Sopping sidewalks and chilly winds made this month's Friday the 13th feel that much more unpleasant to anyone who wasn't already experiencing some superstitious misfortune. We splashed our way over to the Rock Block and made it inside Exit/In in time to catch the latter half of local retro rockers The Deep Vibration's set.
The room had all the cavernous ambiance that only an empty Exit/In can provide while the band cranked out bluesy, mod-era garage rock that seemed to strive more for authenticity than originality. They had some slow numbers that would have felt right at home at a 1962 sock hop, and they alternated with more rollicking ditties that kept bringing to mind the "Johnny B. Goode" scene from Back to the Future.
The room was comfortably populated by the time Golden Triangle stepped onstage. We could tell by their flowing sleeves and echo-y, groovy intro that we were in for something trippy. Armed with two tambourine-tapping frontwomen and equal parts men and women on the whole, Golden Triangle kicked out a continuous stream of fast-paced, short and sweet jams with overlapping boy-girl vocals and several layers of fuzzy, jangled guitars. The end result came out sounding like a less campy B-52's pitted against the punked-up freak-out of The Fugs.
By the time The Shrines started introducing their leader King Khan, the place had filled up proper and the band wasted no time kicking things into overdrive with some riotous, old-school, shit-kicking R&B. Backed by a nine-piece band, frontman Khan screeched, howled and crooned through a mix of sweaty, psychedelic soul and overdriven garage punk. For the encore, the band was joined onstage by tour mates Golden Triangle for a few more tunes, some of which sounded familiar enough to be covers, but the only one we could place was an interlude from Suicide's "Ghost Rider." Attempts at a second encore were made, but were unsuccessful as the house music told us all it was time to head back into the rain.
Captains of Industry
Sadly, The Spin couldn't grab a spot up front during Superdrag's set at the Exit/In this Saturday. Despite all of our super-fan grandstanding, we were mingling when we should have been claiming our place on the monitor line. Instead, our spot was ganked by a bunch of kids from the 'Nooga—and Dallas, Tampa and some other places—that had gone to the Knoxville show too, and you can't really argue with folks that will drive all over this great state of ours chasing one of our finest resources. This would be our only itsy-bitsy wittle letdown for the evening.
In a startling turn of events, we actually showed up on time to catch local openers The Privates tear through a set of tightly wound agit-pop. We actually got to hear the killer new tracks that they recorded with Battletapes in the car on the way over, so we were pretty pumped going into it, and the boys certainly did not disappoint. Dave Paulson's story about seeing Superdrag in '96 was especially poignant.
The second band was Mic Harrison and the High Scores, and their only real problem was that they weren't Superdrag. Most nights we would have been into 'em, but we were not really in the mood to hear a more rough-and-tumble Travis Tritt, even if the lead guitarist was insanely, insanely awesome. Which he was.
Our only qualm with Superdrag was that 'Senator' Tom Pappas wasn't wearing leather pants, which, yeah, is really nitpicky but there wasn't much else to complain about. They played for almost two hours, including most of the classics like "Do the Vampire," "Senorita" and "Sucked Out." All the new songs sounded phenomenal, and they closed out with our No. 1 super-jam "Destination Ursa Major." We couldn't have asked for a better night.
It's a long way to the top if you wanna garage rock
We're told things got off to a late start at The Basement Sunday night. Perhaps it's just as well, since it meant we didn't miss too much. By the time we arrived, local favorites Hans Condor were done kicking out the jams, and a small but stalwart crowd had settled in for a night of dirty soul blues.
This was provided by Silver Lions 20/20, a duo comprised of Chet Weise—formerly of the Immortal Lee County Killers—and Craig "Sweet Dawg" Pickering, who's drummed with R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford. As in his previous bands, Weise plays distorted, bluesy slide guitar, offering lyrical warnings like "Jesus is fast, yes he is / He's comin' to get you." While Weise's showmanship was never at fault—he enjoys doing flashy high kicks and spins—the occasional technical difficulties did occur. "Hey Charles, can I use your guitar?" he asked Hans Condor frontman Charles Kaster. A few minutes of technical adjustments passed. They played a cover of Hound Dog Taylor's "Gimme Back My Wig." Weise's instrumental pyrotechnics inspired one wag to call out "less guitar!"
The band—which has yet to record but has vague plans to do so, they told The Spin—was a perfect lead-in for another two-piece, openers The Black Diamond Heavies. The Heavies' sound is built up from Van Campbell's energetic drumming, John Wesley Myers' Rhodes playing and low, rough vocals. (One listener we talked to compared him to Cookie Monster.) They opened with a cover of "It's a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock and Roll." "Thanks so much, we're the Doobie Brothers," said Myers in response to applause.
Their set alternated between tunes from their last two albums, like "Sinnerman," and more covers, like Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." The Heavies' sound is unique among garage bands. Myers' impassioned keyboard playing allows the group to create a frenetic wall of sound with just two people, and the instrument gives him unusual range—it sometimes resembles a guitar, but sounds chime- or bell-like in the top notes. But they weren't free from technical problems, either. In the middle of a slow, soulful song, something went wrong, and Myers said, "hold on man, I'm sorry dude." They gave up and instead played R.L. Burnside's "Coal Black Mattie." The audience wasn't quite dancing, but they were rocking their hips.
If you're reading this, then you're not important enough to be at SXSW. Email your sob story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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