Toybox Americana

(Gentleman Callers, opening for Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill)

The sound is early-American garage rock. They've even got one of those funky organs like the one you hear in "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians. A Farfisa, I think it's called. The guy playing it's got hair like a mop. Neck bounces, shakes. He dreams of becoming a clip from the Ed Sullivan Show.

Guy leaning against the stage: hair slicked back in a perfect pompadour, a comic-book homage to the duck's ass, as if it were drawn by Charles Burns. Young Elvis Presley hair. An extra from The Lords of Flatbush. A devotee of the hundred-somethingth wave of rockabilly.

This guy, this band — both are rummaging through the toybox of twentieth-century Americana, lost in the funhouse of American swank, the Great American Theater of Pop Culture. It isn't just a look they share, it's the idea of a look, purchased at the same used-clothing stores, from the 1950s-style bowling shirts on down to the polished Beatle boots.

A new art form, whose method consists of mixing and matching the past like a DJ making a new song from of a collection of old records.

Enter: St. Louis.

 
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