Sketchfest Review: Greg Behrendt & The Reigning Monarchs: “Bring The Rock” at Cobb’s Comedy Club, 2/4/12

by Dakin Hardwick on February 8, 2012

Photo By VickyPezza

Sketchfest, the three week long behemoth of a comedy festival came to a mind-melting close on Saturday night. Although there were some more popular events with bigger stars, nothing stood up to the sheer volume of “Bring The Rock.”  This was, quite literally, the first time I ever needed to wear ear plugs at a comedy club.Yes, other shows were fun, but nothing could prepare you for this epic event.

When you entered the room, laid out on stage were four amps, over a half dozen guitars, a bass, and a drum kit. The show kicked off without a single word muttered, just a band taking the stage. The band was The Reigning Monarchs. This band is Greg Behrendt’s surf meets punkabilly band. They put their all into the short two song warm up set that they did. It was fun, fast, and furious. Behrendt shredded on his vintage Gretsch so hard and intense, so ferociously that it was impossible to believe that this is the same guy that wrote the book “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Although Behrendt is definitely the frontman, they don’t come off as some celebrity vanity project. This is one rock solid band that seems to read each other quite well.

With the crowd sufficiently warmed up, Behrendt proceeded to introduce the concept behind the show. This was an evening of music and storytelling, with a comedian coming out to tell a story about an experience with music, then singing a song, backed by the cracker jack house band, The Reigning Monarchs, with guest guitarist Dave Gibbs of the Gigolo Aunts helping out. Behrendt, as the evening’s host, told the first story. He first spoke of Jason Segel, showing up drunk for another “Bring The Rock” set, and then managing to own “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Segel ended the song by simply rattling off his phone number, and informing the crowd that he’s looking for a lady to spend the evening with. Behrendt mused that this tactic worked, and he left the club with a lovely lady moments after the set was over. That was the warm up story.

The real story was a tale of the LA super group / cover band Camp Freddy. Camp Freddy is the brainchild of Dave Navarro. It’s a regular show where a bunch of local celebrities get to cover their favorite rock songs with a band that includes former members of Guns N Roses and The Cult. He mused about seeing Ratt actually do “Round & Round” with this band, as well as getting to see singers as wide ranging as Sebastian Bach, Linda Perry, and Tyler Glenn (of Neon Trees) do their favorite classic rock songs. He also talked about how painful it was to watch Fred Durst attempt The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” as only a middle aged man that still thinks that fusing together hip hop and metal would. Although Paul Stanley actually closed the Camp Freddy show, we were treated to a Limp Bizkit cover. And it was, dare I say it, one beautiful Limp Bizkit cover. Sketchfest founder Janet Varney came out to do lead vocals. Her rich alto is chilling. They arranged “Nookie” into a tender, semi-acoustic, soft rock ballad. It made me wish that I was illegally recording the show, just so I could keep a copy of this song around. (As a note to Janet Varney: when you aren’t busy putting together amazing festivals, acting, or doing podcasts, could you please record an album?)

Of course, this was a tough act to follow. So, of course, the least famous person of the evening, Walking The Room co-host Dave Anthony had to do it without the net of being the star of a popular TV show, or being a well known comic. He had to capture the audience with nothing but his storytelling skills. And when he told his story, a story of his awkward teen years, trying to find a place to fit in, he was warm and engaging. You could feel his adolescent awkwardness, even though it was many years prior.  He spoke of wanting a group to embrace him. And, how he got there was nothing short of astounding. He found in a bin of $2 t-shirts, the most amazing t-shirt ever. It was a Ted Nugent shirt, with the Nuge in full on loin cloth and guitar, and the words “Scream Dream” plastered on it. This shirt gave him admittance to the high school stoner crew, and helped him succeed in school socially. All without ever hearing the Ted Nugent song, “Scream Dream.” This allowed him to go off format slightly, as he had the house band, with Gibbs on vocals, do “Scream Dream” so Anthony could have some sense of what the song is all about.

Next was Mary Lynn Rajskub. This was my first time ever seeing her do pretty much anything, aside from her turn as the traveling minstrel in the season 6 finale of Gilmore Girls. Which meant that I knew she could sing. I wasn’t prepared for how outrageously funny she was. Her material was risky in the sense that she didn’t tell a personal story. She, instead, told a tale the comedians have been mocking for years: the night Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas, peed her pants on stage. I don’t know if it was just her delivery, or the fact that she found a fresh, sympathetic take on it, but I was laughing hysterically. I also give her credit: I’m so tired of attractive comedians pretending that they aren’t good looking for laughs. Rajskub is very aware of the fact that she’s an attractive woman, and even said that into the microphone while telling the story. And, yes, she remained funny. Her song of choice was Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” She played with the lyrics a bit, to re-incorporate the peeing story, but it was an impressive and otherwise faithful reading of the song.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the only comedian that wasn’t an old friend of Behrendt’s to perform at this show was next. In full disclosure, I was sitting next to somebody that may have been “rocking” a little too much, and during Ferguson’s set, managed to vomit, then fall into her vomit. It was a little distracting, to say the least. Much credit to the excellent crew at Cobb’s that managed to get her help, and clean up her mess within minutes. The vast majority of the crowd probably didn’t notice it at all. Ferguson told an amusing tale about his mother that ended with a line relating to “pantalones.” Then he and the band went into an extremely high energy — borderlining on spastic — interpretation of the classic standard “Yo Soy Americano.”  This brings us to the fifth musical genre explored by The Reigning Monarchs, and Ferguson held his own amazingly well with this incredibly tough song to sing. He even got the crowd dancing and clapping, which is normally unheard of in a comedy club setting!

Balancing out Ferguson’s boisterous set was Todd Barry, one of the driest men on earth. His story, a tale of having to perform stand up in front of David Lee Roth, was pure deadpan hysterics. He described, in great detail, what it was like knowing one of the greatest rock frontmen in history is in the crowd, and the need to impress him, despite him having no way of enhancing Barry’s career, nor even actually liking the guy’s music. He spoke of how he wished it was a member of The Clash, but Roth may have been the best audience member ever. David Lee Roth loved Todd Barry. He even bought him a drink after the show. And, in tribute to David Lee Roth, he led the band through “White Riot” by The Clash. Since this is a rock ‘n roll show, rules will be broken, including the specific rules of the performance. Barry didn’t even sing. He played drums, showing that he is a more than proficient drummer, duplicating Terry Chimes’ original drum part perfectly.

Closing out the show was Marc Maron, a veteran of “Bring The Rock.” Instead of telling one tale, he told several short tales. He spoke of all the many people you meet doing drugs. He told tales of doing coke with Sam Kinison and Tommy Lee. He told tales of hiding drugs from Ted Nugent, because he doesn’t like them. He spoke of meeting Eric Clapton, while wasted, shook his hand, and screamed “I SHOOK THE HAND!” Unlike the dark nature of his podcast, he seemed to be having the time of his life. And when he finally got to his song, he prefaced it by a very brief tale of meeting Dave Alvin of The Blasters. Maron asked Alvin why he never ended up with a gold record. Alvin’s answer? “Because I kept my morals.” And, bam! The band dives head first into a Blaster’s song.

And, two hours later, the show is over. No fanfare, no encore. And it was the best rock n roll show I’ve been to all year. (And I’ve seen Wilco twice this year!)


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