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A Vulgar Boatmen tribute to Lou


The Vulgar Boatmen perform during Musical Family Tree's Listen Local event earlier this summer. - LISA FETT
  • Lisa Fett
  • The Vulgar Boatmen perform during Musical Family Tree's Listen Local event earlier this summer.

Upon returning from to Indy New York, after plans with his locally revered proto-punk band, The Gizmos, had fallen through, Dale Lawrence would become familiar with the works of a man named Lou.

"When I was in The Gizmos, I wasn't very preoccupied with The Velvet Underground or Lou Reed stuff, really. It was later, after I moved back here, that that stuff started finally mattering to me and making sense to me," Lawrence says on the phone to me in early November.

Since that realization, Lawrence has embarked on a new chapter of his musical career, coming down from his punk past and fronting Indy's version of The Vulgar Boatmen for decades.

This Saturday, The Vulgar Boatmen will make an appearance at Radio Radio, alongside local groups The Icks and Vacation Club. In honor of Lou Reed's passing, the Boatmen, who have a history of covering the Velvets, will devote half of their set to Reed's legacy with 45 minutes of covers.

Since 1989's You and Your Sister, Lawrence and the Boatmen have held strong to their love for Reed and the Velvets.

"If you count every cover we've ever done, it's fairly expansive. We probably have three times as many covers as Vulgar Boatmen songs, but that's not to say we can pull them all out of our butts on any given night," Lawrence said. "Some of them we've only played a few times, or maybe once a long time ago."

Founder of GloryHole Records (and promoter of this show along with Musical Family Tree) Jimmy Peoni is a longtime fan of the Boatmen. Having seen the band hundreds of times over the years, he still looks forward to the VU covers, in addition to their regular repertoire of original tunes.

"They used to always end one of their shows with an extraordinary 'Foggy Notion' or 'Waiting For The Man.' One of my personal favorites is 'Sister Ray,' which I haven't seen them do for about ten years and I hope they pull it out," Peoni said. "But no one does Velvet Underground like The Boatmen."

The Boatmen's set isn't the only place where Lou Reed's legacy will be felt. A fan of Reed's since discovering Velvet Underground & Nico at a young age, John Caldwell of The Icks owes much gratitude to Reed.

"Lou Reed is a god of mine," Caldwell said. "I was 14 years old and all of a sudden I wanted to get into counterculture and music, and I bought the Velvet Underground's first album based on the Andy Warhol cover, which I know that they probably wouldn't like that too much. I picked it up, went home and put it in my Play Station. And I was never the same."

With an extensive familiarity of the Velvets at this point, Lawrence still marvels at the band's lasting legacy, from their simple rock and roll approach to Reed's intelligent songwriting.

"In so many ways, the Velvets have influenced not just us, but countless bands since then I think," he said.


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