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RANA- Wetlands Preserve, NYC 8/1

{Site editor's note: since longtime contributors Jesse Jarnow and Carol Wade (the return!) submitted reviews of this show, we are offering both of them to you. Jarnow's appears first through the tyranny of alphabetical order).

NYC ROLL-TOP: Backstage Pass

by Jesse Jarnow

"It isn’t love,

It isn't life,

Just rock and roll

Every night

Rock and rolllllllllllllllllllllll."

"This is serious," Wetlands talent buyer Jake Szufnarowski declared in a
speech that slooped seamlessly between rage, excitement, and humor. He was
wearing a pronged Viking helmet carefully fashioned out of an empty case of
Pabst Blue Ribbon and being pelted by bottle caps, chunks of ice, and other
projectiles. Near the end of the diatribe, a large cardboard box came
floating in from just off-stage. He made no attempt to duck. "Make the most
of the next six weeks." He hopped off the platform.

Szufnarowski's oration came between RANA's first and second encores. Or
maybe it was between their second and third. In any event, RANA has written
an anthem, which they proceeded to play approximately two and one half times
over their four encores. That was perfectly fine. The name of the song is
Backstage Pass and its chorus is transcribed above. Stories abound of
The Doors playing The End at closing time at the Whiskey Au Go Go in
Los Angeles, of Talking Heads playing Psycho Killer to end their sets
at CBGB's. Let RANA ascend.

The Wetlands Preserve will be closing the doors of its Hudson Street home on
September 15th. It has been the launchpad of myriad bands. In many ways,
RANA is a quintessential Wetlands band, having come up through the ranks to
headline the main stage. RANA is still quite young though (three of its four
members have a year left at school), and there seemed to be many more nights
in store for them. Though there have been several gigs since the club's
shocking announcement on Monday, RANA's show this evening might well be
considered the symbolic beginning of the end. What was the opening show of
the band's first real tour turned out to be their last headlining gig for
one of their most ardent supporters. As the band heads south over the next
month, more bands will roll into Wetlands for their own last appearances.

Beginning with a Dire Straits cover and closing with a Michael Jackson song
(which, of course, dropped into the final reprise of Backstage Pass),
RANA's event this evening was, first and foremost, a rock and roll show. The
band's improvisation ("stretching", as they refer to it) is focused more on
lead guitar than anything else. Mr. Metzger plays straight-up solos that
make the listener forget that most lead guitarists are terrible, bloated
beasts that should be slaughtered for pelts, meat too tainted for even
canine consumption. Metzger's solos are shot as swiftly as an arrow, move
quickly, and explode back into the song just as one remembers that the
medium is supposed to be a clichOh, well.

The two sets were peppered with strong new material. Again, pure rock and
roll, influenced by the likes of… well, just about who you'd expect: Neil
Young, Lou Reed, The Beatles… that kinda stuff. They are nicely crafted
and would exist innocuously in your older brother's record collection. What
must be conveyed, though – and what I fear can't be – is that this music is
focused and determined. There is jamming, to be sure, but there are few
gratuitous vamps. The songs are about sex and booze and other ephemeral,
wistful things. One must never forget that. RANA is a band that actually
gets technically and quantifiably better when attractive women in tight
clothing leap on stage and begin undulating on and around the musicians.
Seriously.

Soon after this happened, mid-solo in Silver Not Gold, Mr. Metzger
fell to his knees and his solo improved measurably. If a member of, say,
moe. were to do this, it would be comic but would be little more than a
visual gimmick, a parody, with the music suffering accordingly for the sake
of immediacy. For all the seemingly ironic clichRANA engage in, one soon
realizes that they are completely genuine in their actions, in their joy, in
the pooched-out faces that Mr. Southern makes.

There is surely a long forgotten reason for these actions, ancient lore
passed down from an elderly seer to the likes of Jimmy Page and Eric
Clapton: thou shall scrunch thine eyes and thou shalt be soulful. Or
perhaps Page and Clapton didn't get it from the source either. Assuming
there is a reason for these things, RANA knows it. They are the first
musicians I have ever encountered who I do not want to savagely cudgel for,
say, playing a guitar behind one's head, mainly because they manage to do as
such so goddamn earnestly.

