Middle Class Rut

Cesar Chavez Park – Friday, June 19, 2009

Last Friday’s Concert in the Park Series at Cesar Chavez saw the triumphant return of Middle Class Rut, another long-awaited addition to the short list of bands that have found mainstream success beyond our county lines. This success is partly due to the overwhelming response to their 2008 single, “New Low,” that was played almost nonstop on the now-defunct KWOD 106.5. The stoner-friendly, alternative radio station was a huge proponent of the band. In fact, one year ago on the same exact stage, KWOD DJ Andy Hawk announced them before they hit the stage to a much smaller crowd.

MC Rut, as they are referred to in short, consists of Zach Lopez on guitar and vocals and Sean Stockham on drums and back up vocals. That’s right, they’re a duo. But before you make up your mind based on all the preconceived notions of what a duo can and can’t do, hear me out. They aren’t the White Stripes and they sure as hell aren’t Hella. The energy that is harnessed by these two is stadium caliber, as was witnessed by a huge crowd at the Rock-am-Ring festival in Germany last June. Cesar Chavez Park isn’t exactly a stadium, but it isn’t The Press Club either, and I’ve seen the boys murder that tiny venue to a crowd of 20 on a Sunday night. The point? They’re a versatile band that owns any crowd, and Friday night was no different.

A chant of “MC Rut!” welcomed the two onto the stage; each of them casually settling in to their instruments. Lopez jabbed at his guitar like a child taunting a beehive, the feedback buzzing like angry bees. Stockham adjusted his well-worn orange drum kit and removed his shirt to reveal his “For Sale” tattoo that was inked across his chest in bold red letters. “What’s up, Sacramento?” said Lopez in a classic rock star moment. “How you guys doing?” A loving Sacramento crowd that was clearly there to support their hometown favorite answered back with an eruption of applause.

MC Rut opened their set with “Busy Being Born,” their most recent single that began with one of Stockham’s signature rim tap grooves that Lopez overlaid with slow melodic chords that scraped and dragged while he sang, “The days keep dragging on”¦“ Anticipation mounted until finally the chorus exploded wide open, Stockham punishing his cymbals on each downbeat. A cloud of dust from the stampeding mosh pit was carried toward the stage by a much-welcomed Delta breeze. This would continue for the whole length of their set that would only build in intensity as Lopez and Stockham galloped through song after well practiced song.

During what seemed like the crux of the set, a murder of crows flew overhead to the wafting soundtrack of Lopez’s guitar that melodramatically pulsed in synch with the beating of their wings. “Hold the person you love tight,” Lopez instructed the mesmerized crowd who were eating out of his hand at this point. “I like the way your shirt’s unbuttoned,” Stockham joked with Lopez. Their humor on stage is evidence alone that these two have been friends and bandmates for over a decade now. They seem to be enjoying every moment of their second chance at success after their previous band, Leisure, was signed to and then dropped from Dreamworks.

Before their final song, a white tank top was hucked onto the stage, landing at the feet of Lopez, who remarked that he’d rather they get some bras and panties. And, like clockwork, a black strapless bra made its way to the stage. Stockham was pleased and proceeded to strap the bra on himself with a little help from Lopez, who was all smiles at his bandmate’s cross-dressing showmanship. The familiar metallic percussion that opens “New Low” began, and at that point the whole crowd was in it. They sang every last word of the tune with fists pumping and heads nodding.