Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna read an interview with five FZ guitarists?

From Guitar International: H.P. Newquist talks to Warren Cuccurullo, Mike Keneally, Dweezil Zappa, Adrian Belew, and Steve Vai.

Pinkish Black @ FW Burrito Project Benefit, 5.27.2012

Asian Media Crew video. "Bodies In Tow": "Ashtray Eyes":

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

R.I.P. Pete Cosey

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Help Pinkish Black get to NYC on June 15th

Pinkish Black has been offered an opportunity to play the Pitchfork stage at the Northside Festival in NYC on June 15th. To that end, they've started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2,000 for transportation costs. You can donate here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wild//Tribe, Zombie Shark Attack, Perdition, and Stoogeaphilia pics @

My sweetie posted some of her pics of Wild//Tribe, Zombie Shark Attack, Perdition, and Stoogeaphilia from Saturday's "Fight for Maddie" extravaganza at Sunshine Bar in Arlington on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yells At Eels "guerrilla performance"

Dennis Gonzalez/Yells At Eels recently made a series of "guerrilla performances" at unusual locations around Dallas. Here they are outside Big D's Winspear Opera House, playing "The Matter At Hand."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New HIO project in the FW Weekly

The FW Weekly's "Hearsay" column lifts the veil on HIO's new project here.

ADDENDUM: I should point out that while I've been woolgathering the past couple of weeks, my HIO compadres Matt Hickey and Terry Horn have been busy producing new toonage under their respective monikers Joe and the Sonic Dirt From Madagascar (see below) and the owl and the octopus (go here).

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My scrawl in the Dallas Observer

"Pinkish Black's Sinister Waltz Has Been Building Momentum for 20 Years," with photos by Naomi Vaughan, is online now and in metal boxes in the 214 tomorrow.

Black Dog Memories

Damn, I miss the Black Dog.

I met my wife there one night in 2003, when I was still trying to make a living as a freelancer for the Fort Worth Weekly. Goodwin was playing the Good Show's anniversary party, and I was standing at the end of the bar, holding my beer, like always, when she came up and shoved a bulging envelope in my hand. She said that she was promoting a benefit at the Wreck Room to raise money to help a local disabled athlete travel to the Paralympics, and that she'd like to talk to me about it if I ever had ten minutes. I thought for a minute, walked over to where she was sitting, and said we could talk right then if she wanted. We went outside to sit on the stoop (the band was loud) and we're still having that conversation eight years and change later.

Tad Gaither, who owned the Black Dog, was a cantankerous old Yank from New Hampshire who'd been in the Peace Corps and served as a Military Intelligence officer in Korea during the Nam era (he said his ROTC class voted him "most likely to surrender") before going into the publishing business. When Harcourt-Brace cut him loose, he opened a bar -- why not? -- with the idea of creating the same ambiance as the Greenwich Village dives he'd frequented during his years in the Big Apple. Thus did poetry and jazz find a home in downtown Fort Worth during a time when there was no other venue for "outsider arts" in the city. 

On a good night, the original Black Dog at 903 Throckmorton was so smoky that I used to joke that "when smoking is outlawed, Tad will sell people bits of the furniture that are impregnated with nicotine," and there was a perpetual stale-beer funk about the place. The piano was perpetually out of tune, and the "self-service PA bar" was a joke among bands. But the place had character. (Someone told me once that the space had once served as headquarters for the Tarrant County Democratic Party, which if true, is perfect.)

I might have been there once the year it opened -- 1997 -- but my first real good memory of the old joint dates from when I was out of work in the spring of 2002. I'd do all my job search stuff Sunday through Wednesday, and then on Thursday afternoons, I'd go downtown at 2pm, when the bar opened, with enough change to feed the meter across the street for two hours and enough cash to buy two beers. I'd walk down the stairs -- there was an elevator that rarely worked, an irritant for many musos who played there and had to hump their gear down the stairs -- and sit in the cool, quiet room, drinking my beer and shooting the shit with the bartender (and usually getting a couple of freebies). When the happy hour crowd started rolling in, I'd leave. For a couple of hours, it was a nice sanctuary from all the things I didn't want to have to think about.

When I was freelancing for the Weekly, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the Black Dog, often listening to the Sunday jazz band, which was led by saxophonist Michael Pellecchia, then by drummer Dave Karnes, always including vibist/pianist Joey Carter and usually including either Paul Metzger (who played with Joey in Bertha Coolidge, whose Black Dog heyday I just missed) or Keith Wingate on guitar. There were always loads of sit-ins, including several vocalists, my favorite of which were Ron the train man and Oaklin Bloodworth, whom I remembered from the blues jams at the Keys Lounge. Pablo and the Hemphill 7 played some of their best shows there early on, and I remember the ecstatically dancing crowds they used to draw. Later on, Confusatron -- who'd started out playing on the street in front of the Coffee Haus at 404 Houston -- got a Black Dog residency, and some stirring times were had on their nights, as well.

