By Maddelena Rubini
In a strange confluence of circumstances, Advocate editors approved a show review. Typically, we profile artists or preview events. It’s our small contribution to Corvallis’ arts and entertainment scene. However, we were feeling ornery the day a member of a local band challenged us to quit our superlative ways and come to his Tuesday night gig for some real musical discourse. We don’t usually negotiate with terrorists, but he did invite us. Anything short of attending would have been rude.
Evolution of the Mind, a guitar and bass duo, derives its inspiration from multiple genres, including rock, blues, funk, folk, and jam traditions. During this particular show, Chris Farrell, guitarist, and John Hroza, bass player, served up a veritable goulash of covers and originals to an intimate seven-person audience, two of who were children, at Dock 22.
I arrived with my partner-in-crime halfway through a cover of “Come on,” also known as “Let the Good Times Roll,” by New Orleans bluesman Earl King. Waiting for my pints, I noticed that the tempo was decidedly slower than the original. The delicate art of cover songs dictates some degree of reinterpretation so as to maintain audience interest and skirt copyright violations. However, Evolution’s muttered lyrics and dirge-like pace failed to convince anyone that this was indeed a good time.
As it turns out, mumbled crooning and contemplative strumming are Evolution of the Mind’s contributions to the field. Hroza’s vocals are more articulate than Farrell’s. The former’s versions of “Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Presence of the Lord” by Blind Faith nearly convinced me that these were gentle, stripped-down renditions inviting listeners to linger in the music. However, Farrell’s turn at the mic inevitably brought us back to earth. His lyrical adaptation of Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” stumbled along like a junkie on the nod, which perhaps signifies the dark side of the 70s and Clapton’s personal struggle with addiction.
Any benefit of the doubt disappeared when Farrell broke into the most depressing version of “Tell Him” by the Exciters that I’ve ever heard. That sassy, assertive message, performed by an adorable 60s girl group, turned into the lamentation of one who failed to act. Imagine Victorian spinsters gone mad from the loss of true love, rocking themselves in a dusty attic corner. “Tell him… tell him… you’re always going to love… him.”
At this point in the set, two things came to mind: Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne. Manson is well known for juxtaposing innocuous covers and his guilty pleasure brand of horror rock. This recontextualization illuminates overlooked meaning, thus exposing the pop canon’s insanity. Perhaps Evolution shares a similar theory.
I can’t say definitively because the overall performance that Tuesday night at Dock 22 jogged a gin-shrouded karaoke memory from Columbus, OH, ca. 2002. A besotted Mickey’s Bar regular took the stage with an Ozzy Osbourne ballad. I don’t remember the song, just that we held our collective breath as he slurred through some 10 minutes of metal eternity. Toward the end, the crowd realized that, in his head, in that moment, Drunk Dude was the self-appointed Prince of Darkness.
I will never doubt someone’s transformative experience at the hands of music, regardless of the genre. This is why I will not doubt for one minute that Evolution of the Mind is sonically shaping the content of their souls to share with the public. After all, Hroza and Farrell are pretty good at their respective instruments; picking bell-like chords during their original pieces, and working in time with each other. Unfortunately, the set was dominated by the curious sensation of listening to a mixed tape on a dying Sony Walkman. Low key is important for a space the size of Dock 22, but Evolution has redefined the word.