Club CODA in Cleveland, Ohio is known for good drink prices, a friendly staff, and a packed house. At no point was any of those three expectations left off as the "Return To The Sunset Strip" tour roared into this the cozy little bar. There wasn't any pussyfooting around, either, both Bang Tango and Faster Pussycat brought their A-game and it was clear that they were here to leave an impression.

Bang Tango hit the stage with purpose and drive

Some bands, as they take the stage, ask for the lights to be lowered and the fog blowing.

Others, of course, choose to have themselves announced with great fanfare, ala KiSS. Neither of those proved to be the case as 80's rock masters Bang Tango took the stage to kick things off, however. From the opening notes of "20th Century Boy," if one wasn't a fan, they may have thought that an opening band had just begun. Then again, few opening bands could bring the power as tightly as they did on their opening track and "Don' Count Me Out," which followed.

During the night, it was sometimes a bit hard to hear the main vocal mic, but for the most part, these issues were resolved after each of the band's first song. By the time "Dancin' On Coals" and the sonic assault of "Attack Of Life" were played, the boys in Bang Tango were in fine form.

When singer Joe Leste did speak the crowd after a handful of songs, he said, "Thank you, we are Bang Tango. For those of you who don't know who we are, we are a new band." This was particularly funny since it only highlighted the fact that while quite popular even to this day, Bang Tango was not about to start taking themselves too seriously.

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Bang Tango has always been a bass-heavy, bass-driven band and bassist Lance Eric was in fine form and ready to make it happen. This is no minor nuance since bands who are structured this way tend to sound either really good live or really muddy. Thankfully, Eric made sure that it was the former once everything was leveled out. Likewise, guitarist Steve Favela really stood out when it was time to and that made their sound a bit different from many of their peers, both then and now.

Author Samuel Di Gangi had a chance to ask Favela about his guitar parts exclusively for Blasting News and he said, "Well, on the original records, there are two guitarists. That is one reason for that. I had to adapt it all to being played by just me."

When asked if the solos were tricky, Favela replied, "Yes, some of them were. More than anything, it was a matter of remembering which songs were which.

That, and remembering their names, for some reason, was hard for me at first."

When the axeman was complimented on his capo-grabbing habit when pulling off some of those firey solos, he joked and confessed, "Oh, I just do that so that it looks like I am really doing something. I'm not." His modesty did not go unnoticed, because his flair added a lot to the show.

Drummer Timmy Russell displayed a very subtle playing style in the way that he accents songs, an approach that is very tactful for a band such as Bang Tango, but the approach worked as much to add to the show as did their bass-rooted drive.

When told by the writer of this story that he had a style (and, coincidently enough, some of the look) that was reminiscent of Chant's Bradley Bills - the famed drummer of Die Krups - he smiled wide and replied, "Oh, that is cool. Thank you very much. I try to not overdo things but to add things where needed."

No "sleaze rock" show would be complete without oral sex references, and singer Leste' at one point announced that "this song is about bl**jobs, who likes getting them?" When many males in the crowd raised their hands, he asked louder, "Come one, who likes giving bl**jobs," and a few hands when up from the guys who did not catch the change, he laughed and high-fived those who he had just tricked.

With the fun clearly underway, songs with subtle key changes led to their closer, and everyone knew what it would be. For their biggest hit, they again jokingly downplayed it and simply said, "This is our song" before ripping into "Someone Like You," their smash hit from the days when MTV at least pretended to care about music (they even played it). Once again, the guitar solo work leading out of the song was a pleasure to hear.

Needless to say, the road was paved for Faster Pussycat to strut in...

Faster Pussycat has the crowd purring - and roaring like a lion

Faster Pussycat, with the exception of founder Taime Downe (pronounced "Tame me"), has no original members. That said, the attitude and gritty execution did not suffer as the band roared onto the stage. There was a very new member, introduced to the crowd repeatedly only as "Sam" (Sam Bam Koltun), and he was more than up for the challenge when it came to the band's delivery. This was clear by the way that he handled the solos during crowd favorites such as "Slip Of The Tongue" and the appropriately named, "Cathouse," where Downe famously announces that he "just got back from the best cathouse in town" at every stop.

