Hell, yeah!

Sep 15, 1999 at 12:00 am
With its pomp, bombast and machismo, heavy metal’s always been a good target for laughs. Witness Spinal Tap, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and the Beavises and Butt-heads of America who refuse to let the dream die. Witness Tenacious D, a duo injecting metal fantasies into that great substitute for musical reality – the coffeehouse open-mic stage. Thursday finds the acoustic heavy metal pair exchanging that venue of choice for the limelight of St. Andrew’s Hall.

Earlier this year these comrades in metal could be found in a way-too-brief HBO comedy series, detailing their quixotic pursuit of rock in some of the best television comedy this side of the brilliant "Mr. Show" (with which the D has very strong links). Between meditations on songwriting and histrionic intra-band squabbling, Tenacious D embarked upon adventures that saw the guys jamming with Sasquatch (yes, the Sasquatch) and stumbling upon a religious compound on a particularly inauspicious day of reckoning. But as D-man Jack Black said with his characteristic, er, tenacity, "I’m sorry about the apocalypse, but we’ve got a gig."

Tenacious D never lets the dream die, and even though the series is no more, the acoustic bombast continues. A recording and a movie are reportedly in the works.

"I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about playing Detroit Rock City. I’ve heard it’s a pretty hardcore town," says an uncharacteristically timid Black, who’s usually the domineering one. Black, aka JB, aka Jables, is one-half of this dumpy duo, along with Kyle Gass, aka KG, aka Kage. These two California comedians have blown up the dementia of rock star dreams to comedic proportions, amplified through techniques honed at Los Angeles’ Actors’ Gang Workshop. While they attract few fans inside their fictional comedy world, out here in the real world, the D has quite a cult following, and has opened for the likes of Pearl Jam, Beck and Stone Temple Pilots.

"It was a little nerve-racking at first. People start singing the songs and they’re grabbing at you. But it’s a great ego boost," comments Gass on the newfound notoriety. Unless, say, the STP fans don’t get the joke. "They thought we were serious," Black tells. "There was a very violent reaction to the D."

Gass and Black started gigging regularly as Tenacious D around 1994. As an ego-regained Black says, "Minds were blown from the very beginning. Brains were exploded, because we hit them right away the first time we played with ‘The Greatest Song in the World.’" (Of course this isn’t actually the Greatest Song in the World. It’s a tribute to the Greatest Song in the World, which the D used to defeat a demon that wanted their soul in one HBO episode. Naturally, the tune sounds suspiciously similar to "Stairway to Heaven.") "And that was all we hit them with, and then we left the stage. We just played one song, because that was all we had," Black continues.

Nowadays, the D fills up a set with tunes from the series, including some expansions of what were once song fragments, like "The Road Song," which details a Michigan love affair with the typical Tenacious D sensitivity (i.e., not much and with lots of bad words). They also fill up the stage with their antics, as Black revealed: "There’s been some bread and puppet theater. We pulled out some pyrotechnics that you wouldn’t have in the smaller venues: some explosions, some confetti-throw, some glitter."

And, yes, "In Search Of" fans, there have been Sasquatch sightings. The dream lives! Greg Baise gets electric in the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].thinks he saw Sasquatch at the last Beast People