Opening credits. Scene one: Early on a Wednesday evening, the Northside Tavern patio is already body-packed. Rowdy and raucous. The bar staff floats around, wearing the usual thrift store shirts. Picture moppy hair, musicians, habits, paint splashed on pants, tattoo sleeves, bottles and beards. Intimidating, cool.
Handshakes don't fit in here, but we do it anyway. After stealing someone's table, I find that Cash Flagg is incredibly easy going, especially for a band that punches out Garage Rock, giving neighbors a wakeup call. Rock out, see what pours out. That's the motto here. No rules. The feel and the noise.
The name Cash Flagg was the pseudonym of American film director Ray Dennis Steckler, an Ed Wood-like character who hurled out zombie cult flicks, directed Jefferson Airplane's video for "White Rabbit" and later moved on to porn.
Smiling at the quirky name choice, Brendan Bogosian (guitar, vocals) is tall, friendly and styling. Past bands include The Woos and Lazy.
Shawn Bracken (guitar, vocals) is better known in these parts by his pseudonym, Jody Stapleton of The Stapletons. Downplaying his years of songwriting experience, with longish hair, visible tats and a melodic speaking voice, he comes across as a sensitive musician with a hidden edge.
Bogosian and Bracken share the vocals. Bogosian explains, "It's nice to kick back and really rock out on the songs you don't sing on."
Sarrah Hutton (bass, vocals) is petite with cropped black hair. Dramatically pretty, she too played in The Woos, and she currently plays in The Slacks with songwriter Shawna James.
Intermission: Some big guy falls out of his chair, landing flat on his back. No worries. No broken bones or cracked skulls. Then he rises and reappears, shaking his head like a cartoon cat.
Back to the story: On the songwriting, Bracken says, "We were talking about doing something challenging, fun, doing everything the opposite way. Rather than coming in with a finished composition, with Cash Flagg, somebody will have an idea, and we'll go with that for a while."
Hutton says, "It's more on the spot. We wrote five songs the first night. It's been easy."
Enter fourth character: drummer Brian Moeller, the newbee. He's jovial, long-limbed and slow-spoken. He also plays with The Sweep.
"We knew he was our guy," Hutton says. "He came in and just knocked the shit out of these songs."
Sentimental interlude: Together, the four emit an overall unmistakable calm. Humble, yet inspired. It seems they share a sly secret -- the key to kicking out unapologetic Rock that's rough when it needs to be rough and more subdued when it needs to settle. You might hear a throat clear.
Bracken says, "We all have bands we like, but the way we play is just the Cash Flagg sound. That's the thing with us -- all four of us are pretty laid back folks. Then when we play, the calm turns into some strange beast."
Moeller says, "It ranges from a New Wave Rock-y feel to a classic Soul feel. I think it's a good match -- nasty when it should be."
Plans for a CD are in the works.
"We've already started the groundwork for that," Bracken says. "Brian is a great engineer in his own right. And we're right in the middle of this ever-changing world of putting out your (own) music. It leaves you open to ideas. We just want to get ourselves known."
Closing credits: Cash Flagg's music isn't the slickly produced kind. It wanders with an undercurrent of '70s-inspired guitars mixed with '80s-style darkly bleeding vocals, unafraid to stray. It's meaty and dark, with a taste of being "bad," releasing a bucket full of life's knocks. Indeed, it's "some strange beast" with urban energy amidst the dirty streets.
CASH FLAGG (myspace.com/therealcashflagg) plays the Northside Tavern on Friday. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.