Saturday, February 10, 2018

2.10.2018, Fort Worth

I'm kind of sick of rockwrite, including my own, and I'm kind of preoccupied with other things now, but tonight Heater and The Prof.Fuzz 63 were playing at the Boiled Owl, a place where I'd never set foot before, so my wife and I were going to check it out. In the event, she was still recovering from a bout of flu last weekend, and the temperature dropped down into the 30s-feels-like-20s, but I decided to step out anyway after she'd headed for the rack.

The Boiled Owl is a congenial little spot and they had a good crowd by the time I rolled in a little after 10. I missed the Deep Sleepers' set, but it was the first time on the boards for that crew, and perhaps there'll be another opportunity. I'd met Professor Fuzz, who's a no-fooling history prof and Sinologist at UT Dallas, at a show a couple of years ago, and had dug his band's quirkily idiosyncratic garage rock online, but this was my first chance to hear them in person.

The band -- Fuzz on guitar and vox, his wife Sleepy Redhead on organ and vox, and their son Mr. B on drums (Fuzz quoted an ancient Chinese proverb to the effect that the best drummer is "one who doesn't have other options") -- stays pretty busy, playing 50 shows last year all over Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The list of upcoming shows on their Facebook page already shows more gigs than Stoogeaphilia ever played in a good year, and it only runs through May.

They're pure concept, with not an ounce of excess anywhere in their sound. Fuzz sings his amusing juvenalia about plumbing malfunctions, a local indie pop band playing Motorhead, double homicides, panda attacks, and the like, while coaxing gorgeously tweaked tones from his custom built axes. His wife is responsible for a huge chunk of their auditory impact, utilizing sounds that variously recalled Question Mark & the Mysterians' Farfisa and the clavioline from the Tornados' "Telstar." Their son thumps the traps in the grand Mo Tucker manner -- small price to pay, he said, for college tuition, room and board. Fair exchange.

I'd seen Heater before when the Stooge band shared a bill with them at Lola's Trailer Park a couple of years ago, but the way to see these guys is really up close and personal, when they're playing on the floor in a small place. That way you can feel the energy wash over you like a tidal wave; it's pure catharsis. I was wondering how the house's tiny PA would handle their sound (both guitar players use Marshall half stacks), but was pleasantly surprised that not only was I able to hear vocals, but I was able to differentiate between guitar parts.

Things got off to a slow start when Adam Werner busted a string on the first song, but they were able to regain momentum with only a slight interruption to resolve a power issue later in the set. Adam's the visual fulcrum of the band onstage, singing in a raspy growl while pummeling his axe hard enough to break another string later in the set. Travis Brown sings from the bottoms of his feet and keeps up a steady barrage of chords, stinging lines, and ringing harmonics from choked strings. Josh Lindsay's drums and Jamie Shipman's bass propel the engine. Together, they're tight and intense.

They played a couple of new songs, as well as the ones from their EP, and quit just as four squad cars and an ambulance arrived at Yucatan Taco Stand next door. Hope somebody's night didn't go as badly as it looked when I was leaving. For myself, spending a couple of hours feeling my clothes being moved around by air from drum heads and speaker cones was just the medicine I needed.