Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Rock 'n' Roll Tourist 2014: Mission (of Burma) Accomplished

No, this is not a real review of The Mission of Burma show in Portland last night. I made the mistake of bookings flight back to New Mexico at the ungodly hour of 7:35 am the morning after a Mission of Burma show.
But suffice it for now to say that they were tremendous. I'll have more details in Friday's Terrell's Tune-up column. And HERE is my review of their most recent album.
Now back to my daze.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Rock 'n' Roll Tourist: An Evening with Negativland

PORTLAND, OREGON _ And now for something completely different ...
No, there wasn't a guitar in sight. But this was rock 'n' roll.

Negativland, a sonic-collage, multi-media, socio-political art collective from San Francisco that's well into their fourth decade as an entertainment unit, headlined a show at Portland's Crystal Ballroom Friday night. 

Negativland is an unlikely crew of revolutionaries, all four members wearing gray plaid shirts that might have come off the rack at K-Mart. But don't be fooled. They are subversive. 

Employing sound and video from TV news, radio talk shows, government training movies, commercials, old educational films, all chopped up, manipulated and distorted on top of electronic noises and sound effects, this show the group has named "Content" was thought-provoking, hilarious, incomprehensible, annoying and almost mystical  -- sometimes all at once. 

They take all these messages -- political, commercial, religious education -- that we're bombarded with constantly, throw it into an electronic blender and create new, frequently hilarious art. 

More than once an old Frank Zappa lyric popped into my overwhelmed mind: "American way, try to explain / Scab of a nation, driven insane."

Here are a few notes I pecked out on my iPhone during the show. If any of this makes some se to you, please report to the Department of Homeland Security:
"Leave the premises"

"Never forget the fact that we are all just content..."

(Footage of mashing potatoes with M.A.S.H. logo occasionally flashing. Chopping vegetables with an LP)

A bearded guy, could pass for a scientist in a 1950s B movie, talking about Congress considering a plan that involves melting the North Pole.

Report on a county fair. Guy starts talking about oil wells.

Gun toting granny on wheel chair.

An angry  woman, looks kind of like a Fox News blonde, angrily ranting that she spends all day on Facebook but NOBODY SHARES MY POSTS! At one point she yells, "Get the fuck off the Internet!"

"Guns and the bible carved this nation out of the wilderness."

"It's easy to imagine the end of the world but you cannot imagine the end of capitalism."

The word "Cadillac" is put on a loop, sped up. Becomes a bizarre chant.

A distorted ad for the Playboy Channel. Train going in and out of tunnel A Guy talks about some kind of. interference wrecking his orgasm on the Playboy Channel.

"This statement is false. This statement is true ...."

And now the voices of Negativland are stuck in my head. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rock 'n' Roll Tourist 2014: Gettin' Some Culture

PORTLAND, OREGON _ I think Rick Miller was wearing the same  "Hillbilly Surf Club" T-shirt when I saw Southern Culture on the Skids 14 years ago at Santa Fe's Paramount club. Oh well. He wears it well.

Or maybe I was just having a flashback, one induced not by illegal and dangerous drugs, but by the fact that I think Southern Culture on the Skids were playing most of the same songs they played in Santa Fe all those years ago.

"Banana Puddin'," "Too Much Pork For Just One Fork,"  "House of Bamboo," "Liquored Up, Lacquered Down," "Nitty Gritty" ... All the hits, (speaking relatively, of course. Very few of the music acts around today that I like have actually had anything approaching a "hit.")

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I would have been bitterly disappointed if Mary Huff hadn't done "Daddy Was a Preacher, Mama was a Go-Go Girl" (my favorite SCOTS song of all time) or if Miller hadn't called out "Little Debbie, Little Debbie!" during "Camel Walk."

And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the fried chicken-tossing during the song "Eight Piece Box," which is a frequent ritual during a SCOTS show. Several enthusiastic audience members joined the band on stage for the fun during this. My biggest accomplishment of the evening was hitting Miller in the face with a piece of wing that had landed near my feet.

