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Local H continue to buck the trend

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Scott Lucas of Local H: just another day on the job

Full-disclosure: in the almost 15 years since getting paid to write for various publications, there’s probably no band I’ve chosen to cover more times than Local H, in town tonight at Harper’s Ferry.

The main reason is because probably not since late 70s AC/DC has there been a rock act so consistent with crunching riffs, shredding vocals and neck-snapping drum work that manage to pair nicely alongside some melodically infectious tunes thrown in for good measure.

Most fans who keep a passing, radio influenced interest in music take a moment before saying something along the lines of “Oh right, Local H – they did that “Keep It Copacetic” song – right?”

It’s actually called “Bound for the Floor,” but yeah, that’s the big hit culled from the Chicago duo’s breakthrough, the 1996 sophomore effort As Good As Dead.

It was during that tour when, as a fresh-faced college kid in Philadelphia, I sat on the bus before the show with then-drummer Joe Daniels for hours talking about the sudden radio success of that song, the influences he pulled from his blues playing father and his longtime interest in gymnastics and a healthy lifestyle.

He also apologized for having to sit on in the stuffy, tour weathered confines for so long, but there had been a stalker following him from city to city that he couldn’t shake.

Meanwhile, the other half of Local H - and Daniels’ polar opposite, singer/guitarist Scott Lucas, was having drinks up the street from the venue. Between the two of them, there would be one more album created, the sorta-conceptual Pack Up the Cats, which never got the fair shake it deserved because of a major label shake-up that left the band out in the cold.

Daniels split, ostensibly because he just wasn’t enjoying the lifestyle anymore. Undeterred, Lucas linked up with Triple Fast Action drummer Brian St. Clair and got right back in the van, introducing the new lineup by putting his head down and just rocking out at clubs across the country.

During a stop at Philadelphia’s legendary Trocadero, it was Lucas who I would sit down with backstage and grill about the change of the original lineup, moving forward, and dropping the hotly anticipated Here Comes the Zoo.

That would be St. Clair’s recorded debut, preceded by the Half-Life EP, a four song split of covers and originals that featured a ventriloquist’s dummy as the photo on the sleeve who also served as the twosome’s on-stage mascot during shows, some of which saw Lucas don a gorilla suit for the entirety of the set.

“Who’s the dummy?” I off-handedly asked Lucas as he was taking a pull on a Budweiser longneck.

The always on his on his wit-game vocalist didn’t miss a beat, offering up what could best be described as a sardonic grunt while he pointed at himself.

But Lucas is no dummy.

Having successfully installed bass pickups into his guitar rig in the early days, he was able to keep the band a two piece that had more depth and groove thanmost bands twice that number. And instead of starting over with St. Clair, he actually kept the train on the rails by bringing in a drummer who pounded away like he imbibed equal amounts of DNA from Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Sabbath’s Bill Ward.

Here Comes the Zoo featured a rawer but just as steady Local H, as Lucas continued to his claim as ironic rock’s poet laureate (“Rock & Roll Professionals”) while delivering Roger Daltrey like screams (“Creature Comforted").

The No Fun EP followed; six tracks that split originals with covers of the likes of The Godfathers and Ramones. I caught up again with Scott, this time for a pretty expansive piece where he talked one last time about keeping Local H together through lineup and label turmoil, and how no one wanted to criticize then President Bush after 9/11.

The rock solid Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? came next and then the ode-to-a-failed-relationship, 12 Angry Months in 2008, where each of the dozen tracks focused on another stage of heartbreak, outrage or despondency – and sometimes all three.

Those last two and The No Fun EP were lauded across the board for bushing the boundaries but never neglecting the rock.

Now, after a critically acclaimed side-step a few months ago into a solo effort dubbed Scott Lucas and the Married Men that saw the singer show his more vulnerable side, it’s back to the rawk as Local H puts a different spin on the current trend where artists pick an album from their catalog and play the whole thing live during a tour. It’s kind of a cool idea, but playing it a bit safe, all things considered.

That’s where the “6 Angry Records Tour” comes into play, where Lucas pulls out a hat at the beginning of each show and lets a fan blindly pick one of the band’s six releases out of a hat. Then it gets performed, in full, on the spot.

At that point, Lucas and St. Clair might as well be pointing their fingers and laughing at artists like Motley Crue, who last year struggled to remember all of the songs from its most popular release, Dr. Feelgood. You think if someone pulled Shout at the Devil out of the hat Vince Neil would remember all the words?

It’s pretty doubtful – but you can bet that with the stones he has, Lucas would probably be able to pull it off.

Local H play Harpers Ferry, located at 158 Brighton Avenue, tonight in Allston, MA. Kinch and Kid:Nap:Kin open. Show is 18+ and doors are at 8pm. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 617.274.9743

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