Early on during last Saturday’s Frank Black Tribute Night at P.A.’s Lounge (thrown in honor the nearby Nave Gallery’s fifth anniversary), someone in the audience yelled, “More bass!” But he was wrong. The former Pixies frontman’s legacy is what he did for the electric guitar’s high end: fractured rock music that sounds like steel skeletons. Black doesn’t rumble your guts — you feel him in your teeth.
So why cobble together 11 acts (among them Big Disappointments, Choo Choo la Rouge, Holey Moleys, and Muy Cansado) for a long night of cover songs? The night’s organizer, Jennifer Harrington, told me that the best concert she’d ever seen was Black’s 2003 solo show at ZuZu, and that she had also been looking for a project. It seemed like quite an event to pull off. With so many performers, things got tricky for the guy at the door. “Are you in a band?” he yelled once, just barely noticing the two guys slipping in. They were.
In fact, pretty much everybody was in a band. It seemed that half the people in the audience took the stage at one point r another, and that contributed to a friendly, “Oh what are you up to these days?” atmosphere. Frank Black fans are an indie bunch, but more ’90s, Linklater indie than Whole Foods, Twitter indie. What I’m trying to say is that I saw at least four of those “revolutionary worker” hats.
Harrington ran a tight ship, imposing a 15-minute limit on each set, and this encouraged punchy, nervy performances. Tony the Bookie Orchestra were the first group to play really loud, and they also tapped into Black’s slightly psychotic take on musical Americana. (Imagine the rock equivalent of a Coen brothers movie.) Doomstar! absolutely ripped through “Bone Machine” and a few other Pixies numbers, and Berklee grad Caitlin Frane had a gorgeous, clear voice and a derby hat.
The strangest thing is that such jagged, menacing music could inspire such soft-eyed devotion. Walking home through the humid spring air, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one singing softly to himself: “Gouge away/you can gouge away/stay all day/if you want to.”
-- Richard Beck