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October 5, 2007

Concert Review: VHS or Beta, Sept. 29, 2007

VHS or BetaWalter MeegoFollow the TrainHeadliners Music HallSept. 29, 2007BY ROXANN SLATEI left my home on a Saturday night to see how Louisville partied. Iwavered between an anthological approach, observing and notinterrupting, and practically walking up to people asking if theywanted to be my friend.    I knew that this Saturday offered an exceptional opportunity, as VHSor Beta was performing at Headliners. I left on this mission hoping mynew hometown wouldn't let me down, that Louisville could loosen upthis New England girl.    The crowd was eclectic and the sound was set perfectly too loud. Iwatched lots of couples talking between themselves and cliques ofexceptionally short women dance with each other. A large man wearingsuspenders danced like mad next to me, and a woman wearing a syntheticshirt with an almost fleur-de-lis like pattern on it, sipped her mixeddrink and wiggled.    Follow the Train began the night. They wore windbreakers, whiteheadbands and rings with electric blue LCD lights on them. Throughouttheir set, one member threw butterscotch candies at the crowd, whilesome slowly unzipped their jackets, revealing their chest hair. In thebackground, they showed a workout style video of twin women bellydancing. The audience was left to figure out what this all meant. Didthey want us to belly dance? Where they just going with a workouttheme? If so, how did candy fit in? In the end, I decided it was apolitical statement about the Middle East: that music and dancing fromdifferent cultures can come together, and even though it might beawkward at first, it eventually grows on you.    Walter Meego balanced the jam-rock feel of Follow the Train. WhereasFTT was a six-piece (the sixth member plays cowbell, tambourine andfloor tom) while Walter Meego was a three-piece (plus a computer).Meego's band were cute guys with a good energy, but their sound fellflat. I felt that they were trying to go for a Rapture-type,pop-techno punk, but they lack the scratchy vocals, good twangs ofnoise and authenticity. They need a drummer or a producer to help givethem an edge.    By the time VHS or Beta took the stage, the crowd was prepared —their belly-dancing moves were polished and they were ready to cutloose.    VHS or Beta stepped into the light looking like rock stars. The leadsinger had amazing hair and was impossibly thin. Playing a hometownshow, I expected them to talk to us more, but they kept the banter toa minimum. They apologized for taking so long to come back and play ashow at Headliners, told us how much they appreciated our support andnot to miss seeing them on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (Theperformance of "Can't Believe a Single Word" aired this past MondayOct. 1).    It was clearly important to them to tell us that they bleed red (asan outsider, I had to ask someone what this meant). I danced andclapped, simply following the cues of the natives. The songs allsounded pretty similar, but because I liked the way they sounded andhow it encouraged my knee to bounce, I won't complain. I drove home(in my car with my out-of-state plates) pleased with the findings ofmy study. Louisville, its bands and its venues hold their own comparedwith the major shows of the north I use to regularly attend. VHS orBeta is emblematic of the rock-star potential of this city.Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com