Dogstar With Hummer
by Steve Dollar
8 tonight. Sold out. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. N.E. 524-7354.
A band called Dogstar offers this 'Speed' star a chance to rock
It's not every new band that can sell out 1,000-seat venues - sight unseen and without any recording to push - at $15 a ticket. But not every band is Dogstar; a Los Angeles foursome that boasts this guy named Keanu Reeves on bass. Seems the big-screen action man of "Speed," who's become the Gen X answer to Bruce Willis, has long harbored the urge to rock - witness his all-too-convincing turns as an airhead garage guitarist in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
Only this time, it's serious.
"Keanu [actually pronounced KEY-ah-noo] is the real deal," promises drummer Rob Mailhouse, who does all the talking for his press-shy bandmate. A fellow actor (including a bit part on "Seinfeld" and a two-year stint on "Days of Our Lives"), Mailhouse met Reeves in a grocery store five years ago. They formed Dogstar as a lark, a chance to bash away at their instruments and annoy neighbors. "Every time I talk to [Keanu] on the phone," he says, "he's got his bass going."
Guitarists Gregg Miller and Brett Domrose - a former member of San Francisco punk legends the Nuns - round out the quartet. What do they sound like? Mailhouse describes their style variously as "toe-tapping folkie sort of English power pop," "like Bauhaus speeded up," and "not like the next Sonic Youth, but we have a good pop feel."
Just back from Japan, the group stops in Atlanta tonight for a SRO gig at Variety Playhouse. Informed that the crowd would likely consist of many hundred screaming teenage girls, Mailhouse sounded pleased. "Well, that's better than a bunch of old guys." The fact that Dogstar's popularity rests completely on Reeves' celebrity doesn't faze Mailhouse.
"People really respond to Keanu," he says. "He's a good man. Some of his bass does remind me a lot of the Pixies' sound [like basist] Kim Deal. I think he likes Pavement - that guy's his bass idol. He doesn't play notes: boom, boom, boom. He plays chords."
Don't underestimate Dogstar, Mailhouse concludes, just because they're bold and beautiful.
"It's got to the point now where it's actually frightening," he says. "Because we're actually starting to get good."
Illustration: Keanu Reeves playing his guitar. / Walter Cumming / Staff