Dogstar - Canus Minor
Let's explore the importance of the relationship between making music and artistic hunger because nowhere has this relationship been so absent than at a Dogstar performance. The band, comprised of Bret Domrose (vocals / guitar), Keanu Reeves (bass) and Robert Mailhouse (drums), are each extremely proficient with their instruments... but they haven't yet mastered the skills that make a great rock act - kickin' out the jams in that all-encompassing release of rock power displays a band's hunger to make contact with its audience.
It doesn't matter if you're famous around the globe, with a hefty bank account . . . many of the most enduring rock acts still know the importance of putting it all out there. Just look at the Rolling Stones - a band that, in my opinion, hasn't had original thought since the late '70s - yet they still manage to sell out venues worldwide because of all the prancing and sheer energy coming from onstage. They wear their artistic hunger on their sleeves! However, I forget myself . . . in reviewing a band such as Dogstar, I'm trying to relate to a band whose members all have day jobs.
Dogstar's performance at the Chicago House of Blues on October 9, 2000 had a ratio of 10 women per one man - the estrogen level was so high at times that if you were male you were immediately ejected from the first five rows. The crowd was typically catty, each vying for the best placement to get a look at Mr. Reeves himself . . . can you say DREAMY? I don't think there were more than a handful of people in attendance who were "there for the music". Everywhere I looked around (from a second row advantage, smack dab in front of the infamous bass player . . . and probably the only female in the room brave enough to take her eyes off of him!), women had that glazed over, bedroom-eyes stare . . . smoldering, burning and full of anguish.
Now, if only the band could have played into these emotions . . . after all, isn't this how Domrose, Dogstar's main songwriter, describes the theme throughout Happy Ending? "It's about going through an experience and coming out of it with a positive reaction, and how to deal with it constructively."
Musically, Domrose's raspy baritone vocals can send shivers down any woman's spine, and his riff-friendly guitar-fueled sounds mesh seductively with Reeves' rock-solid bass grooves. Undisputedly, the backbone of Dogstar is Mailhouse . . . who throughout their performance thrashed, pounded, sweated and hid behind his drum set!
Their bittersweet songs have a sentimental streak that is witnessed throughout their melodic tunes, but sadly lacks in harmonies. Promising rockers like Halo and Slipping Down hit the musical mark - but fall just shy of building up the momentum - partly due to the brevity of all their tunes, and because of the fleeting moments of balls out energy that just about takes ya there, but not quite.
I don't want you to think that there's no hope here. The music isn't revolutionary, but tell me what is? It's entertaining, and there's definite talent underpinning everything. But, hey if this was all there was to a rock band, then the CD is worth it. Simply put, we go to rock shows . . . to be rocked. What Dogstar should focus on is "loosening up". The music would come across stronger. I don't like to single out anyone in particular, but for the fact that I feel for him and what he must be going through.
Most people cherish beauty personified (because it is TRULY rare), but you can see Reeves holding himself back to give to the audience out of fear of taking away from the band and the music that he so obviously is enjoying to play. He did, at times, get lost in the music - what I call "zoning" - and during these moments you could see his passion for playing the bass and performing live. Moments when he would forget himself and outstretch his arms triumphantly at the end of a song, then he would be zapped back into himself and lose the momentum.
Rock performances are out-of-body experiences, which gets the audience collectively shaking their ass. Some of the most basic rock songs, played by some of the most mediocre musicians (think KISS) can still find a way to relate with their audience. I'm not saying that Dogstar needs to adopt pyrotechnics and Max Factor into their stage act . . . but they could be explosive if they just tried.
Next time 'round, I'll be there supporting their evolution.