Home Entertainment Viking Helmets and Melodicas: A Night Out at The Taproot

Viking Helmets and Melodicas: A Night Out at The Taproot


We entered the Taproot looking for the kind of night that only Spenard could provide. My compatriot James Shewmake and I were met by the always-enthusiastic supporter of local Alaska music and radio host, Dirk Willis. We were here to see the line-up of Saucy Yoda, PJ Franco and the Burnout, Pretty Birds That Kill, and then top the night off with the premier of Saucy Yoda’s new music videos on the Taproot’s big screen. James lined up the camera shots (see the full gallery here), Dirk hunted down the band merchandise, and I grabbed a drink as the night’s entertainment was about to begin.
Our night began with a lovely little intro band that is still in search of a name. Dirk openly suggested to the stage that they call themselves “Flaming Gas Can.” This stripped down foursome brought us the best of the basics, featuring gas can percussion and what I believe was a bright red melodica.

With a droning bass line to drive them forward, these young musicians opened the show with a wailing, blues set, that firmly planted my butt in my seat in preparation for the performers to come.

The unnamed opening act. Photo by James Shewmake

Next up was PJ Franco and the Burnout. The avante-garde drumming talents of PJ accompanied by the most complex bass playing I’ve seen in a long while provided the best kind of abuse. That is not said to underscore their talent. Few bands can pull off an effective set with only two musicians. The bass player’s flowery dress suggested a much calmer persona than the lively, on-stage punk performance that I saw, and it all certainly added to the experience.
The bass player for PJ knew how to get down. Photo by James Shewmake

The smell of body odor enhanced the mood of what was to come, and if the smell was not something you’d expect, then you probably didn’t belong there. Cutting through it was the attentive service of the staff at Taproot refreshing the drinks of my present company and probably wondering why I was scribbling notes on their napkins with a permanent marker.
What came next was the sex-driven, musical climax of the evening that made me feel very domesticated in comparison to the performers upon the stage. Saucy Yoda mounted the Taproot’s elevated platform fully-adorned with Viking helmet, and proceeded to shake whatever Puritan I had left in my DNA out of me.  The bands punk-pop style incited the proudest flying of freak flags on the dance floor. When she told the crowd that “this next song is about a dine-o-sawr,” I felt as though the magic of the 90’s had never ended.
Saucy Yoda. Photo by James Shewmake
Saucy Yoda. Photo by James Shewmake
Saucy Yoda. Photo by James Shewmake

By 11:00 p.m. everyone was properly lubricated and ready for the premier of three music videos from Saucy Yoda. The first, Garbage Pail Kids, featured the enjoyably unsettling claymation of Dia Varano. Mrs. Yoda also rocked the cow udder in this video. Next was Grandma, a video about all of the positive aspects and lovely attributes of our beloved senior citizens. Finally, we had the premier of Brattitude, which was visually peppered with the trees of Anchorage, wonderfully enhanced by the local talent of Pulse Dance Company, and lovingly accompanied by the vocals of Stefie from Pretty Birds that Kill

Our night ended with Saucy, Stefie, and a crowd of enthusiastic participants dancing the night into oblivion.
Pretty Birds That Kill. Photo by James Shewmake
Pretty Birds That Kill. Photo by James Shewmake

We departed before the nights final performance by the garage electro-pop duo known as Pretty Birds That Kill. I genuinely hope to have an in-depth interview with them before a special performance in November.
Now, as I sit here typing up my under-the-influence bar napkin notes and nursing the may-have-over-celebrated feeling in my stomach, I’m reminded of the energy and variation that the Anchorage music scene is host to. If you are a citizen of our fair city and you haven’t yet taken the time to catch these local acts, please do. It would be a shame to live here and not get to experience the music that reflects so much of the attitude that is quintessentially Alaskan.