Tooling Around

B-Sides takes a Maynard-related road trip, then heads back home with Corbeta Corbata.

Jun 20, 2007 at 4:00 am
Tool can do no wrong in the eyes of its fans. In fact, the band inspires so much respect from its audience that it's nearly creepy. Tool gets away with things that would cause lesser bands to be written off or completely forgotten: There have been huge gaps between album releases (up to five years), infrequent tours, high ticket prices and band members who have been known to play in the dark and barely address the audience.

But all of this somehow works in Tool's favor. Far from feeling slighted or ignored, fans are supremely excited when an album comes out and are willing to pay as much as necessary for the rare live show. And instead of regarding band members as egotistical jerks, fans view them as mysterious and humble. This kind of blind worship is part of what makes the Tool experience so amazing.

The quartet has always been fairly hard to categorize. Metal, prog, alternative, hard rock — all possible genres only partially describe the band. The qualities of the typical "Tool sound" are just as nebulous as the members themselves. The lyrics are dense, mostly intelligent and sometimes inaccessible, hitting on such diverse topics as history, religion, numerology, witchcraft, death, psychology, math and uh, prison sex.

Last Saturday while performing at the tiny Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Tool gave the kind of performance every fan hopes to witness. The crowd instantly responded when the band opened with "Jambi," a fast, powerful burner from its latest album, 10,000 Days. "Jambi" was followed by older favorites "Stinkfist" and "Forty Six & 2." Another stand-out song was "Schism," which was played differently from the studio recording, as it sped up near the end and highlighted drummer Danny Carey's superior skills. Live, "Schism" is a song that always seems like it might explode at any moment, but on this night it was held together by the enchanting bass guitar work of Justin Chancellor. Adam Jones rolls his fingers down the guitar frets with ease, making the heavy and bewitching "Vicarious" seem effortless. During "Rosetta Stoned," singer Maynard James Keenan encouraged the audience to clap along while he moved in his trademark lurching dance, perched on top of a riser in the back next to the drums.

If there was any complaint about the show, it was that Keenan's voice came across as a bit restrained (although this might just have been an effect of the poor sound quality in the venue). It's also possible that he was just saving his voice for the slow, quiet portion of the show. Keenan sang low and soft for "10,000 Days," a delicate and beautiful song rumored to be about his devotion to his mother during decades of ill health (and subsequent death), and her strong religious faith in the face of daily suffering. During this interlude, the audience sat down and watched — not out of boredom, but out of reverence. Many were moved to tears.

This Friday at the Scottrade Center, expect an outpouring of faith and devotion. Tool will be opening the doors to its sold-out church, and St. Louis congregants have been waiting patiently. — Jaime Lees 8 p.m. Friday, June 22. Scottrade Center, South 14th Street and Clark Avenue. Sold out. 314-241-1888.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
When a band plays a farewell show, it generally likes to do so at a venue that was a staple of its career. But Corbeta Corbata, a local punk favorite for over six years, has chosen to bid St. Louis adieu at the Creepy Crawl's new location, which they never got around to christening.

Guitarist Don Beasley wants keep the show all ages to allow in the band's many underage fans — and to make sure Say Uncle, a band fronted by a nine- and an eleven-year-old, could open.

It may not be a typical request for many of today's cooler-than-thou punk bands, but Corbeta Corbata isn't one of those. The trio of Beasley, bassist/singer Ben Smith and drummer Eric VonDamage brought together Dead Kennedys brashness with NoMeansNo bursts of creativity to construct songs that make them stand out like DayGlo against a blanket of pop-punk drones. For Beasley, the point was always to do something original and unexpected.

"Ben asked me to be in a band, and the reason I said yes was because he just said, 'Do you want to be in a band?'" Beasley recounts.

Not a punk band or a metal band (or, God save us all, a ska band). Just a band with no preconceived notions about what kind of music the trio would make. It worked, with Corbeta Corbata eventually recording a full-length album that Beasley was later shocked (and even a tad embarrassed) to find in his peers' stereos.

"Eric and I were the dorks that the hardcore and punk people wouldn't even pick fights with or hand flyers to after a show," 26-year-old Beasley says of his adolescence.

Corbeta Corbata grew to make the rounds however, frequently playing at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, CBGB and just about every dingy basement show in town. While the band toured occasionally, continuous trips across I-70 proved to be killswitch for the band after Smith moved to Kansas City to attend school.

"We did everything we wanted to do as a punk band," Beasley says, recounting the times the band opened for D.O.A., Guitar Wolf or its heroes NoMeansNo.

They even made hippies bleed, Beasley says.

"At the RFT music showcase, six hippie girls were barefoot-dancing on broken glass watching us, and I'm like, 'Wow, hippies bleeding at our show! That's what I've always wanted.'"

Don't expect Corbeta Corbata's final show to provide the last notes St. Louis hears from the likes of Beasley and Von Damage, though. They've already founded a new band, Nerve Parade. Using reel-to-reel tape, the quintet will feature sounds made and manipulated by the members of the all-local supergroup, which includes Brian Fleshute, Peat Henry and Matty Coonfield.

"The idea is to make people nervous while they are watching us," Beasley said. "I want this band to attack people."

— Andrea Noble 8:45 p.m. Saturday, June 23. Creepy Crawl, 3524 Washington Boulevard. $8 to $10. 314-531-3888.