Radio Bean is my favorite coffeehouse in Burlington, despite never having had any coffee there. It's not that I don't drink coffee. It's just that I'm usually there at night to check out live music or play an open mic. And after dark, I much prefer a draught of Switchback over a cup of java. Anyway, the Bean was advertising garage rock last Saturday night, so I went down to catch Burlington's The Fatal Flaws.
Garage rock is a simple art form. And therein lies its beauty and strength. I've been a fan of the genre's minimalist characteristics — sparse drumbeats, bluesy R&B 12-bar chord changes and tales of love and heartbreak — for a long time. Heck, I have even played music in a garage. (Today's free history lesson: That's how the term originated in the mid sixties, when kids all over America heard The Beatles and became so inspired that they bought guitars and drums and set up in their parent's garages to start their own bands.)
The Fatal Flaws definitely fit the description, and I enjoyed the show. Comprised of Chris Beneke on guitar and vocals and Sasha Rodriguez on drums, this husband and wife duo makes a sound that is bigger than the sum of its parts. Beneke played a pale green hollow-body Gretsch through a little Savage tube amp propped up at his feet. He faced sideways toward the wall the whole night. But I assume this was so he could see Sasha and not a stage fright issue. The Flaws play spontaneously and without a set list, so eye contact is important. When a song wasn't working they would just start over or scrap it altogether. Rodriguez enthusiastically played a children's drum set. To wit: when she substituted a pair of maracas for drumsticks, alternately shaking them in the air and banging on the kit.
As my wife and I walked in, Beneke made a comment about Bo Diddley and Lux Interior jamming together in hell, which could actually serve as a good description of their sound. While a comparison to The White Stripes is almost inevitable, I would also liken them to The Velvet Underground, early Beck and sixties rockers such as The Pretty Things or The Sonics. Clearly, their music is made from the outside looking in.
Beneke has a dark muse in his songwriting, exhibited by entertaining lyrics such as "some intercourse with a side of tits" and "I want to hurt the pretty people, but first I want to fuck them." I'm pretty sure that last line was directed at the large group of people who were there for an "ugly sweater pub crawl," and couldn't have cared less about what was going down on that tiny stage. Besides them, there were only a few of us there to actually hear the music. You know it's a small show when Radio Bean feels empty.
When Beneke asked for requests, my wife yelled out for The Cramps, since he had already mentioned their recently fallen front man. Beneke revealed that they didn't know any Cramps tunes, but that he had seen the band a decade ago in New York City at the Roseland Ballroom, a show that my wife and I had also attended. The universe is funny like that. We settled for a repeat performance of "Fuckbait," an awesome song that I am sure Lux would have enjoyed as well.
You can check out The Fatal Flaws for yourself when they return to Radio Bean on Saturday March 7.