The rhythm section of LA’s own The Henry Clay People, Mike (drums) and Jonathan (bass), were all smiles out back after their set, having warmed up the stage quite nicely for headliner The Airborne Toxic Event. Packed house, good times, good times, and with six more weeks to go–well, five and a half by now–along a tour that stretches from the North to the Southwest, it’s unlikely that smile’ll be getting swallowed anytime soon. Hearing Mike and Jonathan taunt lead singer and guitarist Joey Siara as he now begins to fux with the methods of the proverbial “back door man” (i.e. one for whom it is necessary to come and go discretely lest he be mobbed by innumerable lusty, adoring thongs) was good eating for this reviewer, for sure.

Of ATE (that’s Airborne Toxic Event) let me say I like the song “Gasoline” and I  wonder if they’ll soon hate playing it and “Sometime Around Midnight” along with it and are they annoyed by people saying they like those songs and want to hear them over and over and over and over; but all that’s prolix, anyway, and indirect, and discursive. I know. And anyways what I heard of their other stuff sounded pretty cool for status quo indie fare, I admit, and truth be told I had to leave a little early–prior engagements–but not unconvinced that I’d be willing to swap out some  Modest Mouse to make room in the old 100-disc changer for Airborne’s hotly regarded, self-titled debut.

[audio:] Airborne Toxic Event – “Sometime Around Midnight”

So before ATE it was Henry Clay People, whose command of the stage, and whose  straightforwardly rocking rocksound, did equally impress . . . the formidable presence of an indie band that is not riding a haggard, long-reluctant unionjacked backbeat. They only seem fresh, however, inasmuch as the sum of their influences steers a more classic course, a certain departure from the danceless dance of the aughts. It’s Petty bent by Malkmus, an intellect consanguineous of the Palace Brothers telling folksy jokes about babies in loud blenders that played a lot of Stones covers once but now prefer to hear their ownselves churning about. Fun, right?

[audio:] The Henry Clay People – “I Was Half Asleep”

Joey Siara: talented vocalist and guitarist with enough charisma to carry the whole thing off. Thankfully, the songs don’t drag or involve themselves overlong in the gratuitous tension of a protracted minor V, or whatever, (like so much of what you hear these days,) which is to say the songs contain very little of what one might call the “good-long refrain of the post-sad clown.” Which is again to say the chord changes come when rock–not your tired, cock-burgling ex–says they should, every turn a welcome one. The classic, riff-driven, concise and honest stuff of dueling Telecasters, some three-part vocal arrangements and a stank upper lip, the Henry Clay People’s uppity little secret.

If, appearing self-fulfilled, the Henry Clay People make a show of cocksureness, it’s only to serve performance, a bit of cheese for the camera. As approachable and down-to-earth as any Los Angelino I’ve met, little brother and rhythm guitarist Andy Siara suffered, with cherubic good humor, a mild ribbing from me on the way to man his merch booth. Also a good sport, drummer Mike Hopkins made proud display of two columns of gnarliest backhair after removing a tee-shirt soaked in sweat [see: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, Spooky, Scary!], proof of a fine Friday the 13th. Nor does Joey Siara, back door guy himself, carry charm without humility. Best of Luck, bros!

Oh and a word about Rademacher, the evening’s opener: a bang-up job, really: Sosa’s half-spoken, half-sung inculcations and some kick-ass work by Greer McGettrick on bass.