Saturday, July 28, 2018

Things we like: Tornup, Mean Motor Scooter, Beck/Holdsworth night

Not writing as much these days as I'm staying fairly busy doing political volunteer work (a day spent pounding the pavement beats one spent yelling at my puter; being a verb beats being an adjective) and working weekends and Dan and Ted's days off at Panther City Vinyl (it's like being 16 again, minus the drugs and painful self-consciousness). We had our "grand opening" celebration after having been open six months in the original location and another month in the new one, across Magnolia from Benito's. Vaden Todd Lewis of the Toadies did a solo set, which was fitting and proper, as he and original Toadies bassist Lisa Umbarger (who'll be playing a sort-of reunion show with original guitarist Charles Mooney at the Ridglea Room on August 4th) worked with Dan at Sound Warehouse, and one of Dan's paintings graced the cover of the Rubberneck album (it now hangs in the store). Also on the bill were Mean Motor Scooter and Tornup.

MMS might seem like Next Big Things, but they've been around for close to a decade now (although their Rick Nielsen-ballcapped Dead End Kids look is a relatively recent innovation). The Stooge band (on hiatus now that Richard's in Colorado) played Inauguration Night 2017 on a bill with them, but I didn't get to see them perform that night. Since then, they've added Rebekah Downing on keys and vox, making them the only Fort Worth band I can think of offhand with four singers. Frontman Sammy Kidd, currently sporting hair in that Black Forest cake shade with no highlights, is a veritable songwriting machine -- so much of one, bassist Joe Tacke says, that they just recorded two EPs and haven't even mixed the second LP yet. Their Hindu Flying Machine album (released on Phoenix-based Dirty Water Records) mashes up surf, garage, and punk in a rough and rowdy manner reminiscent of the Fungi Girls, to which their live show adds another level of energy and excitement, propelled by Jeff Friedman's slammin' traps. Good value.

I first set eyes on Torry Finley a decade ago, when Conscientious Projector was still screening documentaries at 1919 Hemphill, and witnessed a couple of sets by his band Spacebeach (whose guitarist, Jake Rothschild, now leads Yaz Mean, an outfit steeped in '70s jazz-rock fusion that just cut an EP featuring guest shots by Oak Cliff trumpet legend Dennis Gonzalez and whirlwind drummer Christopher "Chill" Hill). In his conscious hip-hop incarnation, it was Tornup's misfortune to release a naively upful and Fort Worth-centric album, Utopian Vanguard (Heart of the Funk), that dropped on Election Day 2016 and got buried in the subsequent shit storm. Now he's got a new album in the works dealing with the prison industrial complex, with each track narrated by a different African-American character, and he plans to perform it live and for video with an expanded lineup (although he can also perform the tunes solo, accompanied only by his own bass and samplers). He's a personable and uplifting performer (he wears his Christianity -- which doesn't preclude cussing in his songs -- on his sleeve) who was easily able to get the crowd on his side, and I'll be looking forward to experiencing his new work.

Torry and the Yaz Mean cats were in the house (as were a who's who of local musos-in-the-know) when Lola's hosted a reprise of last year's incredible Jeff Beck/Allan Holdsworth tribute night, featuring a mighty triumverate of axe-slingers -- Big Mike Richardson, Ron Geida, and Tyrel Choat -- recreating Beck's career-defining masterwork Blow By Blow, and the slight return (from Colorado) of Fort Worth guitar-king-in-exile Bill Pohl paying homage to the late master of fleetly fluid fret calculus. Both bands were anchored by keyboard wiz Steve Hammond and the aforementioned "Chill" Hill, with low-end theory covered by my Wreck Room bandleader Lee Allen for the Beck set and the ever-amazing Canyon Kafer for the Holdsworth.

This year's sets were even more stellar than last year's, with the benefit of more rehearsal time, better division of labor among the guitarists, Big Mike digging deep to blow some solos that were pure inspiration, Tyrel's talk box behaving better (and its owner unleashing a shredding solo that was the apex of an astonishing "Cause We've Ended As Lovers"), and the Allen-Hill rhythm section grooving relentlessly. The Holdsworth set was Something Entahrly Other. Bill Pohl has now transcended his influences and is unmistakably His Own Guy, even when playing familiar repertoire; the air in Colorado must agree with him. Kafer and Hill, who play together in guitarist Chet Stevens' band, have a gestalt that has to be heard to be believed, and when bass and keys strolled near the end of the set, Bill and Chill pushed each other onward and upward with the tsunami-like force of Trane and Elvin at the Vanguard. A couple of days earlier, I'd bailed on the Jeff Beck show in Irving to canvas in Como for Vanessa Adia's Congressional campaign, but I do believe I still heard the best music made in North Texas this week.


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