As the Blend? set up to take the stage for their fourth-to-last show, guitarist Travis Simpson checked his mic with the words, “Hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll can never die.” If that were any indication how this set could go, the crowd and I were either about to begin a long night of Neil Young-inspired garage rock, or witness a performance full of clichéd rock rhymes. In the end, we actually witnessed a bit of both. You might even call it a — well, you know.
Singer-guitarist Marc Smith walks up on stage with his purple-felted Stratocaster, wearing a full brown suit, circa 1974, in all of its bellbottomed glory. Opener “Ship of Fools” begins with Simpson rambling on his Telecaster in a Townshend-esque staccato fit. While his persistent racket works for this song, and even on a few others, the recurring noise quickly becomes abrasive. Smith’s voice comes in a half-sung/half-restrained yell that might better suit a mid-’90s post-grunge band. The vocals may be in key, but Smith doesn’t really make any attempt to display his range. Bassist Brandon Herring seems almost absent from most of the performance, as he appears inclined to camp out near his equipment, rocking only slightly as he shifts his weight from front to back foot.
The next song, aptly titled “Rock and Roll, ” is more of what’s expected by this point. Drummer Thomas Whitney’s erratic tom fills sound flashy, but never distract the listener from the main event — the wah pedal. As the “wah-wah” of Smith’s guitar breaks through the din of Simpson’s incessant strumming, you might be tempted to make a Jimi Hendrix comparison — if it weren’t for that Napoleon Dynamite suit, that is.
But over-analyzing the band and their sound is a mistake. The moderately entertaining music is everything the band intends it to be. “Mindless” would be an insult in nearly any other context, but it’s an absolute compliment in this case. This is rock ’n’ roll, but not that hackneyed Southern-rock-
infused nonsense that is ever so popular these days. This is the real deal, and real rock ’n’ roll is arguably better when you don’t have to think about it. The Blend? is making music for a different era. Through the entirety of their hour-long set, they incorporate good parts from ’60-’70s era rock into each of their 11 songs. Their finest moment happens in the band’s finale, “Golden Man,” a departure from the 10 previous improv-heavy jams, in that it seems as though a fair amount of thought went into this one. This crowd came to dance, and dance they do. My, my, hey, hey, rock and roll is here to stay.
The Blend? are scheduled to play two more shows before calling it quits — Wednesday, April 29, at Sam’s Burger Joint and May 16 at Limelight. Go to myspace.com/theblendtx for more information.