I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House is an unlikely, Southern-rock cornerstone of the Portland music scene. The band's three solid studio albums are a nice showcase for frontman/founder Mike Damron's raspy, alcohol-drenched vocals and the band's thick, holy-roller-revue sound. None of them, however, hold a candle to the kinetic live shows that make Sonofabitch special. In concert, Damron hits the stage drunk like a burly, heyday Axl Rose, all sweat and fury. His band snarls and rolls along behind him, each song building to a plateau where long harmonica rolls and guitar licks melt with Damron's banshee screams until each sound is inextricable from the next. Between songs, Damron says, "Give me a drink of whatever that shit is," with a twisted Okie accent, and you'd have to step outside to remember that you're still in the city of unnecessary scarves and thick-rimmed glasses.
Live at Dante's, a mesh of two 2005 performances at the bar Sonofabitch calls home, is easily the band's best album to date. Why two recording dates? Sources tell WW that Damron was visibly trashed by the end of the show that was being recorded for the release on July 16, 2005. Damron was rambling, mostly about politics, and even botched a few lyrics, so they scrapped some of the show and pulled some recordings from past shows to round out the set. The leadman won't fess up but concedes, "Sometimes it feels like a shitload of fun, then you look back on it and you're not as funny as you think you are. I can't believe some of the shit that comes out of my mouth."
In his songs, the shit that comes out of Damron's mouth bounces metronomically between autobiography and politics. One moment he's relating his childhood love of Saturday-morning cartoons while in an abusive family situation ("Saturday") and the next he is encouraging the eager crowd to literally "fuck Pat Robertson" ("Westboro Baptist Church"). These might sound like dissonant themes, but Damron's political diatribes are as close to his heart as is his autobiographical material, which is precisely what makes Sonofabitch important. This is a band that addresses the American condition with fearless (often slanderous) candor, taking it personally when pocketed politicians and televangelists try to steal its America.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Sonofabitch closes the live album with Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." "Maybe we could have been more clever," Damron says. "I just don't even think of it as a cover. I think of it as our song." And in a ballsy, Sonofabitch sort of way, it is.
I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House celebrates the release of
with Two Cow Garage, the Pine Box Boys, Elvis and Neutral Boy, Saturday, March 4, at Dante's. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.
Music Editor Mark Baumgarten is feeling much better but decided to take the week off from the R.C. He'll return next week.