FANS OF REEVES' BAND TURN OUT FOR THE MAN, NOT HIS MUSIC
by David Lyman, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
They came bearing blackberry pies and banana bread and lasagna. They held a vigil on the street and chafed at the ropes strung along the sidewalk to hold them back. They came in all shapes and sizes and descriptions: mothers with daughters, lovesick teenagers, sheepish middle-agers.
And when it came time for the main event, the 1,100 Keanu Reeves fans - 70 percent of them female - that jammed into Seattle's DV8 rock club weren't disappointed.
''He is a babe,'' pronounced 24-year-old Amy Hall as her two friends nodded their assent. ''And he was wearing leather pants on the cover of Vanity Fair.''
''What more do you need?'' asked her friend, Stacy Leland, 31.
What more, indeed. Some fans had yearnings that 30-year-old actor Reeves might consider in a realm beyond extreme.
''I want him, and I'm going to marry him,'' screamed an enthused Amber Nikkol Parker, 15, clad in her brand-new Dogstar T-shirt. ''He's hot. I know there are all those other hot actors. But in his interviews ... '' She rolls her eyes and wiggles her hands excitedly, as if somehow that would fill in the missing information.
But isn't he twice her age?
''It doesn't matter,'' Parker quickly responded. ''Your heart doesn't know numbers.''
Dogstar, the 3-year-old group for which Reeves plays bass guitar, is midway through a three-week, 24-engagement, U.S. tour that has garnered an outsized measure of attention and attendance, given the fact that it has no recordings yet.
The band plays at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano tonight and the House of Blues Friday. Both shows are sold out.
''It's a great crowd - nice people,'' said a manager associated with the Seattle club, ''but if he (Reeves) wasn't part of the band, we'd be lucky to sell 100 tickets.''
But the band does have Reeves, and with it the considerable star power of being one of Hollywood's most desirable leading men. Early in his career, Reeves was noted for quiet, brooding performances in ''River's Edge'' and ''Youngblood.'' But with the 1989 release of ''Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,'' he assumed a reputation as a major hunk.
Last summer's mega-hit, ''Speed,'' broadened that reputation. And despite the mixed-to-negative reviews for his newest film, ''A Walk in the Clouds,'' which opened Friday, Reeves' image is sure to remain untainted with these fans, most of whom vowed to see the movie immediately.
But this fan-mania has put an undue burden on what is, after all, a young band, one that is just finding its voice.
No interviews, please
In an effort to keep some semblance of equilibrium, Reeves has done no interviews during the tour, trying to keep the audience's focus on the band, not him.
He has been only moderately successful, as evidenced by the fans at DV8. There was little question why fans had come to the club.
''We didn't care if the music was any good; we came to see Keanu,'' said 40-year-old Patty Hemmen, who came with an entourage including a friend, her daughter and three of her daughter's schoolmates.
With a sudden burst of light, he was there. Keanu, as most in the crowd familiarly referred to him, stood in the corner of the stage, wearing his hallmark deadpan look topped with a knit cap.
The rest of the band was there, too, of course - drummer Rob Mailhouse (an actor on the daytime soap opera ''Days of Our Lives''), lead guitarist Gregg Miller and rhythm guitarist Bret Domrose. But as they launched into ''All I Want,'' the crowd response had nothing to do with music. This was fan frenzy, that high-pitched screamy-meemy hysteria that ''serious'' rock 'n' roll fans deplore.
While the rest of the band is quite personable on stage - particularly the enthusiastic Mailhouse - Reeves is a classic bass loner, cocooning himself away from the rest of the band, rarely looking up from his instrument. He didn't sing and he rarely moved. But, oh, when he did ...
''When he smiled, he lit up the room,'' Hall said after the concert. ''You can see where he gets his star quality.''
''It's almost like he was afraid to look up,'' Leland said.
One thing is clear: This is a band, not just a movie star's pet project. Some of the early tour reviews savaged Dogstar, citing sloppiness and a lack of musical character.
And while Dogstar is not yet ready to top the Billboard charts - and members say so themselves, incidentally it is a credible band, cut from the pop/grunge mold. And if there really was a roughness at the outset of the tour, ''the road'' has toughened them up into a tighter, more cohesive ensemble.
''Keanu was more understated than I thought he would be,'' said King's co-worker Erika Bergerson, 26. ''They could have sold the band by having him be all beefcakey and take his shirt off and say more. But he wasn't trying to steal the spotlight. I have a lot of respect for him.''
Not everyone was so enthusiastic. Thirteen-year-old Ethan Larsen, who had come with his mother, spent the evening playing pool. ''I just didn't feel like listening,'' he said with a shrug.