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The Shams entertained Friday night in Mohawk Place.

Mohawk Place:
The Shams
Wow, talk about juxtaposition.

Seeing Cincinnati garage-rockers the Shams on the same bill with the Parlor Squares, a slightly off kilter Tin Pan Alley outfit from Buffalo, was almost literally culture shock in Mohawk Place Friday night.

Playing before a light crowd, the Shams played as if it were 1968 -- after LSD had had time to soak into the rock scene and it was on the verge of turning into "heavy rock," whatever that was.

Think Blue Cheer doing its acid-drenched version of "Summertime Blues" or Eric Clapton and the power trio Cream giving the world three great solo performers -- all playing their solos simultaneously.

At one point, a member of the crowd yelled to drummer Keith Fox, "Sounds just like Ginger Baker!" And the comparison was apt.

Fox's drumming was nearly as much a focus of the performance as Zach Gabbard's singing and guitar work.

While the band had that kind of intensity (and the amps were indeed turned up to 11), it lacked some of the pop hooks that characterized the best of the "Nuggets" era of psychedelic garage rock -- and for that matter that is present on the band's debut CD, "Take Off." Still, there were some impressive moments from a young band.

Openers the Parlor Squares are anything but neophytes, serving as a side project for singer Kristin Gilmet of the Global Village Idiots and pianist Erich Hager as well as what might be the best rhythm section in Buffalo music, bassist Kent Weber (Dollywatchers and a host of others) and drummer Bill Moore (David Kane's Them Jazzbeards, Sullivan's Headhunters and others).

The music is a mixture of pop standards from the likes of the Gershwins and Cole Porter, going as late as the '50s for Connie Francis' "Lipstick on Your Collar."

The revelation here is Gilmet's voice, which sometimes falls into a Betty Boop kind of tone but which can also soar into a kind of Bernadette Peters attack or sink into a German cabaret growl. It's the kind of voice that opens the possibility that this group could turn into more than a side project.

-- Elmer Ploetz

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