(ASBURY PARK, NJ - February 24, 2009) - Since I had seen Hammel on Trial several times before, I knew tonight was going to be an interesting show, but I wasn't expecting Tara Elliott and the Red Velvets to be so good. It's a shame that the crowd had thinned out a bit before Tara's band closed out the night, because they missed a truly awesome performance.
Rick Barry started off the night with a set that blended his popular "hits" with several new tunes. The set included "All Your Mistakes Have Names," "Graphic Narrative," "Perfect Portrait of a Coward," "Atlantis," and "Stupid American Song."
As Rick stood on stage, dressed in a fine suit and tie, I wondered why it always seems as though he dresses like a million bucks when he's an opening act yet dresses like shit as the headliner.
There was an unfortunate - yet hilarious - moment when the microphone began shocking Rick. Each time he got buzzed in the face, he began smiling. Many of us were wondering what was going on and looked around to see if anyone was making faces at Rick or something. Finally, after he finished the song, he explained the situation.
"I'm being shocked by the mike here," said Rick Barry. "I think people are confused because they may be seeing me smile for the first time during a show." The mike was then adjusted and Rick went on with his traditionally smile free show!
Hammel on Trial is one man who plays a mean punk guitar, writes hilarious lyrics, and likes to tell crude jokes while on stage. It's a performance unlike anybody else you will ever see. It's also a combination that doesn't sound like it should work, but does.
"When I got here this morning, I told Scott the place was too bare," said Hammel. "It was just these plain walls. So we spent the morning putting up stickers everywhere. So now you can see at least a dozen stickers of made up band names on the walls."
Telling a song about drugs he mentioned doing crack then said, "Oh come on, it's crack cocaine. You've all done it -- Asbury Park was founded on crack!"
His set contained songs about sex, drugs, money, remotes that wouldn't work, Brilliant rants such as a hilarious one about television and stories about how President Obama got his wife to agree to do anal sex.
If you've ever seen Hammel live then you know about his famous "Pussy" song. Towards the end of the night he said, "We're getting to the end of the show and I know you're thinking he didn't do any pussy eating songs. We came here for some pussy eating songs. Did he have one? Well yes I do... Everybody loves this song except gay guys.
"I love when people walk in at this point. They're out walking and see this revitalized neighborhood. Maybe they see The Saint and say 'let's see what this place is like' -- maybe they think it's a Christian place. They walk in and were all screaming pussy!"
Songs included "When Yer Young," "Inquiring Minds," "Global Tattoo," "A Little Concerned," "Halfway," "Ain't That Love," "Magic", "John Lennon," and "Mom's Hot."Your mom's hot
Your a little shorty, but your moms hot for forty.
She's got a slamming body, she must have done Pilates
Simply hilarious lines, fucked up rhymes, and full-blown rocking solo on stage with a mixture of 50s sound and punk rock. There were shades of Duane Eddy twang guitar along with some of the loudest and fastest acoustic guitar you'll ever hear. He's definitely one of a kind, which is good because I don't think the world is big enough for two Hammels.
Tara Elliott and the Velvets closed out the night. With a booming voice and a solid rocking/punk band behind her she kicked ass! She was one part Meat Loaf, one part Romeo Void, one part Janis Joplin, and one part Iggy Pop. She's definitely someone to keep an eye on. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a future Asbury Music Award nomination for top female vocalist for her and that tremendously powerful voice. She's from Jersey, but has been concentrating on gigs in New York City for the past few years. She said she's trying to build a following around Asbury Park now.
For some reason, I kept wanting to hear her sing "Time Warp". Maybe it was her theatrical voice. I'd love to see them tackle a Romeo Void tune like "A Woman In Trouble" or "Never Say Never." The band did throw out a few interesting covers among their originals. Covers from The Stooges to The Searchers were part of the set.
This was a good example of what makes Tuesday nights so special. Tonight was a grab bag of genres that all seemed to work together and, like most Tuesdays, there's always a surprise at the end. Tonight, that surprise was Tara Elliott and the Red Velvets. I look forward to their return to the area. They rock!
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.