Another night Freakin’ the Frog with your Ex

The parking lot at the Freakin’ Frog (4700 S. Maryland Parkway) last night was nearly full–not necessarily a surprise for a Saturday night at the only viable live music establishment on the parkway these days. But it was hard to say exactly why it was packed. Was it the football game on the projection screens? The draw of Big Friendly Corporation? Opening band Chemical Ex? Or just a bunch of UNLV students needing their selections from the 700-plus beer catalog?

Either way, the Frog was pretty well populated–every table full, patrons at the bar shoulder-to-shoulder. There was actually a doorman checking IDs. Of course, he made a point of telling me he didn’t need to see my ID, making some offhand comment referring to my, um, advanced age. (I’m sure the kid wasn’t old enough to get in the bar six months ago anyway, so … there …)

It was about 10:30 p.m. and no bands had played yet. Chemical Ex was barely starting its soundcheck, with the always-able Tommy Marth controlling the boards. My friends and I managed to find four seats at a long table in the center of the room.

Chemical Ex is a local band fronted by a youngish girl singer/guitarist named Maryam Haddad. Apparently, this was the first live show the band has played in about a year. Browsing the band’s MySpace page ( if you’re curious), it seems that year was spent changing members … often.

From the start of the quartet’s set, I was wincing. Chemical Ex plays this safe, boring maudlin pop-rock (sorry, ladies, there is nothing “indie” about it, save for your lack of a record deal) that sounds more like The Corrs or Sixpence None the Richer than anything else. I could deal with that, if the band offered more by way of performance. Haddad is an attractive young woman. But she has no stage presence and doesn’t use her lithe body to do much more than hold down the floor. For example, during one song in particular, “More”–the only truly groovy and rocking song of Chemical Ex’s set–Haddad is unencumbered by a guitar. It’s a perfect time for her to writhe, dance, tease, whatever–show some expressive emotion, connect with the audience. But no. She stood there, swaying a little bit and … that’s it.

The rest of the band–including Love Pentagon’s
Marites Velasquez on bass–doesn’t do much to engage the audience either. They’re all adequate musicians, and the songs would work well on a soccer-mom station such as Mix 94.1-FM. But there is nothing urgent or immediate about the band, its music or the performance.

Earlier yesterday, I finished reading Reckless Road, a photo-heavy bio of Guns N’ Roses following the band from its earliest days up to the release of Appetite for Destruction. And after enduring Chemical Ex, I couldn’t help but think about how defused rock music has become since GNR’s debut 20 years ago. Yes, it might be cliche for a band to be living in squalor, doing drugs and bringing strippers on stage at every performance. But it was all terribly exciting and dangerous.

After I first read Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van about 10 or 11 years ago, I felt that my life was, in comparison, woefully inadequate. My band toured nowhere, I continued working my shitty job instead of following my heart and dreams, I felt like I was running with my car in neutral. That was a wholly different experience from the communal debauchery of GNR’s early days, especially from Rollins’ loner, straightedge perspective, but it still felt very real, very earnest.

But bands such as Chemical Ex have no such rawness, no such energy, no such soul. Oh sure, Haddad might be pouring out her little heart into those lyrics of hers, but if she is, I’m not convinced. Neither will anyone else be.

2 Responses to “Another night Freakin’ the Frog with your Ex”

  1. Hi…I Googled for corrs com, but found your page about the Frog with your Ex – VEGASinsight – Alternative news and culture from the other side of the neon…and have to say thanks. nice read.

  2. Thanks so much for (accidentally) stopping by and for the kind words!!