Fellow Popdoser Ed Murray and I ducked down to Boston’s Paradise to check out the Von Bondies (above: rhythm guitarist Marcie Bolen’s set list that Ed stole for me, knowing that I’m an incorrigible ephemera accumulator), a band known more for lead singer Jason Stollsteimer’s dustup with fellow Motor City Madman Jack White that led to White’s pleading guilty to assault and battery charges than for the band’s actual tuneage.
The Bondies’ then-current, now-former rhythm guitarist and background singer, Marcie Bolen, allegedly was romantically involved with White for a time–which has led to unconfirmed speculation that it could have been at least part of the reason he and Stollsteimer came to blows, although testimony in a later, unrelated federal case revealed that White may have been upset over Stollsteimer’s comments in an article about White’s production of the Bondies’ early recordings.
Fans of the television show Rescue Me will recognize the Bondies’ song “C’Mon C’Mon,” an edited version of which was used for its theme. The band performed it on Letterman before Bolen left the band:
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Some phone company had sponsored the free show, and Ed and never did figure out what “VIP” privileges our being on “the guest list” actually entailed, but we got on it anyway just in case.
We’d just completed a deep, self-paced history course exploring the history of Detroit rock from the early pre-Motown vocal R&B groups to the MC5, Stooges and Alice Cooper, and found the White Stripes to be a fascinating outgrowth of the scene, along with other new groups like the Gore Gore Girls and Von Bondies. These new groups brought the rock in the garagey, no-holds-barred tradition of the Five and their twin pillars of guitar, Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer.
The show was tremendous.The Bondies ripped through their 14 songs with fire and brimstone, rocking through mostly uptempo selections from their repertoire. Stollsteimer is an antidote to today’s emo sound, all slash, burn and screaming, a white-hot force of vocal intensity standing forward of drummer Don Blum, a tornado behind the skins who makes old Keith Moon performances seem a little laid-back.
The girls flanking Stollsteimer (the bassist was new, a temporary stand-in) stood aloof, rocking gently, creating an effect much like the famous Robert Palmer videos of the late 1980s. To their credit, unlike in the Palmer clips, they weren’t just there for show; they were playing tight and hard along with Stollsteimer and Blum. Ed and I stood stage right, so close to Bolen she could have kicked us in the face as she stepped on her fuzz and wah pedals. We probably wouldn’t have noticed, as we were sucked in by the beautiful noise the ensemble was pumping out.
For a free show attended by a few hundred college kids and a bunch of milling yuppies hoping to score a cellphone dealÁ¢€”and a gaggle of peculiar salespeople working the audience as walking text-message kiosks with keyboards strapped to their chestsÁ¢€”the Von Bondies played their hearts out. For the most part, the audience was either agape at the sonic firestorm or disinterested. I give the band much credit for blasting through the set as if it were its last–despite the half-interested crowd–and recommend them to anyone into garage rock, or fans of Detroit’s intense brand of rock that dates back to The Stooges and the MC5. The Von Bondies are worthy of the legacy of which they are a part. For that reason, here’s to the Von Bondies’ escaping the “fight night” tag and coming in to their own in 2009 with a new CD; keep abreast of developments at the band’s MySpace.