Saturday, June 23, 2018

6.22.2018, Fort Worth

These days, it takes a lot to get my lazy ass out of the house. But when three bands I want to see are playing at our old stomping grounds Lola's Saloon, I can make an exception. Lola's, of course, is Brian Forella's successor to the late, lamented Wreck Room, which was our second living room for a few years, back when my wife still lived a couple of blocks down West 7th and even after we moved a couple of miles further west, but I was playing there with Lee Allen every Wednesday night. On this particular night, she brought her camera for the first time in a few years, and we saw lots of good friends that we hadn't for a minute.

Justin "Hush Puppy" Robertson put together an ace bill, topped by local faves, the synth-driven doom duo Pinkish Black (whose new album, working title Concept Unification, is skedded for an October release on Relapse and sounds to these feedback-scorched ears like the strongest set of material yet from these guys), with support from transcontinental free jazz quartet Humanization 4tet (who'd played dates in Houston, Big Spring, and Denton since I saw them play together for the first time in seven years on Monday) and Dim Locator (playing their first Fort Worth gig since Will Kapinos expanded the lineup from a one-man band to a trio a couple of years and some 20 shows ago).

Dim Locator's performance took its place among my "most memorable Will Kapinos moments": the first time I saw him in Deep Ellum with Jetscreamer some 15 years ago; the time he backed Pinkish Black's Daron Beck on a wrenching version of "I Put A Spell On You" at a 2010 memorial show for Beck's Great Tyrant band mate Tommy Atkins (which I've only experienced via Youtube because HIO split right after we played, but yeah); and the times I saw him weaving guitars with Jason Wortham in the recently disbanded Dove Hunter. With able support from Matt Riley on bass and Jeff Barnard on drums, Will's free to explore the possibilities of the rock power trio from many angles. "Like the Allman Brothers with three people," my friend opined. "Like Sun Elvis with more electricity," I countered. As they warmed up, they even careened into Nantucket Sleighride Mountain and Tres Hombres ZZ Top territory. A most satisfying performance from a band I now want to hear more.

A couple of days on the road had tightened and deepened Humanization 4tet's connections, and their enhanced cohesion and communication were evident from the jump. Stefan Gonzalez directs the proceedings from behind his traps, showing more of the explosive force of his Akkolyte and Orgullo Primitivo incarnations than I was accustomed to hearing from him in a jazz context. His brother Aaron Gonzalez's stand-up bass underpinned the sound with rumbling double-stops and guitar-like strumming. Saxophonist Rodrigo Amado has a huge sound on tenor, tinged with the romance of Ben Webster and the untrammeled soul cry of early Gato Barbieri. Guitarist Luis Lopes turned up and dug in more than he had at Deep Ellum's RBC on Monday (having Will's Twin to play through might have helped), kicking on distortion to thicken up his pointillistic lines and jagged chords, using a slide to conjure searing feedback lines. The quartet has stops in Shreveport, Tulsa, and Austin coming up, culminating in four dates in New Orleans that will include a live recording at Marigny Studios. It'll be something to hear.

The rough mixes of Concept Unification I've heard show Pinkish Black continuing to refine and deepen their process, developing simple thematic material into an aural entity that's as richly detailed as it is dark and powerful. Jon Teague's synths are playing a bigger role in their wall of sound, and his drumming wields cathartic violence with precise control. (One looks forward to hearing the recordings that Pinkish Black made this spring with Yells At Eels, the Gonzalez brothers' trio with their trumpeter father Dennis Gonzalez.) Daron Beck remains an underrated front man -- the result, I think, of his propensity to use vocal effects to integrate his singing into the total sound -- and his keys and synths generate as much droning and slashing energy as a couple of guitars might. It's been thrilling to watch these guys evolve over the last eight years, and hopefully their fourth album will propel them to even wider notoriety, here and abroad.


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