 degrees warmer than that unseasonably-frigid night last May, and our view was much better from the catbird’s section in the balcony upstairs, too (although I didn’t think to bring my opera glasses!). Unlike at the previous two shows (see “Concert #110” and “Concert #111”), the sound quality was just about perfect from the get-go this time, and just like the last two shows, the band was tight throughout their 32-song 2.5-hour set. By my calculations, that’s about 47 cents per song, based on the $15 ticket price—damn good value! The only true horror of the night was the Schaefers-inducing hot dog I made the mistake of consuming at the venue before the show. Yes, I know, too much information. (Thanks, but no thanks for the information...Because Information's got your #2...) [Sorry, Bob!]
[NOTE: For the uninitiated, "The Schaefers" is my euphemism for diarrhea—it’s short for the Schaefer Shits, an affliction encountered by some guys I knew in college who downed too much Schaefer beer during spring break on the beaches of Padre Island in Texas. Also pronounced ‘da Schafas!’ in Brooklyn. But I digress…]
Not a whole lot had changed since we last saw the band in Richmond, MO exactly ten weeks ago in March—apart from their wardrobe. Instead of all four guys wearing the same color t-shirt like in the last two gigs we saw, individuality reigned and it was “wear what you want” night. Bassist Rich Ruth had the most intriguing get-up, looking like a member of the Charlie Daniels Band in his cowboy hat and red flannel shirt (at left in above photo). The guys also actually did do some “Drinkin’ On The Job” throughout (but not to excess)—Ruth favored Heineken, guitarist/frontman Bob Walkenhorst and drummer Pat Tomek were Bud Men, and lead guitarist Jeff Porter appeared to be working the questionable combo of Red Stripe and Corona. The group seemed in high spirits, too, and it was especially fun to watch Walkenhorst shuffling and dancing around all night when he wasn’t singing, and contorting his face and throwing his entire body into the songs when he was singing. For a man in his late ‘50s, Mr. Walkenhorst acts very 20-something, and ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Bob also hinted that there may well be yet another Rainmakers album in the works (working title, Explosion In The Dog Shit Factory, he quipped), explaining that what was intended to be merely a one-off band reunion last year has been so much fun that they don’t want to stop. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, either. I was also able to snag a DVD copy of last year’s Knuckleheads show at this gig. This is a first—after 112 concerts in 33 years, I finally have a full-length video of a show I actually attended—thanks, guys!
The set list varied slightly than Richmond (and was a skosh longer), and while I was most pleased that my personal favorite Rainmakers song “Reckoning Day” returned to the list, their timing was bad because I was on a bathroom/beer run when they played it. D’oh! And like both previous shows, all Rainmakers albums were represented at least once except (again curiously) 1997’s Skin. Knuckleheads is an indoor/outdoor venue that abuts an active railroad line, and Casey Jones came chugging by tooting his horn during “The Wages Of Sin”, prompting Walkenhorst to sing (without missing a beat) “Just about then I heard a…train” instead of “a knock on the door”. “Drinkin’ On The Job” returned from its Richmond sabbatical to the set list, during which the band lurched briefly into C.C.R.’s “Fortunate Son” and Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (better known to most folks as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”). "Like Dogs" from their latest album 25 On also returned to the list and my friends were ribbing me about it, especially Walkenhorst's line, "If you don't like dogs, what's your fuckin' problem?" Well, brother Bob, it's like this...you've obviously never been to my house in Raytown and had to endure the Bark-O-Matic nextdoor that has tortured me and kept me awake at night for years—you seriously might change your tune if you ever do drop by. Anyway, apart from another personal favorite, “Tornado Of Love”, being overlooked for the third straight time (WTF, guys?!?), this was about as perfect a Rainmakers set list as you’re gonna get. As in Richmond, a rousing rendition of “Big Fat Blonde” (the cousin of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie") concluded the proceedings.
I was also quite impressed with the evening’s opening act, the Red Elvises (Red Elvi?)—too bad I was unable to actually WATCH their full set. Knuckleheads lived up to their name by being greedy and charging two separate admissions—10 bucks got you in for the opening act on their indoor stage ONLY, while 15 bucks gained you access to the outdoor stage for the Rainmakers. Trouble is, the indoor stage is at the opposite end of the venue (to the left in this photo), and there’s a wall separating them as well. That poses a bit of a problem when you’re trying to stake your claim to good seats in the balcony for the headline act while you wait for your friends to arrive. While it was cool that K-Heads piped in the audio/video from the Elvises to the main stage, their obsolete and weather-worn outdoor big-screen TV was too blurry and fuzzy (bluzzy?), rendering it virtually unwatchable. I see no good reason why the Elvi couldn’t have played the main stage ahead of the Rainmakers—it’s not like they had a massive Kiss-like stage rig to tear down or anything between sets. Suffice it to say I’m not a terribly big fan of Knuckleheads—their layout and set-up are just too dodgy for my liking, and don’t even get me started on the food. They’re lone saving grace is (relatively) cheap beer.
Anyway, as for the band itself, I grooved almost immediately to these guys (they have a girl, too, as you can see), two of whom originally hail from Russia. Their leader, Igor Yuzov (center, holding up his guitar in the photo), kept referring to his group (half-jokingly/half-seriously) as “Everyone’s favorite band” or “Your favorite band”, and this Igor is WAY funnier than Yakov Smirnoff, too—and to his credit, not once did I ever hear him utter the phrase, “Vut a country!” I guess I’ve been sleeping at the wheel again, because I’d never even heard of this band until Saturday night, although they’ve been around since the mid-‘90s and have quite the cult following, it appears. Most of their stuff sounds a lot like Reverend Horton Heat-style turbo-charged Rockabilly, but they also throw in a few curveballs like reggae, ska and even a polka. At one point, they even had the crowd doing a Conga line. And check out that dude’s bass guitar—even the late John Entwistle didn’t have a bass in his massive collection with its own kickstand! Somehow, I don’t think this is what Paul McCartney had in mind when he wrote the line “Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out…” but you most definitely could hear this one. Check out them suits, too—test patterns on acid! The Red Elvi repertoire was also quite humorous at times, including one particularly silly tune called “Harriet” that caught my ear, in which Igor sang lovingly about his "girl", referring to her as "my honey pie/my chocolate cake/my well-done steak”. Sounds like something I’d come up with for a term of endearment! Other RE ditties like “Closet Disco Dancer”, “I Wanna See You Bellydance”, "Drinking With Jesus" and “Sex In Paradise” were crowd pleasers, and I was almost sorry to see the Red Elvises “leave the building”, so to speak, because they were a real hoot. I plan to invest in some Red Elvi CDs immediately, and I also heard Igor say they’d be back in K.C. in November. Would love to actually SEE them as well as hear them next time, you Knuckleheads! Why, I oughtta…
SET LIST: Snakedance/The Other Side Of The World/Downstream/Given Time/Long Gone Long/Reckoning Day/My Own Bed/The One That Got Away/The Wages Of Sin/Missouri Girl/Information/Half A Horse Apiece/Shiny Shiny/Small Circles/Kansas City Times/Lakeview Man/Like Dogs/One More Summer/Nobody Knows/Rockin’ At The T-Dance/Government Cheese/Spend It On Love/Width Of A Line/Drinkin’ On The Job [w/Fortunate Son and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35]/Hoo-De-Hoo/Last Song Of The Evening/I Talk With My Hands ENCORES: Johnny Reb/Turpentine/Let My People Go-Go/Go Down Swingin’/Big Fat Blonde