Music Preview: Dr. Frank tries a new experience at Quiet Storm acoustic show
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
By Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic
Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience is stepping out without the band tonight
when Ian Brennan's tour of acoustic California rockers hits the Quiet
Now in its sixth year, the Best of the West tour -- with Carlos Forster and
Bart Davenport of Loved Ones fame -- grew out of a Monday night series of
shows Brennan staged in a San Francisco laundry.
The idea, Brennan says, has been "to get people to play acoustically who
didn't normally do it."
As opposed to Lilith Fair.
"It started kind of at the height of that whole Lilith Fair thing," Brennan
says. "And the last thing I wanted to do was have people who did that kind
of stuff. It was more about trying to convince somebody from a hardcore
punk band to try to play acoustically -- or people who felt uncomfortable
doing it pushing those limits. And a lot of times, they were better when
they were acoustic, whether they thought so or not, just because usually it
wasn't really cliche the way it was when they were approaching an electric
instrument from an electric perspective or the way an acoustic artist
approaches folk, in that Christopher Guest kind of way."
For Dr. Frank, it's not that far removed from the quieter songs he often
plays alone at Mr. T shows.
Not in theory anyway.
"It's scarier," he says, "because you're all alone and every mistake sticks
out. And I make a lot of mistakes. But luckily, the crowd always helps me
out when I forget how a song goes. It's challenging to make a whole set
interesting when your guitar is the only instrument. You need to have all
the pacing and variety provided by the songs themselves rather than the
'style' -- especially when you have rudimentary technique like mine."
There are times, he says, when "it's a challenge to present my songs as
solo acoustic 'folk songs,' but that's what makes it interesting." And he's
written a couple of new ones -- "Blinking in the Light" and "Nepenthe" (a
song about Prozac) -- on the road.
He'll be taking requests and has been doing Mr. T songs.
"But part of the reason I'm doing this is to test out and solicit feedback
on new and unreleased songs, so I'm playing a lot of them."
The Mr. T Experience is recording an album this summer -- in time, it is
hoped, for an October street date. He's been working on a second solo album
for a couple of years but says, "I have a good new lineup for the band, so
we decided to do a new MTX album first."
In the meantime, he's been selling a CD of bedroom demos at the shows. And
you can find his song about the war online at
This being Dr. Frank, of course, it's not your average song about the war
-- inspired by an April 2 item in The New York Times about an Iraqi who
told reporters he hoped Americans would bring "Democracy, whiskey and
sexy!" to Iraq.
In the song, a truly "classic" rocker that sounds a bit like a mix of the
early Who and, well, "Who's Next," Dr. Frank concludes, "Our day is just
his night, but I want him to be right/So I'll drink to him/Please don't let
"Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" is also on the CD he'll be selling at the show,
surrounded by such instant classics as the "Rushmore"-worthy
"Institutionalized Misogyny" and "Big, Strange, Beautiful Hammer."
The show starts at 7:30 tonight; cover is $6. Call 412-661-9355.
Ed Masley can be reached at emasley@...