When asked to sign a copy of the band's self-titled debut album which came out in 1987, Sam smiled awkwardly. "I know you are not on the album, but just sign anywhere," Mr. Di Gangi said, handing him the LP. "On it? I wasn't born yet," he replied, and happily signed the record's cover saying, "Hmmm, who do I wanna' pretend to be...."

Bassist Xristian Simon was not only on point but also celebrating a birthday, too, as Downe announced during the set. The crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to him as he exited the stage for the evening.

He and drummer Chad Stewart really worked in tandem to craft a very tight low end, so the praise was not unexpected. Stewart's voice is very good at capturing that "wall of chorus" sound which is such a big part of Pussycat's music, as did other members of the band.

Faster Pussycat had even more surprises for their litter of fans as they chose to cover the INXS song, "Don't Change." They also invited bassist Danny Nordahl, renowned for his work with Tracii Guns' version of L.A. Guns, The Throbs, and Downe's industrial project, The Newlydeads, to sing "Pretty F**ked Up" as the crowd chanted along merrily.

Many people were saying throughout the night that Faster Pussycat did a few songs from their Newlydead days on most tours, but sadly, that was not to be on this particular evening.

However, the highlight of the night was still to be delivered as the band simply exploded into their crossover masterpiece, "Babylon." On the original release, heavy metal legend Riki Rachtman and Mitch Perry guest on the track, it has scratching (which was all but unheard of in a rock song this heavy back then), and it is one of the songs that paved for the way for crossover sounds like Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and countless other bands who followed.

Live, there was no Dj, but the arrangement of the backing vocals covered any areas where it may have been needed and, again, the band just BLISTERED their way through it! It was both tight, not in the least bit sloppy, but quite aggressive - even getting a bit of Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades" mixed into it just to give it a more brutal twist.

Oddly enough, even though requests were made, there was no encore. It was said by a staff member that, unless the place is really crazy, they almost never do encores, choosing to give it all while there.

Danny Nordahl was asked by Blasting News why no Newlydeads songs were done and he said, "Well, that was our project and it has kind of combined. I am not sure how that happened but I guess it did."

When asked if any of the new Faster Pussycat music may have a bit of an industrial feel since the two have combined he said, "We have a CD done, it sounds like the Ramones. It sounds like nothing that we have ever done before."

Guitarist Sam mentioned that when Ace Von Johnson (also of L.A. Guns) could not tour, as their Facebook video attested to, the role for the tour became his.

When asked if he was staying onboard Sam answered, "I don't know, only time will tell. It depends on how it all works out." He also said, when asked, that his favorite songs to play were, "'Number One With A Bullet,' 'House Of Pain,' and the INXS cover, we do 'Don't Change.' Honorable mention 'Nonstop To Nowhere.'"

One could not help but wonder how combining the heavy-electro of the Newlydeads with Faster Pussycat could end up with a punk rock sound, but when asked, Sam seemed perplexed. "Am I playing on that? There is no new CD....we are releasing a children's book," he jested.

So, with so many questions, it seemed best to get any new information right from the horse's (cat's) mouth, but founding member Taime Downe could not be tracked down. He was already on the bus. As we requested to talk with the Big Cat himself, we were told by one of their merchandise staff who was loading gear, "He won't come out. He almost never does. He may sign the record if you pay him."

Koltun had mentioned that Downe could be a tricky man to meet.

When told that ten dollars were available, she replied, "He won't sign it for ten bucks. That won't happen." The words were said with a smile on her face and when told, "Oh, come on, he needs to be thanked for all the years of great music," she replied, "Not today. It's not gonna' happen."

So with that, the night ended. Does the new Faster Pussycat sound like the Ramones? For that matter, is there new Faster Pussycat music to be released? The answer to those questions will have to go unanswered but one thing is for sure, when the band returns to Cleveland, there will be a lot of fans returning for a dose of their gritty, hard rock sound. That is, after all, the cat's meow.

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