NIGHT LIFE : Fiddle Playing Makes Raindogs a Band Apart

The Raindogs are this week's killer guitar band with possibilities.

Not only is this Boston band tighter than your boss, but their songs are full of insightful lyrics and have more hooks than "Peter Pan," not to mention a scene-stealing fiddle player, Johnny Cunningham. With a just-released debut album, "Lost Souls," the Raindogs will play the Ventura Theatre on Friday night.

And just as every musician that ever played has come back or won't go away, every band--pretty much--comes from some other band. The Raindogs come from plenty of other bands.

Triple-threat guitarist/singer/songwriter Mark Cutler was the leader of those Rhode Island rockers that never quite made the big time, the Schemers. Second guitarist Emerson Torrey, also from the Schemers, has been playing with Cutler for nearly a decade.

The bass player, Darren Hill, used to be in the Red Rockers, who had a hit with the catchy "China" back in 1983. Hill, from Louisiana, brings a folksy Cajun influence to the band. Drummer Jimmy Reilly, from Belfast, used to be in the influential punk/pop group Stiff Little Fingers and later the Red Rockers.

Cunningham, from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a fiddle virtuoso, who played for the Scottish National Orchestra when he was just 11. Later he founded Silly Wizard, a critically acclaimed folk group. When Cutler, Torrey and Cunningham get it going on some of the Raindogs' rockers--such as "May Your Heart Keep Beating" and "Under the Rainbow"--they create a sound that is as different as it is accessible, sort of, but not like Big Country or the Jesus and Mary Chain. But it's Cunningham's fiddle playing that sets the Raindogs apart from those other ten zillion roots-rhythm-and-booze-bar-bands of your dreams.

And Cutler is a clever songwriter, specializing in the timeless love lost/love lousy school of deadpan sniveling with a great beat.

And how's this for a grab-your-umbrella Dream Concert: The Raindogs, the Rainmakers, the Raindrops and Rain Parade? Not this time--the Raindogs will be opening for one of the wittiest writers in rock, the outrageous Warren Zevon. He's touring in a thinly veiled effort to sell copies of his latest record, "Transverse City."

Hey, need a BMW? Doesn't everyone? Just go to any rock concert--they're giving them away. In addition to wreaking serious damage to your ears with loud music, there's also serious damage to your wallet what with twenty-buck tickets, twenty-buck T-shirts, three bucks for a draft beer, and continuing education, in which security everywhere teaches Rude 101. Oh, and those BMWs--that's "basic monotonous wait," as in what happens between acts.

That's when you actually have to talk to your date, try to get a drink from a bartender, waste your few good years in line at the bathroom, all the while listening to the world's worst tape that every venue inevitably inflicts upon its patrons.

Suggestion: I realize this is stupid, but why can't bands follow each other, say, five minutes apart? It's the '90s--the technology is there. Or at least, why not play a tape of the upcoming band? Or maybe show vintage Warner Bros. cartoons, maybe an episode of "Married . . . With Children." Yeah, right, get back in line.


Something for Nothing, Spencer the Gardener. (Carnival Club, 634 State St., Santa Barbara, 962-9991.) Original tunes from a Ventura band and a Santa Barbara band. SFN has more energy, but Spencer has more soul.


Warren Zevon, The Raindogs. (Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut, 648-1936.) One of the wittiest writers in rock will be doing his new album and The Raindogs are this week's Killer Guitar Band (with a fiddle player too).


Something for Nothing, The Mudheads, The I-Rails. (Charlie's Seaside Cafe, 362 California St., Ventura 648-6688.) Original rock at the beach featuring locals playing, locals dancing, locals drinking; well, you know. . . .


Michael on Fire. (Charlie's Seaside Cafe, 362 California St., Ventura 648-6688) Clever, longhaired singer/songwriter with a voice that everyone on MTV wished they had will play folk-inspired rockers from his vast repertoire.


They Might Be Giants (Ventura Theatre 26 S. Chestnut St., 648-1936.) Look in the dictionary under "eclectic" and you'll see a picture of this band. Or try "weird. . . .."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World