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Live Shots

Beat Farmers
Fitzgerald's
Friday, October 14

In a more perfect world, the Beat Farmers -- a sort of mutant Eagles -- would be selling out Rice Stadium and Glenn Frey and Don Henley would be out selling Amway. But music execs are notably humorless, and the cultish Farmers are a very humorous band.

With either guitarist Jerry Rainey or Joey Harris singing lead vocals, the band can reach inspired country-rock bar band heights. "Southern Cross," the first song on the new Viking Lullaby CD, showcased the band's songwriting and guitar playing, as did the Neil Young-inflected "Hideaway." "Let Me Sleep Out in Your Garden," with its Beatlesque melody, sounded almost Top 40 (in a good way) in the live setting. But when Country Dick Montana, whose voice ranges from a dragster rumble to a chain-saw baritone, stepped out from behind the drums to sing, it was time for women and children to flee.

While leading the band through the new "spiritual" "Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus?" or a demented "Lucille," Montana managed to treat the audience to a catalog of Stupid Human Tricks involving full beer bottles. And when he sat in the middle of the floor for some storytelling, the faithful were treated to the lighter side of Dick -- a profane ramble on such topics as sex, drinking, sex, sex, drinking, drinking and John Wayne Bobbitt, all over an erratic guitar vamp. The people in the crowd, most of whom interrupted their weird country pogo (one young woman appeared to be doing step aerobics all night) only long enough to order more booze and flip the band the bird, ate it up.

-- Peter Kelly

Ozric Tentacles
The Abyss
Saturday, October 15

The British Grateful Dead seemed to be the buzz phrase that drew the uninitiated -- i.e. almost everyone -- to Saturday's Houston premiere of England's Ozric Tentacles, and if Ozric music has little but a proclivity to stretch out and jam in common with its hoary American counterpart, it was still a more-or-less apt description. Both bands draw dedicated followers attracted to head-trip light shows and feel-good vibes, and both are self-contained anti-institutions operating outside the boundaries of pop convention.

But what the Dead have in Jerry Garcia -- which is a frontman, however low-key -- the purely instrumental Ozrics lack. Instead, center stage was anchored by a glassy-eyed flautist with a penchant for spouting cosmic crap between songs and an apparent taste, if my memory of the appearance of such things serves, for lysergic treats. What the Ozrics most assuredly don't lack is musical chops, and these the band showcased in long, rambling numbers so taut you could have bounced a joint off them. Drums, bass, flute, home-brewed electronic contraptions and ethnic soundmakers swirled in and out of each other's range, laying a foundation for Ed's (that's the way he's identified in Ozric press material) metal-inspired guitar histrionics.

All of this took place against the backdrop of a light show so aggressively trippy that turned out to be -- for those of us not tripping, anyhow -- a headache.

-- Brad Tyer

 
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