The band did perform a couple of tunes from their 2010 Kudzu Ranch album ("Bone Dry Dirt" and "Pig Pickin' "). But I wouldn't have minded if they'd done some of their more recent material like "Zombified" (maybe they save that one for Halloween) or their heartfelt cover of The Kinks' "Muswell Hillbilly" or some obscure older tunes like "The Man Who Wrestles the Bear" or "Carve That Possum."

I know I'm sounding like a finnicky, know-it-all critic here, and that misses the point of a Southern Culture on the Skids show.
This North Carolina trio, which includes drummer Dave Hartman, celebrates all the gloriously trashy things that make America great -- not just the South -- great. Greasy food; hotrods; sex; loud, twangy guitars; tacky tiki bars; voodoo ...

Their name might invoke an image of a culture in decline -- and maybe it was suppose to back in the '80s when they started. But SCOTS' upbeat, swampy mix of hillbilly, surf, rockabilly, exotica and soul actually is an expression of a culture I'm proud to be part of.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Rock 'n' Roll Tourist 2014: Afghan Whigs Are the Fire

PORTLAND, OREGON _ The Afghan Whigs left us on an artistic high note back at the end of the last century. Their album 1965 was full of the crazy, burning, obsessive passion that characterized their greatest work throughout the '90s.

The group didn't sound much like Roy Orbison  -- they were more like an insane cross of Dinosaur Jr. and Isaac Hayes' band at Wattstax -- but singer Gregg Dulli's songs share some emotional traits with those of Orbison. Like the older singer, you can imagine Dulli becoming spiritually obsessed with a pretty woman walking down the street, and having his spirit cruelly demolished when the stranger keeps walking even after his best "Rrrrrrrrwwwwwllllll!" Of course, Dulli would take it further. It's easy to imagine him following the poor girl home and howling at her window until the dawn.

So The Afghan Whigs broke up. Dull carried on without the rest of the band. But despite some occasional intriguing flashes from The Twilight Singers or The Gutter Twins of his solo work, nothing reached the dizzying heights of the Whigs.

I was skeptical earlier this year when I found out that a new version of The Afghan Whigs had risen from the rock 'n' roll tarpits. I was so apprehensive of possible -- I thought probable -- disappointment, that I put off checking out their new album, Do the Beast for nearly four months. (Only two original members, Dulli and bassist John Curley are part of the album.)
But all my fears were for naught. The album is one of the best of the year so far. And their show at The Doug Fir, a cellar full of noise, as Petula Clark would say, in east Portland, showed them full of the power and rage that made us love them in the first place.

And yes, the new songs stand proudly with the old. They opened with a couple of the most intense songs from Do the Beast, "Parked Outside," which began with a weird violin solo by multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson (yes, that's his name) before launching into its frightening robo-blues beat. This seamlessly was followed by another Beast song, " Matamoros," which is more ferocious live than on the record. Another standout Wednesday from the the new album was "The Lottery," which starts out with drums straight out of the Shaft soundtrack.
They didn't forget their '90s work. The Whigs cranked out amazing renditions of "John the Baptist,"  (my. Favorite song on 1965), an explosive "My Enemy" from Black Love, and the title song of Gentlemen.

They also did a handful of covers, including a slow, twisted Whigs-eye take on The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (Dulli hops off the stage and walks among the crowd during this) and, in the encore, the first verse of the overture from Jesus Christ Superstar.  (Longtime fans will recall that The Whigs covered "The Temple" from JCSS way back on their album Congregation. On Wednesday this served as the introduction to "Something Hot," another 1965 tune.

The best number of the evening though was the wild medley of a couple of Do the Beast  songs, Royal Cream,"  which starts out, "I know you've been sleepin' with another demon..." and the spooky "I am Fire," on which Dulli emphasizes his lyrics by pounding on a floor tom. And somehow this mutates into a dark take on Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk."

"Don't say that you love me! Just tell me that you need me!"

Damn! After 16 years or however long it's been I almost forgot how much I needed The Afghan Whigs.

This post has been edited for an embarrassing number of typos.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


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Sunday, August 24, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
101.1 FM
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