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Corndogorama 2003
Ah, the corndog, the almost forgotten relative of the ever popular plain ol' hotdog. Take a perfectly good thing, batter it and deep-fry it. Works for about anything, from chicken to cheese.
Saturday we hit the EARL as early as we could, around 7 PM, missing out on Corndogorama's afternoon events in favor of the musical
portion of the event. Out front a booth was set up for the thematic food of the weekend, but we slipped on through to the back room where To Whom It Concerns  was setting up on the main stage. They do an interesting mix of hardcore metallic rap, something like Rage Against the Machine, with moments of jamming and groove rock, then moving into soaring vocals much like Sound Garden, then back to the fast, percussive rap. The lead singer has a great voice for this and adds to the sound with some impressive bongo playing and I could've really enjoyed it but they mushed out most of the melody with too much fuzzy guitar. I like a fuzzy guitar, don't get me wrong, but if you've got two guitars, bass, drums, and occasional bongos, you don't need fuzz coming from both guitars drowning out the sound. There's a reason most bands go with standard rhythm guitar and lead, or just one guitar - you can actually hear the music that way. But these guys have huge potential.

The bar sold Miller High Life 16 oz. cans for $1.50, but you'd have to pay me about twice that to take a sip of one of these ever again. Nasty stuff that tastes like the can is being dissolved into your mouth while you drink it. Not worth it even for the cheap buzz, so I moved up to decent beer after suffering through one Miller. Corndogs went for $3, a bit much but the best corndog I've ever had. Hand-dipped, crispy, flavorful, everything you want in a corndog but don't get at the Starlight Drive In. It's one of those foods that has become so processed, pre-packaged and microwavable that you forget how they're supposed to taste. The booth out front also offered jalepeno and vegetarian versions, but I stuck with the traditional flavor and enjoyed it immensely, sitting out on the sidewalk while Cadillac Jones grooved in the front room in full jazzy jam mode. Talented guys doing a fine job with music I can only tolerate with a corndog in my mouth and lots of pretty eye candy walking by. But then I could tolerate just about anything with such distractions.

Back inside in the back room, it's Tag Team. No, not the rap duo from some years ago, but a group of mostly EARL owners and staffers. It's a strange sound, sort of a bar band gone dark, with gravely vocals
of, for, and by hardcore alcoholics, backed up by a sax or two and all the EARL bartenders chanting along to every song. They did a great love song to "Betty," that wraps up with the line, "Take me back and I won't come back, take me back and I won't come back, take me back and I won't come back again." Confusing if you don't know
it's about Betty Ford.

Some of Tag Team's younger fans.

They had a little side stage set up in the back bar so you didn't have to miss a minute of music during equipment changes. Most of the
bands that appeared on the side stage seemed to be of the math rock sort, mostly instrumental music with rapid tempo changes and strange
start-stop breaks, the sort of music that makes the musicians in the crowd nod thoughtfully and the rest of us shake our heads in confusion. "It's got a strange beat, Dick, and I can't dance to it."
The first of these acts we caught was Centre, with talented harmonic guitar work. Fortunately they stuck with the mostly instrumental
stuff because they're lyrics were indecipherable and I might not remember them at all if they didn't have a guitarist that looked much
like a young Abraham Lincoln - tall and craggy, with an Amish-looking beard.

Next on the main stage, 4 cute girls I'd been ogling in the crowd earlier plus a guy on drums doing more of that start-stop rock but mercifully without so many tempo changes. But they chased everyone I brought along out of the room and I only lurked around longer because the lead singer smiled from time to time and jumped up and down in excitement. Never caught the name, and it's just as well because I can't remember the sound the next morning, even with the notes I took the night before.


I didn't stick around long though. Instead, I tracked down the rest of my gang and took some of them eastward to Decatur for a house
party. A little non-corndog food, a little light conversation, then we're headed back to the EARL in time for Good Friday Experiment,
droney, spacey, downbeat stuff with synthesizer sound effects thrown in for flavor while projected NASA and slo-mo fireball footage played on the walls behind them. Degenerate JH turned to me and asked, "Are the shrooms kicking in yet?"
Unfortunately, they weren't selling that kind of corndog at the booth out front.

Good Friday Experiment's pedal collection.


Another act on the side stage, Ladies Night, couldn't keep my attention since a cute girl in the back of the room decided to get up on a table and shake her thing in a miniskirt. The problem was her friends wanted her to stop so they came over every few minutes to beg her to come down, only to get pulled into the fray and soon it was like the beginnings of a Girls Gone Wild video as they danced together, sliding around on the slippery table. Of course, the table fell over and they ended up feet in the air and for some reason I can't remember the way Ladies Night sounded when, on the other side of the room, it was a different sort of ladies night, with flashes of panties and drunken debauchery.


Next up on the main stage, Hubcap City with local talent Bill Taft telling tall tales while a small band bangs on a variety of odd instruments. Funny stories, but the sound once again drove off my compatriots. But after a long evening of drinks and corndogs, our open minds were slowly drawing to a close.
Next on the side stage was yet another instrumental start-stop sound with Justin Hughes, former Rock*A*Teen, on lead guitar. Talented stuff, but after hours and hours of this kind of sound you start longing for vocals, or at least a melody that lasts longer than a few seconds.

 My crew lost their patience so we split, missing all the acts I'd hoped to see. But the problem with having 20-something bands on one
bill is there's no way to keep to the schedule, so things were already slipping behind and acts I wanted to see couldn't possibly get on stage until well after 2 AM, so six hours into it we called it quits and headed home.

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