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The History of Rock n' Roll: Roll over, Van Halen

Lessons learned at Dad's Garage's Top Shelf space



Rule of thumb: If you arrive at a show and someone gives you earplugs, take them. The History of Rock n' Roll cranks up some high-decibel tunes from the cover band "Flyght Rysk," which reverberate even more loudly in the close quarters of Dad's Garage Top Shelf Space.

In truth, you'll probably be able to enjoy the show without ear protection, because Flyght Rysk performs just a handful of songs, chosen mostly for nostalgia, kitsch and head-banging potential. Instead, The History of Rock n' Roll's set list consists mostly of comedy bits and personal reminiscences. Directed by Mike Katinsky, History satisfies less as a conventional stage play than as a laugh-out-loud evocation of one of those endless adolescent nights in the rec room, hanging out with friends and rocking out to the record player.

Conceived by Flyght Rysk guitarist Chris Blair, History presents amusing riffs on our collective experience with rock music and what it can mean to people, particularly young ones. Singer Z Gillispie, bassist Mike Schatz, drummer Jen Lowe and Blair share memories of discovering rock 'n' roll, some of which are surprisingly affecting. Blair offers a hilarious account of going to insane lengths to win U2 tickets from a Florida radio station, while Gillispie offers a humorous yet surprisingly touching tale of connecting to rock music at Southern Baptist Bible Camp.

With occasional musical interludes, the members of Flyght Rysk offer straight-up comedy routines worthy of the likes of David Letterman or Conan O'Brien, such as Gillispie's PowerPoint-style presentation and the audience-participation game show "Who Wants to Be a Rock Star?" Stumbling only a little through transitions, they walk the audience through dying aspects of the rock experience, such as the importance of rock-album art and the ingredients of the quintessential arena show. History features more shtick than it needs and succumbs to some second-act sag, but it's nothing a little judicious cutting won't fix. (Besides, the overage can be saved for the obscure British B-sides.)

As musicians, Flyght Rysk's members may bring the perfect level of raw enthusiasm and rock-god gestures, such as Gillispie's midair split à la David Lee Roth during "Panama." Perhaps the comic highlight comes in a discussion of the "unplugged" phenomenon, which features an acoustic, Dave Matthews-style performance of possibly the dumbest rock song of 1983 (to reveal more would be a crime equal to illegal music downloading). Flyght Rysk may not be the greatest band in the world, but it leaves History's audience calling for at least one more encore.

The History of Rock n' Roll. Through May 26. $15. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. Dad's Garage Theatre, Top Shelf Theatre, 280 Elizabeth St. 404-523-3141. www.dadsgarage.com.

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