KEANU REEVES, IN A BRASH NEW ADVENTURE
Rock Band Stint Draws Breathless Fans
by Danny Hakim
The line of young and younger women outside the 9:30 club twists down F Street NW Tuesday night, but it is hours before the band Dogstar will take the stage. The show sold out long ago, despite its $15 ticket price, which is on the high end for the grungy 9:30 club.
What is Dogstar, you might wonder? A rock band with no albums. So far, it's received scant publicity and no radio airplay.
No matter. The club is packed, and almost exclusively with women. Evan Defoe, 26, says he "counted the amount of guys. I'm one of eight." His girlfriend forced him to come. What they came to see is the bass player.
They came to see Keanu.
After "Speed," "Dagerous Liaisons" and "Much Ado About Nothing," it appears Keanu Reeves has decided there's more to life than the silver screen. Now he's chosen to follow in the august footsteps of other crossover stars - men of courage named Tesh and Hasselhoff. Men who found screen fame but desired still more: rock stardom.
But Reeves has approached this transition with a dearth of fanfare. On Dogstar's poster he is seen only in murky profile, and he's listed last among his band mates - and in fine print-on the 9:30's calendar. Singer-guitarist Gregg Miller explains that they're trying to keep the focus on the music: "If we didn't have good music, it'd be a farce."
Not that anyone has actually heard the music. Before the show, the topic was something of a mystery. Diane Wirono, 26, did check Tower Records for a CD, "but to no avail." Bree Taber and Alle Tithof, two 20-year-old nannies from Michigan, also checked the record stores, and found nothing. They did manage to make theri way onto the Dogstar tour bus, which has left them somewhat breathless.
The love for him here is unconditional and undying. Stacie Vollentine, a 19-year-old college student, saw Dogstar the previous night in Fells Point in Baltimore. "I got his guitar pick." She beams. "I got his beer bottle." She is ecstatic. "I drank his backwash."
When the excellent adventurer finally does arrive at 10:20 pm, it is in the garb of a latter-day Bill Wyman. Tonight, his role is not leading man, but boy in the band and he plays the shy, silent type to perfection.
When the four dudes from "West Hollywood, CA" take the stage, Keanu (clad in knit cap, dark T-shirt, jeans and a rocker's stubble) approaches the microphone as if to speak, and opens his mouth with those delicate lips that have touched Sandra Bullock's. When a primordial wave of shrieks drowns our his utterances, he puckishly retreats behind a pole.
From then on he rarely takes his eyes off the floor, because when he does, screams reduce his band's rumble to a plaintive thud. His vain attempt to sing one song is inaudible, as he nervously stares at his bass and retreats from he microphone. Not that he seems to mind.
"I've seen him, I've read all the interviews, and I've never seen him so happy," says Vollentine. "This is where he's in his element."
After the set, others say the band was good, but that the 30-year-old star needed to hone his chops. "Temple of the Dog is a better dog-named band, "says Wirono. She is not, however, disappointed.
But the happy-go-lucky, blushing Reeves seems content just to rock-and-roll. Tonight, if you squint, he is simply another hopeful rocker in a workmanlike punk-pop-band. His band mates sing such lines as "All I want is what you have," and "First night I ever saw you."
As Meredith Goldstein, 18, observes, Dogstar is "like a local band that never gets famous." She pauses. "But they have Keanu Reeves."