Two years ago Neil Hagerty,  then the front man of Royal Trux, put on a stunning set at the Dominion Tavern, so I had great hopes for his return engagement with a new band — and they were largely born out.

First, though, there was a lengthy opening set from local oddrocker Flecton Bigsky, who also opened for Royal Trux. Bigsky (a.k.a. Miche Jette,  the guitarist for local artrock weirdoes Werbo and Jehovah’s Wetness, and one-time roadie for the Grifters), appeared on stage, greasepainted like Rolling Thunder
Revue Dylan, eyesockets blacked like Turbonegro singer Hank Von Helvete, hair frizzed like Kawabata Makoto. He was accompanied a greasy-haired guitarist of unknown provenance and, standing in for the since departed Watson Traps (aka
Greg Watson of the Orange Alabaster Mushroom et al.), Werbo drummer Tom Werbowetski.

A hard rocking sound like a really twisted Swearing At Motorists is Flecton Bigsky’s groove, accompanied by loony between-song banter of the sort usually emitted by people who are off their medication.

Crazy, but rocking. Neil Hagerty took the stage in a blue cotton workshirt buttoned to the neck, and proceeded to give his Gibson SG a serious workout. On this occasion he was only accompanied by a single, busy drummer (Royal Trux had two in tow) and a bassist who kept his patterns simple and riffy — all the better to accentuate the skyward drive of Hagerty’s  sidewinding guitar excursions.

Most of the material came from his latest album, mixing extended lead guitar marathons that would probably appeal to an open-minded Lynyrd Skynyrd fan with shorter punchier numbers (his latest album is particularly full of the latter). Last time, Hagerty played with his back to the audience. This was in part due to the fact that the two drummers consumed a large amount of the Dominion’s stage space, with Jennifer Herrema stalking around much of what was left; turning around let him play without sticking his guitar headstock in the bassplayer’s midriff.

This time, he faced the audience and everyone got a good view of his nimble fretwork, noodling through off-kilter 1970s rock riffs that sucked in every note on the scale and then some, then squeezed them through a Snarling Dog Whine-O-Wah (favoured by those who desire a multitude of sounds). He also had some low-key stage chatter: “Neil Hagerty and the Howling Hex present ...” “This is a song called ...” it was mostly dispensed with after Will Desjardins, of local space-blues outfit Castor, called out “Who are you guys, anyway?” between songs. “Don’t be messing up my patter ...” Hagerty mumbled back in a good-natured way — though later on he did introduce a song with “If you’re like me, you remember Old John Brown ....” before launching into the tune of that name.

After a very full 45-minutes, he called it a night, explaining that the band had a long drive “... and the third rule of show business ....” (this got perplexed looks from his rhythm section, apparently unaware of the third, or for that matter first and second, rule of show biz).

The audience enthusiastically applauded each number, and apparently felt satisfied enough not to demand an encore too forcefully, and perhaps a bit guilty about asking for more, since they were so few in number; less than 20 people turned out to see a man who’s been described as the best guitarist in underground rock.











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