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Now I know how it feels to be in a band. Well, sort of. I at least know how it feels to be assured by your friends and colleagues that they will most certainly be in attendance at a very important gig and see only a fraction of them actually show up. I also know now how it feels to promise an unforgettable evening of entertainment and then wind up delivering a performance that's, shall we say, disappointing.

Yes, boys and girls, after all the trash-talking I lost the Music Critic Battle at Redlight Redlight on Friday night (July 7) to Orlando Citybeat's Bao Le-Huu. Like John Kerry to his George Bush, I misunderestimated the powerful appeal of base populism and didn't take into account the sheer drunken fun of the affair.

The competition was based on each of us finding songs in our collections to correlate with certain categories ("most soulful," "best cover song"), and I thought that wit and honesty would prevail. Bao, being a former club DJ, understood far better that such considerations are mere trifles compared to eliciting crowd response. Thus, my use of Bad Brains' "Pay to Cum" in the "best use of cowbell" was — while witty — blown out of the water by his choice of "Honky Tonk Women." Similarly, I find a distinct lack of honesty in his choice of the Benny Hill theme song as "song that most makes you want to have sex." (At least I hope so.) But the crowd ate it up.

That's not to say it was a complete rout; I destroyed him in a few categories (even earning the endorsement of his cheering section by using Black Flag's "Wasted" for "best drinking song") and we both sucked out on a couple others. But in the end, it was clear that Bao did a much better job of condescending … oh, wait, I mean, pandering … no, what I'm trying to say is that Bao rocked the party.

Yes, there will be a rematch, due less to any sense of competition than to the fact that I'm pretty sure that everyone involved had a disgustingly good time.

Friendly competition

While I may have competed against a friend, the Ministry/Revolting Cocks show at House of Blues on Saturday night found Al Jourgensen competing against himself. RevCo delivered an astonishingly powerful and fun set, ramping up the riffage and abrasiveness of their later tracks in a sort of revue that featured three vocalists: long-lost original member Luc Van Acker, the slightly obnoxious Phildo Owen and Hitler lookalike Josh Bradford. It was drunken mayhem, seemingly on the verge of completely falling apart (especially when Van Acker dressed up like a giant penis while 20 local girls whored it up onstage), but that sense of careless chaos was held together by Jourgensen's monstrously effective guitar tone, emanating from, of all things, a massive hollowbody turned up way loud.

Ministry fared less well. With a set list less diverse than the one they brought through two years ago, a powerful band — featuring members of Prong, Slipknot and Killing Joke — delivered what felt like a monochromatic bludgeoning. Although it could have been because I was still hung over from the night before, I
wasn't picking up on a lot of dynamic energy from the crowd until after the band got done with the first half of the set (culled mainly from the new, and awesome, Rio Grande Blood). With a back catalog like Ministry's it would have been nice for them to mix it up a bit. Once Al started throwing bones like "Thieves" and "Just One Fix" into the crowd, the audience exploded in a way that songs like "Senor Peligro" deserved to be received.

It's easy to understand Jourgensen's hesitance to turn a Ministry show into a nostalgia bit; he's got a new album, it's great and he's passionate about its message. But with the next Ministry album slated to be the last, it would be nice if Al would acknowledge the enormous musical strides he's made over the last decade with something more than a token nod like "N.W.O."

Not surprisingly, I hold the minority opinion on the show; everyone I talked to afterward said this show blew away the 2004 performance. (And that one had "Jesus Built My Hotrod.") Whatever. We're talking about varying grades of excellence. I just think that Jourgensen kicked his own ass by having RevCo open, but that's a good sort of ass-kicking, right?

Helping the helpless

Here's another installment of "Saving an Amateur's Ass": A press release sent to OW Sunday, July 9 is promoting a free movie screening at the Enzian that's happening at noon on Sunday, July 16. What, you couldn't wait until the last possible minute to let people know? Anyway, the movie is a documentary filmed by J. Isaac Royffe about a ridiculously theatrical (theatrically ridiculous) performance by the Band of the Name and the Swomee Swans, The Afterlife, which few people saw and fewer understood. DVDs of the film will be available for purchase.

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