Back in 1999, I'd tried to book a band there, leaving a cassette tape (remember those?) with Tad and checking back every week for about nine months. About four years later, he told me, "I finally listened to that tape," and offered me a gig. But, of course, the band no longer existed by then. When Stoogeaphilia started in 2006, Billy Wilson (bless him) gave us a monthly residency there: "I Wanna Be Your [Black] Dog Thursdays." (Once Hembree paid for an ad in the Weekly because Tad refused to -- except on New Year's Eve, to advertise free PBR. Sigh.) Sometimes our night would fall on the same night as Mike Guinn's poetry slam, and we'd have to avoid laughing loudly and clinking glasses so as not to upset the poets. Sometimes I'd load in and see my middle daughter and her friends there, acting as judges for the slam.

By that time, Tad had relocated the bar to a location on Crockett Street that was so obscure that I had to use the sign from 7th Haven next door as a landmark for a friend who was coming from out of town. Tad didn't even realize that two of his employees had websites for his place at the time. I thought his rationale for moving -- that the city was taking the parking lot on the corner, which would "kill my business" -- was ill-advised. I _never_ used that parking lot, and I believe a lot of his Sunday jazz crowd parked in Sundance Square and stopped by the Black Dog after picking up someone at the Library or the Fox and Hound, prior to heading home to take care of Serious Bizness. If he'd stayed on Throckmorton, he'd have made bank.

But of course, Tad didn't have that much time left. (He died in 2009.) When he finally folded the tent at the end of 2006, without informing his loyal employees, it caused a lot of bad blood, and I think it broke his heart. Deep down, though, I think they all still loved Tad. Besides Billy, who liked to dress up like Hunter S. Thompson, there was Shaggy McCormick, who liked to dress up like a woman, and Jem Rodriguez, the best bartender in Fort Worth, who once made me walk a line to get out of his place when I wasn't even drunk (and I still love him for it). Between them, for a minute, they made a sweet little oasis in the desert.

I don't know what Tad would make of this town since the developers created our own little bar ghetto in the neighborhood where his beloved joint went to die. I suspect he wouldn't have approved. Wherever he is, I hope they have good tobacco, cheap beer, and the sweetest music and poetry the mind can imagine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Nervebreakers' "Hijack the Radio! (Vintage Vinyl & Studio Sessions, Volume One)" (Part Two)

OK, It's been a couple of months since our last installment, but now it's here. The CD comes with three extra tracks -- a '75 slice of Syd-influenced psychedelia called "See Me Thru," a take of the Troggs' "Strange Movies" that predates the one recorded for We Want Everything, and the original cassette-recorded demo of "Hijack the Radio!" -- but I had to spring for the limited-edition colored vinyl versh, because that's the way we roll.

The new compilation explodes out of the gate with the title track, a fan's anthem from the days when rockaroll radio was the medium that bound us all together (or pissed some of us off). Primary writing partners Tex Edwards and Mike Haskins got their first exposure to the esoterica that formed their aesthetic from a Dallas AM station that would play anything...once. The notion of letting some "DJ guy" program your listening experience might seem quaint in this era when every man is his own radio station, but the NBs put their point across powerfully, with a bridge that paraphrases the Kinks' "Top of the Pops" and every rockfan's favorite object of ridicule back in '79: disco.

The smiling folks at Get Hip were wise to focus their selection on 'riginals (with the exception of the Troggs cover on the CD), for the Nervebreakers' defining strength was their songwriting -- although they played more than their share of covers, coming as they did from an era (a band since '73, they) when you had to play four sets a night. (The compilers saw fit to include a shaky example of their early forays into songwriting -- the instrumental "Missa Moses," which dates from '75, when Walter Brock was still playing Farfisa.)

Their lengthy gestation meant that by the time these sides were waxed, they really knew their way around their axes -- not a prerequisite for punk rock apotheosis, but it meant that they had the means at their disposal to make their humor-infused stew of Brit Invasion, rockabilly, and psych influences sound convincing. To hear what I'm talking about, give "Why Am I So Flipped?" a spin. (Imagine if the Clash's Sandy Pearlman-produced confluence of punk aesthetics with Big Rock sonics on Give 'Em Enough Rope had actually gelled.)

Their best-known song was "My Girlfriend Is a Rock," a Bay Area hit penned by drummer Carl Giesecke and subsequently covered (as "My Girlfriend's In Iraq") by doomed Millennial punkers Spector 45. The toon taps the same vein of early '60s pop, overlaid with buzzsaw guitars, that the New York Dolls and Ramones mined. (Indeed, "It's Too Late" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Too Much Too Soon.) Haskins was a guitar-slinger in the fire-breathing, yet craftsmanlike mold of BOC's Buck Dharma and the Dictators' Ross the Boss. He constructed his solos with care, adding details like the little snippet of feedback that concludes his first "Girlfriend" solo, or his crazy glisses on "I Love Your Neurosis," that injected just the right amount of chaos to the proceedings.

