It was after 2 a.m. when Steve Wynn closed out the night with Dream Syndicate rock. A couple dozen night-owl fans, rapt musicians and writers wouldn't leave for home without it. Wynn capped his set with two favorites from the band's 1982 The Days of Wine and Roses: the title track and "That's What You Always Say." Craig Schumacher's harmonica wail was all but lost in the mayhem, while Linda Pitmon's spectacular drumming riveted the crowd. To that point, new music dominated the set, and Friday's audience will be able to say they heard it here first. The dramatic tempo shifts of the bass-heavy "Wild Mercury," the punishing drumming of "Fear Star Pounding" and "Wired" and the been-there lyricism of "Bruises" were being recorded just last week at Schumacher's Wavelab Studio.
Earlier, the Sand Rubies' set rocked so hard as to inspire actual moshing. After opening with a new song of their own, and muscling through early technical problems, they played with the poise and drive of an experienced crew that could be on the make again after a too-long hiatus. Rich Hopkins' guitar rampages spun over the driving rhythms of Robin Johnson and Ernie Mendoza. Dave Slutes' vocals rode the tension between pop and grit on a Sidewinders'/Sand Rubies' greatest-hits bender, including, from Witch Doctor, "What Am I Supposed to Do" and Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," and from Return of the Living Dead, "Misery" and "Turn off Your Stereo."
The dancing started early, though, when Al Perry and his band dedicated Buck Owens' "Tiger by the Tail" to Patty Keating and her birthday dance party. Perry alternated his originals with other classics by Owens and Merle Haggard, but the set highlight was his punk-country treatment of The Nightcrawlers' obscure "Little Black Egg."
Tom Freund had a perfect song for it all. After his opening set of sparkling guitar playing and crisply written originals, he switched to upright bass for Taj Mahal's retro-funky and high-spirited "Cakewalk Into Town."