The Artful Dodger

I don’t like my Kringle served neat.

I want Old Saint Nick to be a prick. No milk and cookies, just a fifth of Jack and a can of Skoal. To hell with holiday cheer — hand that man a beer.

Slick Rhodes isn’t exactly Santa. But Arthur Dodge‘s unkempt alter ego proved capable of kicking the holiday season in its chestnuts at the Eighth Street Tap Room in Lawrence last week.

The unshaven troubadour began his sordid set by sidling up to a keyboard festooned with Christmas lights, Santa hat on his head, cigarette dangling from his mouth, tumbler of bourbon at the ready.

Dodge’s companion on the drums — a man in a thick black coat, dark aviator sunglasses and a fur hat likely stolen from a dead Russian — spilled his drink before a single note was played.

So far, so good.

“Hello, hello, hello,” Dodge said. “My name’s Slick Rhodes.”

The first standard yanked from the catalog was “Bells Will Be Ringing.” Then came “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “I’ll be Home For Christmas.” If Dodge was aiming for something between depressed karaoke and grizzled casino lounge act, he was nailing it.

But he wasn’t being particularly filthy. Which seemed to disappoint the rapidly expanding crowd.

“This is so PG, man!” one fan shouted.

“Hey loudmouth,” Dodge replied. “Would it be better if I had four or five shots? Bring on the booze, bitch! We’re out of bourbon.”

Turns out it was a lot better with four or five shots. Or 12. Dodge and his drumming compadre settled in with “Jingle Bell Rock” and a version of “Let It Snow” that included a tambourine interval, an accordion breakdown and Dodge crooning. I bought some porn for watching/The lights are turned way down low/Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

As the duo delved inside “Frosty the Snowman,” Dodge lured women to nuzzle with him on the piano bench beneath a sprig of mistletoe before sending them off with a candy cane. Presumably for being naughty.

The bourbon flowed, as did “Feliz Navidad” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”

“Play ‘Wonderwall’!” someone shouted.

“Don’t make Slick kick your ass,” Dodge retorted, flicking his cigarette into the crowd.

He didn’t play any Oasis, but Dodge mustered a solid “Carol of the Bells” before launching into “Sleigh Ride” and a song about a coffeepot and steamy sex at a Christmas party. The night wound down, and the drummer began lurching dangerously on his stool, so Dodge thanked everyone and ended with “I Want to Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

He was a good Santa, after all. And that wasn’t bad.

Categories: Music