Ernie Gardner Memorial/Benefit Show, Club Congress, June 8

The T-shirts said "A Moment of Loudness." Iron Maiden played as the house music. And in the onstage collage of enlarged photos memorializing Ernie Gardner, there was one of a grade-school-age Ernie in an Iron Maiden shirt.

Friends and family gathered at Club Congress to celebrate the life of Gardner, a longtime drummer who died in May at the age of 35. I only barely met Ernie, but I saw him perform a number of times, and he had a style that seemed like an attack on the drums.

The performers—including a number of Ernie's former band mates—delivered intense, emotional and loud rocking sets, a fitting tribute to a man whose love of music centered on the heavy and hard: AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

Doc Hudson opened the evening, starting with a bluesy slide-guitar version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," and wrapping up his band's set with Ernie's favorite Rolling Stones song, "Before They Make Me Run."

Next up was ... music video? with a set of electro-R&B. The deep grooves of songs like "I'm Afraid of Everything" and "Not Worth Your Time" balanced the heavy goth-punk of the Secret Meeting, which served up another of Ernie's favorite songs, the Afghan Whigs' "Be Sweet."

La Cerca brought a set of hard-driving indie rock, ending with what the band called "a love song, for Ernie and for all of you, too." Ernie's memorial also brought the return of Garboski, with its power-trio style of bombastic songs that hang out near the edge of chaos.

The night peaked with HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS, Gardner's second band with singer-guitarist Joshua Levine. Wailing into the microphone, Levine led the band through a goose-bump-inducing set. The band ran through an electrifying slate of new songs, featuring overlapping guitar melodies laced together with a steady and bounding low end.

HAIRSPRAY bookended the set with a song written for Ernie, a meditative gospel-rock tune, with wounded hearts reaching for an uplifting memorial. Levine presented the song like a hymn, singing, "Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher," and holding onto the "higher and higher" refrain until it seemed like it wouldn't stop echoing in the room.

More by Eric Swedlund


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