Saturday, September 06, 2008

Chaos In Tejas 2008 (MRR#303)

Sandy and I sat up until 4am, out in the shed in the garden of his Austin home. We chinwagged long into the night to a soundtrack of John Peel Session tapes recorded many years ago on a cheap ghetto blaster in a Newmains bedroom. The Prong peel session was they best thing they ever did, and that night it sounded like some kind of sonic bulletin from the distant days of the mid-80s. Yeah that's right, I said Prong. Blistering, is how I'd describe the guitar sound. We also jammed the HDQ Peel Session. HDQ were a funny band: starting off as spiky-topped Discharge noiseniks and turning into Sunderland's answer to Dag Nasty. It wasn't until Dickie Hammond twinned those Brian Baker guitar riffs with Frankie Stubbs' dreary, rain-and-gin soaked Coronation Street songwriting that melodic hardcore finally reached its true potential. Listening to that HDQ session in the shed was definitely a heavy nostalgia trip, but it was ultimately more satisfying than watching Dickie (in full Eric Bristow darts regalia) back on stage with Frankie and turning in a greatest hits set. Leatherface weren't bad at all, in fact both sets I saw at the Texas fest were solid, but it's not 1988 any more, for us or for them. The nostalgia just felt empty. Memories; ghosts of passions first stirred in the bloom of youth.
The next evening we set out on bikes. A twenty mile party on wheels, through the hills above Austin with a messenger bag of beer. The circuit ended with a swim in the creek amongst ducks and turtles. Two little kids asked us to keep an eye on their fishing poles - bent safety pins tied to two tree branches and a slice of Wonder Bread for bait. You should have seen the one that got away. Huck Finn was hiding in the bushes.
At sunset we dodged sightseers and rode past clouds of leathery bats as they began their blind riot charge into the warm Texas evening. Secret samosas were consumed before stopping at a bar called the Hole In The Wall. It's unlike the Hole In The Wall in San Francisco: different dicks hang out in this one. The bartender stood Sandy and I to free whisky beverages, which we enjoyed just before local alt-country act Lonesome Heroes took the stage. I can't stand the term 'alt-country' but the band was really good. They call themselves psychedelic country but I couldn't tell if any of them were actually tripping. In a town whose musical legacy includes the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and the Butthole Surfers, everyone has to be a little psychedelic, right?
We spilled onto the street after the show and went for more tasty samosas at the secret samosa spot. There wasn't anything that secret about them, they were right there in the counter display. I suppose it's the fact that you don't expect to be able buy a samosa in a donut shop at 2am.
Maybe I should backtrack a bit, to the actual fest itself? Do you really want to hear about the bands and who played what? Roky Erickson was basically the same as the first time I saw him last year in San Francisco. It's still amazing to get to see him play those old songs. People were stoked that Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top joined him onstage for the last two numbers. I have to say, although I'm aware of ZZ Top having a respectable body of work prior to their 80s MTV video fame, I basically only know them from that era. Sorry, but that stuff is shit. All of it sounds like it was programmed by a sleazy, bourbon-drinking robot. Which, now I actually type that, sounds like a recipe for the best music ever. Maybe they got the wrong software for the robot or something.
Anyway, I didn't mean to go on about ZZ Top. Let's move on to London's answer to ZZ Top, minus the beards, Hard Skin. Blistering set of classics on the Thursday night, straight off the bus after another short tour bringing the sounds of fake Oi to spoiled Yanks. Best line from Fat Bob: "I liked Los Crudos when they were just Mexican, but I like them even more now they're gay." The next day they played on a party boat out in some Texas lake to a 100 unhealthy, sunburned miscreants. It was like a recovery program for people with regrettable tattoos. Tall Dan from punk HQ (eg the MRR house) took a tumble on the kiddie chute, sliced his arm, and stirred up some chum for the freshwater sharks. Later that night he was all stitched up and putting on a brave face. After Hard Skin played on the barge the coast guard had to come out and spirit Johnny Takeaway back to shore so he could jet back to jellied-eel land. Genius can't hang about getting a suntan. Criminal Damage just about managed to get through an impromptu set as a three-piece with the drummer throwing up into her mouth all the way through. As soon as they were done she heaved her ring over the side, only to hit some poor unsuspecting punk swimmers. Oops!
Back on dry land there was more punk nonsense to take in. I managed to miss a bunch of bands I'd wanted to see but what can you do? There's too much to take in. At my advanced age I can't see ten bands a day any more. Afternoon shows. After-parties. Inside shows. Outside shows. Bloody hell.
Once things calmed down a bit and most people had gone home, there was a wee gig at a pizza parlor with The Young and Social Circkle, who were both brilliant. It turned into a mini-fest of its own, with just about every band still left in Austin jumping on the bill. Crude and Fy Fan played two of the best sets of the fest, and even Los Crudos turned in a few songs. It ended up being one of the most fun parts of the weekend, because it was so much like a normal show.
That's when my real holiday started, and where we came in at the start of the column. Thanks to Timmy for organizing the fest, and to Sandy & Jen for putting me and the missus up for all that time.

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