Tex Edwards was a charismatic frontman who absorbed C&W influences by osmosis, not inclination. He channels Ray Davies at his rockin'-est on "Everything Right" and most effete on "My Life Is Ruined," while sounding for all the world like, um, Arnold Schwarznegger on the closing epic "Beyond the Borderline." The band's secret weapon was Barry Kooda, the guy with the fish in his mouth in the famous Rolling Stone pic from the Sex Pistols show, who churned up the requisite racket on low-slung Les Paul while providing quality backing voxxx and occasional tuneage (on his own or in tandem with Edwards); he sings lead on "So Sorry" here.

Hijack the Radio! nicely compliments (and isn't at all redundant with) their '81 swan song LP We Want Everything! (which Get Hip reissued on sweet, sweet vinyl last year). Hopefully the kids will scarf up enough copies to make the Pittsburgh-based label release the NBs' 2007 Face Up To Reality album -- which, if heard, could give a good name to reunion albums by superannuated punkers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Transistor Tramps

It's a sad irony that the Transistor Tramps decided to fold the tent just after completing their self-titled debut CD-EP, when they should have been celebrating four years as a band. Such was the level of acrimony that attended their dissolution that they aren't even playing their planned CD release shows -- a pity, as the record's good, and they invested a lot of time, sweat, and treasure in its creation.

Tramps chanteuse Elle Hurley met her guitarist-husband Richard when their bands (hers: Slick Lady Six; his: Blood of the Sun) played together at the late, lamented Wreck Room. After that, Richard said, "I stalked her on her band's Myspace page." They formed Transistor Tramps with keyboardist David Sebrind in March 2008 after collaborating with him on a film soundtrack, and were married at the end of that year. Rhythm section players came and went until bassist Jamie Myers (ex-Hammers of Misfortune) and drummer Brian Shaw (ex-Panther City Bandits) stuck. (That said, Jason Sweatt kicks the traps on the majority of the tracks.)

Sonically speaking, the proximate models are female-fronted '80s outfits like Missing Persons (minus the quirk quotient and Zappa affiliation, although Richard loves him some FZ) and Berlin (minus Giorgio Moroder). Elle's onstage persona is the tough rock chick, but under the veneer, she's got a classic pop voice, redolent of an era when sangin' was more important than dancin', when all the notes came from the vocalist's larynx and not from an algorithm. The songs are sleek, gleaming vehicles for her strengths, propelled by the engine of Sebrind's keys and synths, which echo prime Kraftwerk and Ultravox -- machine-like, but in the best way.

Richard, whose fretboard prowess I've observed for the past four years from the other side of Stoogeaphilia's stage, is a fairly muted presence here. He does, however, contribute a tastefully constructed solo to "In Time," and a bombastic one to "Jackie Boy," on which the Tramps channel Bob Ezrin-era Alice Cooper, complete with rococo arrangement. Elle and Richard are currently on the hunt for other musos, and as she points out, "We all come from heavier backgrounds," so perhaps this track provides a glimpse of their future direction. All I ever need is something to look forward to, and the only reason I keep getting up every morning is to see what happens next.

The Transistor Tramps are dead. Long live the Transistor Tramps.

Derwooka's "God's Electric Testicle"

Our times call for multiple careers, and Mark Kitchens has got 'em. By day, he's an architect. By night, he kicks the traps in doom metal outfit Stone Machine Electric. But there's more. He's also an instrument builder, creating elegantly crafted cigarbox guitars, and he performs and records his own music under the curious rubric Derwooka. (He's also the newest member of Hentai Improvising Orchestra, in which capacity his sympathetic percussion and tasteful CBG have greatly enhanced our Improvised Silence evenings.) And oh yeah...he also does graphic art. The cover image from God's Electric Testicle was removed from a recent art show when the folks that ran the venue deemed it "not family-friendly." Perhaps, but the title could win a "Truth in Advertising" award.

God's Electric Testicle is all over the map stylistically, and in its modest way, it neatly encapsulates its creator's varied musical interests. Opener "The Colonial" is a snippet of feedback and radio chatter that made my sweetie think for a minute that the Martians had landed, but it quickly gives way to "Burning Box," a sort of rustic modal raga for CBG, bass, and clacking percussion that conjures a mood of Faheyesque contemplation. "Fymch" is a backwoods blues, sung by Kitchens as Chris Whitley or a demented redneck, that lasts about as long as it took me to type this sentence. "The Electric Drum" is a groovalicious slice of experimentalismo that kind of defines the term "electro-acoustic" (CBG meets the title instrument).

"A Partial Ode to the Dead Milkmen" and "7 Days" are hazy punk-folk. "Mt. Momomo" is a ruminative bass solo, as if Charlie Haden played in a doom band. "Bitches" is a curiosity: a wobbly live bass-and-drum loop with warbled vocals; for the life of me, I can't figure out what he's singing. "Frosted Penguins" is a fuzz-bass and drums riff-rocker that just needs some tonsil-tearing over the top. "Cacophony" wraps things up with a galloping percussion jam that makes you think you walked in on a Santana album that was skipping. I've never applied the word "droll" to experimental music before, but I think it fits here. Kitchens has multi-instrumental chops and conceptual smarts to match. A winnah!