Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Square Pizza and a Double Guitar

Watching “Consider the Source” at Joe Squared was quite an experience. Joe Squared is no different from the other little eclectic restaurants nestled into hidden corners of the city of Baltimore, other than the fact that it serves square pizza, and doubles as a concert venue by night. Joe Squared is located on one of the most dangerous streets in Baltimore and probably the country. I was very surprised to find this restaurant playing rock music where boarded up row houses, stray bullets and hard core rap blasting through car stereos dominates.
It was quite interesting demographically the wait staff was all White except for a Hispanic buser. The clientele was slightly more racially diverse, about 50/50 men and women and ranging in age from about 19-65. The demographics of the restaurant really stuck out to me because it is so different from the rest of the city especially the area in which the restaurant is located which is predominately African-American.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was really laid back. One guy walked in the door, spun on his back( break-dancing move) and then walked over to the bar and ordered a beer and no one seemed to notice his mini performance nor care. It was just a relaxed anything goes vibe. The restaurant has a bar and dance floor/stage in the front and about fifteen tables in the back. I was lucky to get the table closest to the stage which happened to be only 12 feet away.

“Consider the Source” just so happened to be one of the three bands performing that night. A performance was scheduled for 8pm on their website, but when I arrived at the restaurant I was told they would not start until 9pm, but it turns out they didn’t start setting up until 9pm and then didn’t start performing until 10:45pm. Through my proximity to the stage and time spent waiting for the performance (which was aided by delicious square pizza) I learned that setting up a stage takes a long time and is quite complicated. I assume that this delay was common because no one else was complaining.

The band “Consider the Source” is from New York and is on tour with another band. The band is made up of three white men in their 20s, which is I see as the stereotypical makeup of a rock band. The band included a bass electric guitar, drums and a surprising twin-necked double electric guitar. The actual music the band played was really catchy. Even though I do not consider myself an avid fan of the genre of rock I found myself bobbing my head with the rest of the crowd. What stood out to me the most was that they did not have a vocalist, I am so used to hip hop and R&B which is centered around vocals and lyrics it was interesting, and different to hear something that was not. The music had almost an eerie sound, but it was upbeat with strong bass lines and drum beats with plenty of solos. Their songs also included a catchy melody that was important because I think that it was the first time most of the people in the crowd had heard the band and having a catchy a melody makes it easier for the crowd to follow and enjoy the music. The band created a lot of different sounds that I found surprising, the twin-neck sounded like a cello at times and the band sounded like they had a Middle Eastern influence at times. The guitarist would switch between necks continually demonstrating his skill. The guitar player who appeared to be the lead had a switch by his foot that he seemed to be using to change to tones and timbre of this instrument. The drummer also used what sounded like chimes, but appeared to be little crude bells attached to a rope which gave for an interesting effect. I wasn’t excepting this “rock” group to be so influenced by outside cultures and was impressed how they incorporated it into their music.

The band reinforced their masculine gender by their song titles and through their performance. One of the song titles was “Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong” and another was “Whacking Off”. Now male sexuality wasn’t explicit to me in the music, but it sure was in the songs. While playing the lead guitarist made faces that seemed very sexual and he appeared to be moaning in a sexual way, and because the band wasn’t making large movements other than rocking back and forth it forced the audience to pay close attention to their facial expressions and expert playing skills. But it is important to note that this did not deter female fans.

As time passed the crowd grew and surrounded the stage and people started to dance. The band drank beer between songs and alcohol flowed from the bar. Everyone was having a great time including myself and I left with a copy of their CD in my hand excited to hear their music again! This was a great laid back experience for anyone who likes good music, a relaxed environment and square pizza.

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