Live review: The Title Trackers at the Pig 'n Whistle, March 14.


A classic rock song is like a hot dog -- you can put all kinds of junk in it and on it, but it remains what it is. Through design and use, dog and song have earned their essences.

The Title Trackers condense archetypal rockness into a seed that can propagate many bastard offspring funnier than their genetic sources, but with the same big noses and golden hearts. As classic-rock descendants, the Trackers' parodies deserve to be invited to the family picnic.

In addition to their eerily authentic recordings, the Trackers pack just the right levels of talent and slobber to pull off their vision as a downhome bar band. Here they are, lugging their gear onto the little stage in the back room of a Hollywood fake pub where the front room houses a mob of careless young adults and green-wigged barmaids celebrating St. Patrick's Day three days early. To promote their new album, the Trackers have carried their own audience of Trackies along on a booze-soaked Rolling Tracker Revue bus tour of five local record stores. They've played a few songs at each venue, and now they're capping the day with a longer set.

The sound man asks Russell "Billy Joel's Bad Jacket" Wiener to check the center mike. Russell: "Center? I hardly know her!" When the long-suffering knobber requests that Andy "Handsome Hippie" Hill hit a couple notes on the piano for level, David "Gruff Bluff" Tokaji sneers, "A couple notes? That's all he knows."

The cramped stage is an obstacle course -- keyboard, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass, most of which will be played in rotation by all three Trackers as they bang out a set of half self-penned "lost title tracks" and half actual title tracks. Literally sitting in atop a cajón (wooden percussion box), friend Nick slaps a decent simulation of drums.

And they rock. With no attempt at Amazing Simulation but with full command of their axes and three-part vocal harmonies, the Title Trackers assault "Let It Be," "Help," "Imagine," "L.A. Woman" and an abridged "American Pie" like kids in a basement, bringing moisture to the eyeballs of the mostly nonyouthful attendees, who can call up vintage memories to go with the tunes. The riffs and lyrics don't always mirror the way the Fabs and the Doors wrote 'em, which only adds to the revelry -- these are hot dogs with relish.

The joyful imitations kick in with the "lost title tracks." On "Exile on Main Street," David flaps his Jagger chicken wings and slurs lewdly, "I've been blown by queens and whores." Andy has his Johnny Cash basso down pat on "Live at San Quentin" (pronounced like "live with me"). Russell's high whine seems born to inhabit Tom Petty on "Full Moon Fever," which improves on a Pettylike scenario: "Asleep on your doorstep, your dog lickin' my face." The guys explain why they didn't copy the much-imitated Bob Dylan on their own "Blood on the Tracks" but decided to imitate themselves instead; Dylan's voice is just beyond parody at this point, and NOT imitating him is actually funnier.

This is damn good entertainment. Nobody thought it could be done, but the Title Trackers have made a great case for playing new music on oldies radio.

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