And, at the end of the night, after the last Backstage Pass, after
Mr. Durant toppled his Rhodes and Juno and whipped his keyboard stool at Mr.
Thornton's drum kit, RANA left the stage. Sometime soon after, Psycho
Killer began to play. And even after that, after the waits for the 1/9,
for the L, after the walk home, I pondered how many choruses of Backstage
Pass delivered at the top of my lungs while violently throttling my
sleeping roommate would force him to get up and threaten me with his
crossbow until I relented, moved out, and joined a rock and roll band.

**********************************

Mistery Men RANA Kicks Wetlands’ Ass and Hippies Put it Back Together Again

by Carol Wade

I thought I’d never love rock n’ roll again. But then along comes Scott Metzger, sandy-fringed and ornery Jersey cowboy, and lead guitar for RANA: the Northeast’s four-piece answer to The Rolling Stones and Talking Heads, groovin’ in the hot-tub (gonna get in the hot-tub, gonna make me wet-ah, gonna get in the hot-tub, gonna make me sweat-ah). Ryan Thornton comes up from below like a student-union hurricane. He’s the Eternal Boy, subtle and all-powerful, who lives on the other side of the dorm floor, the who you die to see in the flip-flops, on the way to take a shower, as the band’s compact, crew-cut, and collegiate (yet ultimately deadly) drummer. Gaze left, and there’s the Fu Manchu of Mercer County, RANA’s svelte, slick and sneery low-end impresario, Andrew Southern. And oh mah gawrd, to the left, there wheels and deals a slice of man of a sort nary known, half saucy DEVO-lutionary, half Gilligan-meets-Speed-Racer on the Roland factory floorit’s Matt Durant on keyboards.

What happened at Wetlands Wednesday night was a florid display of raw splendor, sweet tragedy, bursting like a watermelon in 95-degree heat, to reveal a feast of talky elements, with underpinnings of undulating, sexy ferocity. It was RANA’s final headliner at the soon-to-expire haven of jam-rockery. Right around now last year, I was first introduced to The Misters, as they call themselves: the dapper and gently-skewed butt-bumpin’ power-rockers called RANA.

365 days of the year later, I am ten thousand times more impressed, in love, and out of words. Pushed, pulled and molded for months by the gravitational grip of New York’s granite insistence, these potent punks out of Princeton , NJ pack a six-pack of punch like no other on a Wednesday night. Last year, August saw four weeks of wet n’ wild ones with RANAyesterday, the first day of the Gonzo month, had the International Men of Mistery stepping boldly onto the road, to embark on a sure-to-be-steamy Southern tour. And it just might be if you don’t look out where that rumblin’ is hittin’ you, right in your backside

With rubbery and massively fun tunes like "Out By Tracks" (whose Merseybeat illuminations disintegrate into an ass-nekkid stomp through some noise-funk wilderness), and somber, sardonic social satire (like on "Poop Jazz Fits Gerald," the men taking over their world, formerly known as boys). How about the whirly and breathless optimistic fashion-rock of "Silver Not Gold," or the apt August 1st MTV anti-tribute, "Carson Daly." I dare only say it here, but with my rave-fashion skirt and my tie-dyed men’s tank-top from a half-dozen years ago, I felt like a girl reinvented, hit with a kind of Sophomoric frenzy, for this stage full of barely-legal rockers, on their way into a month-long, down n’ dirty scourge of America’s darkest quarters.

The folks at a RANA show are turning out to be quite like none other. There are waisty gals in stripey polo-neck sweaters, blue-blocker shrouded gas-station scrounge (in characteristic mullet and foam-front baseball cap), and wax-buffed co-eds wiggling their bootays on Summer break. Wednesday night, the anarchy and ecstasy balled up and punched us in the eyes. I thought for a second that RANA (dare I say) were a sexier, funkier Phish, three times younger, and fifty times heavier. The jams they walk out onto are like conquested plains, the cowboys-and-indians pride that Boy Scout badasses know all about.

After what must have been the fifth encore, the show clattered to a close, the boys tipping over equipment and rendering their rock dreams at Wetlands a mere pile of debris. And sun-baked children in baggy clothing said, "Come on!", clambered onstage, and restored the set…perhaps in a dim hope that their Messers would emerge again. But it's now for another time, and bigger, wider places….

If I had a brown-door hooptie, I’d drive it all the way to New Orleans in my orange-dragon bathrobe, and meet Mr. Thornton with a bottle of Chambord, on the way to the can. But for now, I’ll email my peeps "in the know," and get schooled from DAT-side, simply by the Misters’ eloquent and explosively sassy equations. And if that ain’t enough to get your rock on, then that guy down the front needs to get you another can o’ brew.

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