Forming a rock band is often more difficult than keeping one together. And even if people are lucky enough to get a group together to call a band, then you have the difficulty of staying together as a band. Though the percentage is extremely low for musicians to stay together, one exception to the norm is Cincinnati’s The Tigerlilies who have been together for seventeen years. That alone is impressive.
Throughout these years the band has seen such highs as opening for Joan Jett, The Violent Femmes and their beloved Buzzcocks. They’ve even opened for Eddie Money, which bass player Brian Driscoll and I both had a laugh about. Like most experienced bands, they’ve also seen many lows, sometimes even death. But their souls don’t seem nearly as worn down as Driscoll’s bass guitar is tonight at Cooper’s on Main in downtown Cincy. The wood has diminished so bad in a couple of spots that it’s even worse than Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old Stratocaster “Number One.”
And what better way to start off a show professionally than having the microphone fall to pieces midway through the first song for singer/guitarist Pat Hennessy? This is just the beginning of what is practically a nightmare of sound problems all night. But Hennessy and the band march on through song after song of standard, three-chord pop songs. If Elvis Costello joined The Ramones and even occasionally added a slight yodel, he’d sound like Pat Hennessy. But Elvis never will, so this sound is the front to a pop band that was O.C.-worthy before Blink 182 even knew how to play guitar.
The Tigerlilies are not a flashy band. They’re all wearing street clothes that they’d probably wear just to go out and have a beer in. Rarely do any of them move more than a foot from their opening stances. And they seem very relaxed. The crowd of about fifty isn’t huge, but The Tigers don’t seem like they care. They just enjoy playing music, no matter if a lot of people are listening or not.
Their sound sometimes borrows from The Kinks and even English punk, but they are by no means a hardcore band. I’m not a pop fan by far and at times the near-predictable chord changes are boring me, but at the same time they are also well crafted enough that the veteran musicianship is shining through and keeping my interest.
Songs from their latest album Superdeluxe are slowly drawing in the attention of the crowd as each minute flies by. But Hennessy just can’t steal any justice with the poor quality of the vocals tonight. Between that and feedback problems, Hennessy’s brother/drummer Steve smarts off a little later in the show. When the band announces they’ll be playing next week at The Northside Tavern, Steve announces through his mic: “Yeah, where the sound system doesn’t suck!” Oohs fill the room.
While Brian’s bass playing is nothing overly difficult, guitarist William Webber has been quietly off to the side of the stage and showing the biggest peaks of musicianship. His quick finger-picking is showing why this band is so much better than some cheesy pop band concentrating more on getting onto the next soundtrack for a movie like Van Wilder instead of practicing to play as well as Webber.
Though there is decent crowd interest, Coopers is not known to be a popular music venue. The only reason The Tigers are playing here tonight is in support of the local Exile on Main Fest. This is just a rather sluggish crowd toward the band and they are more interested in chit-chatting. Bands can often by-pass this and still perform at a top notch. But I’m surprised because it seems as if the bad crowd and sound problems has sucked the life out of the band during their last couple of songs. I’ve seen them in better spirits at other shows.
Then for their final song, The Tigers turn a complete 180, and bust out a rocking song that is so loose and riveting that you could never convince me that this is a pop band had I just walked in the door. Pat Hennessy and Webber exchange guitar solos at the end with brutal force. The crowd has stopped talking and focus in the room is now on the four men on stage.
The song completes, and once again, The Tigerlilies come out on top.