Thursday, January 21, 2016

Things we like: Denton, 1.20.2016 edition

Photo by Craig Bell.

These days I never go out, even to shows I've been anticipating for months. (When Thinking Plague played at the Kessler, f'rinstance, I was still recovering from playing with Stoogeaphilia the night before -- a process that wound up taking a full week. I just hope they come back when the new record is out.) But I had to make an exception when X___X and Obnox brought their "Blowtorch Tour 2016" to Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio in Denton last night.

It had been a good minute since I'd been to a show at RGRS -- can it really have been when Boris played there, the day before my birthday in 2008? Possibly. Since then, they've built a light rail station and apartments near the club -- a sure sign of gentri-/yuppification to come. It was also in the back of my mind that 2016 in li'l d started with a road raging active duty Marine shooting a sorority girl to death. Happily, no bad vibes marred this particular visit to Dentron.

I'd been meaning to take a stack of jazz CDs to sell at Recycled, and going forward, I'll make sure to do so there instead of at HPB. I also found a vinyl copy of Material's Memory Serves (since I'm all Laswell-ed out right now), a Dennis Gonzalez CD I didn't have (Hymn for the Perfect Heart of a Pearl; I also saw Idlewild, for which I wrote liner notes, but I already have a copy of thatun), and one by Muhal Richard Abrams (Hearinga Suite; Recycled is Your Go-To Store for Black Saint CDs -- and now, for a minute at least, for Clean Feeds). Then walked over to J&J's Pizza to grab a couple of slices before heading over to Rubber Gloves, way too early. After checking out the vehicles in the parking lot (all Texas plates), I took a walk around the block and, as I was returning, saw a white van with Indiana plates and thought, "Ah. This must be they."

It was quite a moment, finally getting to meet X___X/Rocket From the Tombs/Down-fi bassist/vocalizer Craig Bell, with whom I'd been corresponding online, and John D. Morton, the X___X frontman and former Electric Eels "art terrorist." Both men, as every Velvets To Voidoids reader knows, are cats who were present at the creation of the remarkably persistent phenomenon we call punk rock, out touring the provinces DIY-fashion in support of last year's Albert Ayler's Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto album on Smog Veil. I helped them load their gear in (not trying to circumvent the door lady; I bought my ticket online) and, after timely pause, took Craig, John, and guitarist Andrew Klimeyk to dinner at Dix Coney Island, the 24-hour diner on the square that's another new Denton addition.

Coincidentally, I'd been listening to the Velvet Underground Complete Matrix Tapes in the car (nothing better for a boring drive than a little "singalonga Lou"), and it occurred to me on the way back to RGRS that I was in the company of three cats who had the living memory of having seen the Velvet Underground in 1969. Klimeyk's brother Jamie Klimek, who Craig played with in Mirrors back in the day, was the guy who recorded the famous and muy influential VU shows at La Cave in Cleveland.

Another "Whoa!" moment was the realization that, with the exception of the guys in the band and a couple of 30somethings, I'm old enough to be the grandfather of most of the people in attendance last night. The booking cat said he was 22. "It looks like the Children's Crusade," I thought. "How the fuck did this happen?" Then I remembered: "Oh yeah. I didn't die. A good problem to have."

Bukkake Moms were onstage when we got back, splitting the dissonance between two guitarists, two bassists, and -- a novel touch -- a bassoonist, with two drummers to double up the crash 'n' thump. They were followed onstage by Obnox, the solo project of This Moment In Black History drummer Lamont "Bim" Thomas, who's also performing drum duties for X___X on this tour. Thomas is almost ridiculously prolific, releasing three, count 'em, three albums last year (that'd be Boogalou Reed on 12XU and Wiglet and Know America, both on Ever/Never), and he seesaws between fierce hip-hop and minimalist garage rock (putting me in mind of my old faves, the Immortal Lee County Killers), with Thomas on heavily-distorted, open-tuned guitar and Steve Mehlman (Pere Ubu, Rocket From the Tombs) kicking the traps ferociously.

X___X's set was wish fulfillment at its best. As much as I dug the Yellow Ghetto record, nothing could have prepared me for the mighty tones Morton and Klimeyk wrestled from their guitars -- Klimeyk splintering jagged shards of sound from his Jazzmaster, Morton conjuring aleatoric lines that flowed like molten silver from his reverse Firebird. Morton opened the set by fashioning himself a tinfoil helmet and declaiming Sun Ra poetry while accompanying himself on an electric sitar. Later, he'd slice bamboo with an electric saw (a scaled-down version of "Tool Jazz") and coax spectral sounds from a theremin. Their cover of Albert Ayler's free jazz classic "Ghosts" was nothing short of majestic, their ragged melodic unisons echoing the ones Ayler's bands would achieve, proof positive that skronk and beauty are not mutually exclusive -- in fact, far from it. Bell and Klimeyk both took vocal turns, and X___X even dipped back into the Electric Eels catalog, with "No Nonsense" and a Bell-sung "Jaguar Ride" serving as particularly welcome surprises.

Craig sent me on my way with a handful of swag -- 7-inches by his Indianapolis band the Down-fi, his 2CD compilation of the '80s New Haven scene, It Happened...But Nobody Noticed, and Second Saucer, the 2011 EP by his New Haven band Saucers -- and the welcome news that a label has expressed interest in releasing aka Darwin Layne, the wide-ranging compilation of Bell recordings I wrote about here last year. Film, as they say, at 11.

The "Blowtorch Tour" moves on, to Austin at Barracuda (formerly Red 7) tonight, Memphis at Murphy's Friday, and Cincinnati at MOTR Saturday. Were I in one of those cities, I'd make it a point to go see 'em. I finished up the night in my driveway at 3am, putting my car seat back in. How fucking rockaroll is that?


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