John Barrett of Bass Drum of Death at the Basement Saturday night (photo by John Petric)
Twas a Saturday night and I don't remember if the moon was bright but yours truly went a-roving. First stop: the Basement, my most favorite place for near-guaranteed intimacy in Columbus, where you can technically get close enough to the performers to untie their shoes (though I prefer not, but when the Stones played the Shoe and I was photographing them I could've undone Mick's laces; I successfully fought the urge).       And honest to goodness and Lord Byron's club foot, too, I went to hear the two acts absolutely entirely and only because I liked their names and nothing more (at that point): Bass Drum of Death and headliner Hanni El Khatib. The former had much to live up to--and I do admire true boldness; and the latter, too, in this day and age of religious war with the Middle East, a name like that invites raised eyebrows but then again, I know from growing up in several entirely different regions of America what it's like to be an outsider. Fighting led to friendship, that's the American way.      My unpretty hunches paid off handsomely. Both blew my head off though the Palestinian-Filipino-Americano was a bit problematical.       From Mississippi came BDOD--two guitars and a drummer: strong and I do mean STRONG. This power trio unites Nirvana, Blue Cheer and just the right amount of melodic power pop entrails steaming and streaming from and atop their smashing four-chord garage rock as to just about burst my thermometer. John Barrett sang through his cascade of face-hiding hair while often tossing off flashy but sincere rock star moves of joyful rock 'n' roll body English, say, lifting a leg and cocking it while throwing his guitar to the side and up, still strumming it like a cowboy hot for a heifer.       How can I pierce your shell of comprehension and prove BDOD is the best young three-piece I've seen in years? Or have I just done that? That no song bored; every tune carried some unselfconsciously clever bits of hook secured by a pummeling Dave Grohl-like drummer and second guitarist who reinforced Barrett's guitar riffs like a dominatrix's lash. There's something so liberating when a band destroys reality right in front of your eyes, you're stripped to your essences and suddenly nothing matters but this Saturday night moment in time. Not only would the grand romantic Byron have been proud but also the sensual hedonist Blake.       Where Bass Drum was youthful, pure, sexy and unaffected, Hanni and his bassist came across as the two most pompous, preening, egotistical assholes I've seen onstage since Motley Crue. Hanni would hit an open chord, throw his arms down, turn his back to the audience, bodily telling them he doesn't give a fuck and then start the song's strum again, returning to the mic. He sorta semi-rocked, his songs a little intense yet often pausing, then resuming a pushiness one wasn't enthralled by. I was seriously considering leaving after only a handful of songs, thinking what the hell did Dan Auerbach see in this asshole so as to produce his most recent album?       And then something clicked.       As one song ended and he was just about to introduce the next, Hanni was given serious competition by a gaggle of loud-talkers a few yards from the stage and in that delightfully cozy club it doesn't take much to hijack the vibe. He turned to them, paused and then said, "Oh no, after you--ya dick," which he killed with and then admitted he himself was a dick. And then, honest to Byron's deist god of reason and nature, the show's character changed, more than a little, too. Now, Hanni was ON; now Hanni WASN'T being a pompous dick; now he was rocking and singing from a different place, or so it seemed. He was now real. Strange but that is how it felt to me but when you're up that close you read a performer better. Maybe. And now I was in his corner. From there on, he and his three musicians really put a super-strong mood of unfettered emotional intensity on top of songs where everything jelled--the band, the star, the music, the crowd. Auerbach understood. Exhilaratingly dramatic Hanni was. Count me a fan.      But I had 'a-roving' to do.      I went to Dick's Den to see my arch nemesis Derek DiCenzo only to find out he'd switched nights with someone else on the bar calendar. Damn you, Vicenzo. You got away this time but we have a date in the future. And you won't recognize me with my new haircut.      So I roved on up to Woodland's to see this themed night of Electro-Cult-Sex-In-The-City-type weirdness and what a split personality of a scene that was. On the sports bar side, Ohio State fans were a triumphant tribe; on the music, many of the pagan misfits from Evolved were onstage in various stages of undress trying hard to shock the non-existent crowd because the only people not on stage were people waiting to go on stage and act out their exhibitionist fantasies. It wasn't strange, nor awkward but mostly quaint in a naked quilting bee sort of way (the night could've been called "The Bitches of Madison County).       As I sat next to a naked guy wearing a garbage can with suspenders as he patiently waited for his 20 minutes of onstage obscurity, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the huge ensemble's version of the Beastie Boys' "High Plains Drifter." The words were delivered by a guy and a girl. She was in a two-piece bra-and-panties with Beanie Babies streaming on strings. He was exactly like Chris Farley in the SNL Chippendales skit with Patrick Swayze--just without the sleeveless tux shirt and even more prodigious gut.      It was enough to make me agree with the title of Lord Byron's poem: "We'll go no more a roving."