The Radiators | 12.04.03 | 19 Broadway | Fairfax, CA

"I thought this was a Radiators crowd!" yelled the woman in the back of 19 Broadway. The light dusting of Mardi Gras festoonery, the odd Tipitina's T-shirt, and big "Radiators" sign behind the stage would lead one to believe it might be a Radiators crowd. But then you ask yourself, "What makes a Radiators crowd?" The Radiators? Might you have a Radiators crowd sans Radiators? Is it a state of mind? Actually, the boil, toil, and trouble of the Big Easy music scene's brouhaha squashes such Eastern philosophizin'--it's too hot for that shit.

Baudoin, Malone, Scanlan
By Howard White
1978 was a big year. Of course, five guys got together in New Orleans, formed a band, and called themselves The Radiators. On a lighter note, Mr. T turned 26, Jim Jones made a batch of Kool-Aid in Guyana, and Peter Mitchell won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the formulation of chemiosmotic theory. Theories come and go, but many moons hence, the original line up of The Radiators is still intact. When Ed Volker, Frank Bua, and Camille Baudoin (on the keys, drums, and guitar, respectively) invited guitarist Dave Malone and bassist Reggie Scanlan over to Ed's house for a little blues jamming 25 years ago, they conjured up a five-hour session that has in many ways never stopped. Vigorous gigging at Crescent City briar patches had a ripple effect, converting coon-asses to "Fish-Heads." When the juggernaut expanded its touring radius, transplanted Tulaners sparked splinter cells at their local venues that grew in size with every tour. Fast forward to 2003: far from the nucleus of New Orleans that turns out 30,000 to see them close JazzFest, the small venue orbiting in distant Northern California pulsed with familiar energy.

From her spot in the back of 19 Broadway (a mere horseshoe toss from the stage, actually), Eagerwoman's woes were assuaged toute-suite. The hooting and hollering were still getting louder when the band began a rousing "Wang Dang Doodle" that would set the tone for the evening. It was a rocker.

If the Radiators were to be born again as the A-Team, guitarist Dave Malone would definitely be Face. The flamboyant face-making rock star of the group, he has the uncanny ability to pull off what every cheesy saxophonist has ever tried to do by wearing shades--without wearing them. His Gregg Allman/Joe Cocker "beauty" might only be skin deep, but his cool is seeped to the bone. Tight chops and loose hips bracketed a visage just slack enough to keep from looking like G.E. Smith (who has been constipated since 1988). And nary a finale went by that he didn't put a big flourish on. (Think: Jazz Hands.) The crowd ate him up.

Bua, Scanlan, Volker
By Howard White
The backbone to the Face would have to be timeless Ed Volker on the keys. Professor Baldhair looked at once comfortable and excited as he stood at his podium and took us to school. Funk bands talk about getting all up in "The Pocket," that undeniable rhythmical place that still pokes you in the earhole no matter how much fleshing out gets layered on top of it (a la "Cissy Strut"). Bass players love The Pocket. Reggie Scanlan loved his and he and Ol' Ed would dip you into the pocket for a shimmy on the funky side every now and then. They'd amble around a catchy hook, rope you in, then get you dancing to a rock song before you knew it. Ed Volker seemed like an easy genius--probably really good at Jeopardy, but with a bumper full of funny stickers, put there with fingers that tinkered with my marionette strings, getting me all akimbo...

The "Wild Horses" couldn't drag away the slide guitar from Camile Baudoin, and probably sounded better in that club than the real deal did in the upper deck of Pac Bell Park. Then again, Sour Grapes is a stinky cologne. Frank Bua answered his own question in "Where is the Soul of the World;" it was somewhere in his drum kit. "Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take a Joke" and "Deep in my Voodoo" got you deep into something, but tiptoed around the edge of the bowl instead of cannon balling into The Pocket. These were excellent songs in their own right, but were separated from each other by commas, not those little sideways carrot tops that mean something really cool happened between tracks that blurred a line somewhere, segued into something else, and came out the other side a different song. Those jams happened over the next three nights at 19 Broadway, but this show was more of the locomotive that started it all, the show that pulled you into the "Ring of Fire" with a nod and a wink, and reminded you that there was, indeed, something going down "On Broadway." (The quotation marks were added to the above song names because they were played on the night in question. Overuse of quotation marks around songs NOT played constitutes grammatical trespassing.)

So, what is a Radiator's crowd?

Beefy dudes, and ponytails, and girls with strange masks on
Fist pumping, ass shaking, and where has my flask gone?
Die-hard attendees, and a waitress to bring,
Bud bottles, a few of my favorite things.

Dave Gentry
JamBase | Marin County, CA
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[Published on: 12/17/03]

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