'Speed' metal: Keanu Reeves heats up Bohager's

Two seminal moments in rock and roll history:

The Beatles. On the Ed Sullivan Show. Feb. 9, 1964.


Dogstar. At Bohager's Bar & Grill. July 24, 1995.

Maybe you had to be there. It's not just the way the band sounds, which is basically loud and, well, loud. It's also the way it looks. Or, more specifically, the way its bass player looks.


Just like Keanu Reeves.

Which he is. Which is why some 600 people jammed into the cavernous Fells Point-area club to see a band that has yet to record its first album.

"Oh, I'm in love!" screamed Heather Stewart, 23, before Mr. Reeves had sung a note.

Earsplitting yells and sailing items of clothing greeted Dogstar as it took the stage, led by an all-black-clad Mr. Reeves. Even more noise when -- omigod -- he took his knitted watch cap off. And then, utter chaos when, several songs into the show, the heretofore silent bass player actually sang.

"He's hot," cried Greta Morgan, 27, adding the finger-wetting, "ssssss" thing.

"It's his butt," said Donna Lyons, 23, getting right to the bottom of Mr. Reeves' appeal.

"Everybody in our office was jealous we had tickets," said her friend Erica Anderson, 23, an accountant. "So if I'm late to my 7:30 meeting [today], I think they'll understand."

The darkly handsome Mr. Reeves, sporting a mustache and more of a 5 o'clock shadow than he does on the August cover of Vanity Fair, seemed neither pleased nor annoyed to be the subject of all this non-musical adulation. Grinning occasionally, sipping a beer, sometimes waving to a crowd that was separated from the stage by some very big men, he mostly played his bass. He didn't even rate his own microphone.


Dogstar members acknowledge that Mr. Reeves is the draw, but hope after the initial celebrity-swoon subsides, they'll be taken more more seriously. Yeah, right.

For Mr. Reeves, it was yet another fascinating twist in an already interesting career, one that has taken the actor from the utterly vapid duditude of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 to the buffed-up "Speed" demon of last year's action flick. With, it should be noted, stops along the way as, no joke, a Shakespearean actor: He was in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing" and played the title role of "Hamlet" on stage.

Dogstar started out like many bands, in a garage. It might have stayed there without the star power of the 30-year-old Mr. Reeves, who as River Phoenix, Johnny Depp and others of his slacker generation have self-immolated along the way -- has shot to undeniable stardom.

Along the way, he has attracted attention from both women -- who made up about 90 percent of last night's audience -- as well as men.

"A co-worker and I go back and forth, he claims he's gay," Ms. Stewart, a Bowie cosmetologist, says. "I don't care. I think he's beautiful no matter what he is."

The is-he-gay stuff has gotten to the point that Mr. Reeves was rumored to have married mogul David Geffen -- not true, both say -- and he actually came out as straight recently in Out magazine.


Whatever. Such rumors apparently have done zero damage to his career. Either of them. The band is selling out as it tours this summer, aboard a customized bus once used by Pearl Jam.

Steve Cochran, one of Bohager's owners, jumped to book the band, unseen and unheard, when it became available. "I thought it would be fun," he says, scanning a packed room that validated his business acumen. "So much attention is focused on him as an actor, trying to let the musicality of the group out is what this is all about."

Yeah, yeah, sure, let's get back to Keanu.

"He's a nice guy. Real low-key," Mr. Cochran reports.

The band got into town around 1:30 p.m., did a sound check, and went to Da Mimmo's in Little Italy for dinner.

The band got its start in 1990, when Mr. Reeves, who is a big hockey fan, saw Rob Mailhouse, wearing a Washington Capitals jersey, in an L.A. supermarket and got to talking. Turns out Rob played keyboards and Keanu played bass and, hey, Keanu had a garage they could play in.


Well, one thing led to another as it often does in Hollywood.

So, how do they sound?

"Who cares?" says Jennifer Joyner, 25. "I just want to look at