Published Jul 01, 2005When word got out that former Hot Hot Heat guitarist Dante DeCaro was leaving to do his own thing, most assumed that was just a euphemistic way of saying, "I can't take these white-belted assholes anymore." However, when DeCaro pulled out a banjo to open his set, you got a better sense of where it might have all gone wrong. The Best aka the Greatest Ever commenced the evening with an ear-splitting scream-fest, taking the few early-comers a little off-guard. Despite having the brother of Nelly Furtado in their ranks, their presence was met with indifference, not to mention a bit of aural pain in the intimate venue. Next up was Meatdraw, whose six members huddled up on the kiddie-pool-sized stage and immediately began churning out their folk-y acid-trip pop. Using a combination of conventional and yard sale instruments (saw, bicycle wheel frame, CB radio, chain links dropped rhythmically into a can), the group euphorically pounded out their loosely-crafted pop stompers, getting the crowd moving while sounding like a drugged-out chain gang. DeCaro, again opting out of the limelight, played second to last. Accompanied only by a one-beat drummer, DeCaro kept the bluegrass growing as he howled and whispered over his banjo and geetar. It was an odd sight after so many times watching him strum spastically to the new wave beats, but there was something else different too. As he played his mournful and lonely tunes, a crooked-smile of elation never left his face, a rarity with his past incarnation. To their credit, the Raygun kept all the dutiful DeCaro fans put as they unleashed their double-synth attack. Playing jerky dance rock from their self-released EP, Ah Ah Ah, the tight pants-wearing hipsters danced and contorted with equal parts sexual bravado, on-stage confidence and catchy choruses. It was enough to make one reminisce about the early days of Hot Hot Heat.