Mr. Airplane: These Boots Were Made for Rockin’

Nancy Derby

How many chicks does it take to rock the Middle East on a Monday night? Two, if you’re Mr. Airplane Man.

Native to Boston but recently relocated to Memphis, Margaret Garrett (vocals, guitar) and Tara McManus (drums, organ, backing vocals, and a mean tambourine) are Mr. Airplane Man. Complimenting such over the top displays of low down and dirty love as “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” with equally convincing originals about loneliness, pesky lovers, and a healthy sex drive, they’re the Stooges meets Howlin’ Wolf, in go-go boots.

In the middle of a fall tour for their third full-length album, C’mon DJ (Sympathy Records, 2003), Mr. Airplane Man (that’s MAM for short) played to an already won-over hometown crowd. Knowing how possessive Boston is of its music scene, Garrett commented, “Wow, there’s never this many people when we play in Memphis” while waiting for the sound guy to add more distortion on her vocals. Throwing in a new song or two with requested favorites, these ladies had the audience hip-swaying and foot-shuffling to their brand of delta blues-infused garage rock.

If you’re thinking White Stripes (because of their duo status and record label, this comparison is common), think again. Amidst the primal drumbeats, distorted guitars, and blend of covers and originals that describe many bands, McManus and Garrett manage to pave their own unique path in the genre. Steering clear of pouting, and bad haircut hipsterism, McManus and Garrett aren’t afraid to laugh on stage, make a few mistakes, and play with no-holds-barred sincerity. They don’t come off as trying to make any sort of impression, which of course is exactly the impression they make. There’s a level of comfort on stage, and with each other, that translates into their music, and that’s what makes their fans fall in love.