Store Indians Play Live in Atlanta
By Frankie Hagan
Olde Bar is one of those great pieces of the Atlanta puzzle
that any real music fan should know about. Above the smoky
downstairs bar is a favorite venue of hometown bands,
and it's the space where the Cigar Store Indians chose
to record the first part of a two show live album to be
released later this year.
CSI was one of several bands on the roster this past March
30, and by the time the opening act had left the stage
the room was completely full. An assortment of Atlanta's
citizenry and outsiders were in attendance. The rockabilly
crowd, with sideburns and bowling shirts were mixed among
fans of country music, good rock, great guitar, and the
occasional swing kid. Money or no money, different age
groups, proud rednecks and white collar workers off for
the weekend, all seemed at perfect balance in the frenzy
that the CSI created as they finally took the stage.
The group's attire for the evening seemed to underline
their broad-based American appeal as musicians. Lead singer
and gifted songwriter Ben Friedman appeared sporting a
cowboy hat. A fan added a feather boa to his ensemble
later in the evening, to which he commented, "I am
now the redneck Elton John." Guitarist Jim "Low
Note" Lavender seemed a blast from the past in his
fedora, suspenders and tie, and bassist Keith Perissi,
with his combed back hair and dark clothing, mirrored
the look of Fifties guitar bands. From the background
came energetic drummer Paul Barrie, who brought both the
mischief and the fun that is the substance of rock-and-roll.
band opened with "Hot Rod Concerto," a favorite
from their self-titled debut CD. The sound was infectious
with energy and toe-tapping dance possibilities, making
one think of early American rock legends like Bill Haley.
But the Cigar Store Indians are not so easily categorized.
The songs that followed show varied influences, from the
two-steppin' "Pinstripe Suit" to the crowd-pleasing
punk ballad "Barfly" and the wildly fun "She
Makes Me Come Undone."
The original instrumental "El Baile de la Cobra"
provided a riveting Latin twist that dancers recognized
as a rumba, while surf guitar fans delighted at the cover
of Dick Dale's "Misirlou." Credit must be paid
to Ben Friedman's strength as a song scribe as well as
a lead man, as evidenced on rockabilly numbers like "Kisses
in Vain," "Heaven," "Tossin' 'n' Turnin',"
and the amazingly insightful, "Eagles Need a Push."
Equally noteworthy were the storytelling ballads, particularly
"Mother of the Bride," framing the plight of
a trucker driving his mother-in-law cross-country from
Tennessee. "Dirty Belly Button" explored women
with pierced navels, "Mating Call" chronicled
an "easy" lady drinker, and the band's newest
cut, "You Look Just Like Betty Page," may be
one of the best rock songs Ben Friedman ever wrote.
In covering the material of others, Cigar Store Indians
continued to exemplify that they are pure products of
American music, blending Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire"
into "I Want to Be Sedated" from the Ramones
and back again. "Sleepwalk" crept its way into
a set, as did the party punk ballad "Should I Stay
or Should I Go?"prompting the fans to demand
more from a band that played on until the wee hours of