Reviews

The Fleshtones: 25 June 2009 - Paris

Ultimately, the band’s secret is this: Fun.

The Fleshtones

The Fleshtones

City: Paris
Venue: Nouveau Casino
Date: 2009-06-25

The Fleshtones will be rockin' and good-timin' until either St. Peter offers them a tequila-shot-entry into heaven, or Lucifer drags their dancing ass’ down to hell. This was one of the funnest concerts I've ever attended.

I had my doubts, though.

Most of the guys in this garage/blues/soul/rock quartet are in their early 50s. Frontman, Peter Zaremba -- with his long, graying bangs, weathered face, blue blazer, and clean white shirt -- looked like he was a club owner. At first, we thought he was introducing the band, not in it. Two songs in, we felt sheepish for our inability to recognize the man. While his face bore a slight resemblance to Mick Jagger, his on-stage energy and swagger was far closer to a dandified Iggy Pop. Zaremba, guitarist Keith Streng, drummer Keith Milhizer, and bassist Ken Fox produced some of the vise-grip tightest rock ‘n’ roll I've ever heard. Throughout the show these guys had about two hundred butts swinging and swaying, or at least moderately jiggling. The audience was almost all over thirty-five and the twenty-something audience of White Stripes fans and garage rock revivalists could take a lesson from these party rockers drunk on the fountain of youth.

Unlike other musical flames from the ‘70s, which have raged and extinguished, the Fleshtones light has never gone out. What was their secret, we asked ourselves between songs. How had they stayed together so long? (They lost original bass player Jan-Marek Pulkaski in 1986, but replacement Ken Fox has been with them ever since 1990.) And how could they be so relentlessly energetic? They were part of the original CBGB, Max's Kansas City, and Studio 54 scene. Some historians of the New York proto-punk scene like Legs McNeil have commented, however, that the Fleshtones didn't fit well into the burgeoning punk scene. They played dance party music. Sure, they had a bit of arrogant swagger to them, but they fashioned a more art school look (think David Byrne). And while one could argue that punks were acting out their roles in everyday life, the Fleshtones style was more tongue-in-cheek irony. Ultimately, the band’s secret is this: Fun.

Zaremba is still one of the most playfully energetic lead singers around. In energy, I would rank him up there with recent performers I’ve witnessed like the Legendary Shack Shakers' J.D. Wilkes and Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz. The rest of the band isn’t too far behind, though. These guys like to climb on things. Zaremba bounded about the stage, mounting the bass drum, while Streng would take his turn with the speaker. Several times they mounted the bar, reminiscent of the great honkers and bar-walker saxophonists of the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. At one dramatic point they formed a dance circle in the middle of the club, challenging competitors a la the breakdancers of old. At another juncture, Streng mounted the bar and regaled the audience with pushups, again challenging the audience to outdo him; all the while a friend from the audience and what looked like a band member’s daughter took over the guitar and bass respectively. Milhizer grabbed a drum and also leapt into the crowd, like a child drummer with a pot and spoon.

They eventually danced their way right through the crowd and out the venue’s door. Fortunately they came back to play a roaring encore of "Right Side of a Good Thing", dancing their way back out again. The crowd chanted "Fleshtones, Fleshtones!" until Zaremba jogged back through the crowd and onto the stage. Unfortunately, the soundman was not as energized as Zaremba and the audience. To the crowd's chagrin (and Zaremba's; he appeared unstoppable and untiring) the curtain was dropped.

Rock ‘n’ roll has us believe that the venture is largely a young man's pursuit, acceptably rebellious for those under thirty, yet these fifty-somethings do it better than 80% of the young bands I have heard or seen. I know this ideology has been changing over the years, but I would argue music is still a very young person's game as it's bound up with the sexiness of youth. I guess it doesn't help that some of the dinosaurs should've packed it in fifteen or twenty years ago, not because they're old, but because they sucked after a certain point and never recaptured their creativity and the vigor of youth. The Fleshtones are different though. They’ve never needed to recapture the creativity and vigor of youth as they seemingly have never lost it.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.