Dogstar had audience screaming, salivating, on cue
Keanu Reeves of Dogstar, performing at World Cafe Friday night
by Nadine Kam
KEANU Reeves delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as a bass player, appeasing the curious who showed up to see Dogstar at World Cafe Friday night.
Gone was any vestige of Keanu the swaggering movie star who saved the day in "Speed." In his place was Keanu, just another cute, but shy, bass player. And play he does. Make no mistake, the guy really is a musician. Performing with a trio is a lot more demanding than playing with the more typical four-piece unit with that "extra" player to round out the sound.
Dogstar -- with Rob Mailhouse on drums and Bret Domrose on vocals and guitar -- was in fine form, as cohesive and tight as other famous trios such as Everclear, Nirvana and King's X. Dogstar's set included songs from its CD "Quattro Formaggi," new material and a handful of covers.
Dogstar's listener-friendly tunes were enough to get the crowd of 99.9 percent women -- curiously, all about 25 to 33, fitting Keanu's demographic -- dancing to the rhythm, but not enough to have anyone humming on the way home. Songs were forgotten moments after being released into the cosmos. Dogstar's music lacks great hooks, and without those, it's pretty apparent that without Keanu, this band would be relegated to L.A.'s club circuit, playing for cover charges and pitchers of beer, rather than traveling the world, commanding $25 a ticket.
Still, those who showed up were not disappointed. "They gave their all; they were cool," said fan Tanja Clark after the show.
In the audience, Ray Asuncion said she's more likely to listen to house and R&B music rather than the bland pop-meets-alt-rock favored by Dogstar. Still, she said, "I came to ogle over Keanu, see the man! Worship the Keanu!"
Her ticket was a 28th birthday present from her friend Martha Alabanza who had her boyfriend in tow. He didn't appear to be as enthused as the women.
Also in the crowd was Norma Amion, a tutu in a muumuu, who admits to having a son who's 48. Even so, she's a big fan of Keanu, searching out all his movies. "I love his smile and his voice," she said. When concert time came, she admirably pushed her way to the front of the pit, trying to get as close to Keanu as possible.
Then the lights went out and the screaming started. "Sh--! I never seen so many women in one place," said Quinn Ni, a University of Hawaii communications student. "I guess I'm in the right place."
Keanu walked out on stage with a nondescript black T-shirt, brown pants, a knit cap and three days worth of stubble over flawless skin. When he removed the cap for the second song, the women went wild, yelling "Take it off! Take it all off!"
Throughout, Domrose was the one to watch. He delivered a fine, solo acoustic version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" as a first encore. By show's end, women in the audience were asking, "What's the singer's name?" and Clark said, "Forget Keanu. Bret is da bomb!"
Keanu, perhaps out of deference to his bandmates, played down his superstar status to the extreme, rarely looking up or acknowledging the crowd.
Throughout, he tried to hold back his smiles, because whenever he flashed one of those high-wattage, million-dollar babies, it would set off another round of screams and camera flashes. That has to get old pretty fast for anyone who wants to be a "serious" musician.
It would be better for the band if Keanu did lighten up a bit and tried to have more fun with the music. I mean, geez, the guy gets to play music for a partial living, and as any frustrated musician would tell him, that ain't bad. At least he doesn't have to get noticed by wearing funny clothes like some bands.
Dogstar showed the most artistry in a metal-style instrumental -- an energetic fest of feedback and distortion – at the end of its encore set. It was merely an intro into somebody else's song, Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."
Still, there's no reason Dogstar can't make it on its own terms. They're just as good as anything on modern rock radio today. With a few hooks, they could be the next Fastball or Matchbox 20.