Pete Droge freely admits that Tom Petty was a big influence on his style. It's a good
thing, too, because otherwise I might have mistaken Pete Droge and the Sinners
for a Tom Petty tribute band. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you; I have what
amounts to a fetish for twangy guitars and skinny, nasal-sounding southern boys. I can't
help it; it must be something in the water where I grew up.
Pete Droge and the Sinners did an extremely mellow set at the Paradise Lounge
in late August. The band was very tight -- tighter than the Heartbreakers have ever
been, in any case -- and the lead guitarist in particular was in rare form. Pete Droge,
presiding, bore a strong resemblance to an awkward, laconic scarecrow. He's one of
the skinniest people I've ever seen moving under his own power; maybe if you all run
out and buy his CDs immediately he'll make enough money to put some meat on his
Peter Stroud, the lead guitarist, and Pete Droge traded leads during "If You Don't Love Me
(I'll Kill Myself)", retitled for the occasion "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Tear Up This Pillow
And Shove It Down Your Throat)". (It has a certain something, I think, despite the blatant
lack of scansion.) They performed a few other songs from the first CD (on which the
Sinners did not appear), all of which were much better live than on the recording.
Unfortunately, the material they did from the second CD scarcely varied from the
recorded versions. (I suspect they hadn't been out of the studio long; both CDs were
released this year.) Nonetheless, it was a good, solid show. The Sinners aren't a high
energy band -- you won't see the audience bursting spontaneously into interpretive
dance, and had Pete Droge played Altamont, tragedy might have been averted -- but
they're well worth seeing.
There were actually four acts booked for the Paradise's two stages that evening, the
second of which was so unmemorable that I've entirely forgotten their name. The first act
to go on was a local singer/songwriter who goes by the name Warren. I feel
compelled to mention that I think a name change might enhance his prospects. "Warren"
just doesn't have the same eclat as, say, "Sting," "Cher," or "Madonna." It puts one rather
in mind of the kind of skinny, bespectacled, pocket-protector-wearing geek who still has
an Atari ST at home and can identify any episode of Star Trek within the first two seconds --
but I digress.
Name-calling aside, Warren is a reasonably competent singer and guitarist, and
quite a good songwriter. Well, mostly quite a good songwriter. I have to admit that I was
entirely mystified by one touching ballad of a couple's breakup, entitled "Goodbye,
Magic Robot." I'm not at all sure how the robot got involved. I suppose I may have
misheard the lyrics, but I am so charmed by the Magic Robot that I refuse to consider
I am sorry to confess that I didn't stick around for the closing act, Elvis Herselvis,
who is -- you guessed it -- the Bay Area's own female Elvis impersonator. Really, though,
just hearing the name is enough; like a Weekly World News headline, I can imagine the
rest. Actually witnessing the spectacle would be almost superfluous. Besides, there's only
so much entertainment a person can stand in one evening.