By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
"You meet the losers in the best bars/You meet the winners in the dives." Neil Young sang those words about his sometime band Crazy Horse, and they ring as true today as they did twentysomething years ago. Take the old Way Out Club, for instance. It was dark, gritty, cramped and packed with drunks and lechers; it featured a Rocky-and-Bullwinkle pinball machine, walls plastered with beer-company promotional signs and old movie posters, a well-stocked bar (serving both beer and whiskey) and an oxygen-to-smoke ratio just this side of black-lung disease. It was a dive of the greatest magnitude, a honky-tonk of Bukowskian proportions.
The old Way Out was also the unofficial home and headquarters of the Rooster Lollipop cooperative, guaranteeing it high standing in the pantheon of rock & roll dives, alongside such dens of iniquity as CBGB's, Max's Kansas City and the Grande Ballroom. Neil would have liked the place for its shabby character, but he would have loved it for the bands that called it home.
The new Way Out is up and running (finally), but the old Way Out has not been forgotten for its nights of service. Axes and Snaxes memorializes the old Way Out at its grimy best, capturing the sound and the fury of the individual Rooster bands' adherence to the rock & roll credo of guitar, bass and drums, live, with no overdubs. Featuring 10 bands and 20 songs, Axes and Snaxes is coked to the gills with great rock & roll, and there isn't a clunker in the bunch.
The Tics buzz sweetly with "I Like You a Little Bit," and the Homewreckers create a dreamy guitar swirl on "Her Disguise" that will make you misty-eyed for the days of pre-breakbeat pop music. The Phonocaptors rough things up with the one-two punch of "I Can't Stand It" and the blistering "66 Is Dead." Johnny Magnet pistol-whips "Holiday in the Sun," and Fran uncorks a balls-out rendition of "Purple Rain" that reveals the Colonel's romantic side. The Rooster Lolli-Pope himself, Mr. Fred Friction, delivers two brief homilies concerning free drinks, and where to get more drinks, so as to bring the ambiance of the Way Out into your home.
And then there's the Highway Matrons. The tremor in Mark Stephens' voice as he sings, "Tell them girls in New Orleans/Tell 'em I ain't comin' back," just before his guitar swallows the rest of the band whole in "I Ain't Comin' Back" -- well, it's worth the price of the CD alone. The Matrons wade through gallons of alcohol to bring you the finest in heartbreak, and if this song doesn't punch you in the tenders, then you just don't understand rock & roll.