Grimm and Bare It

A reclusive (and bitchy) local musician debuts on stage at the Texas Psych Fest

It's a little-known pop culture fact, but Houston has a tenuous claim as "the birthplace of psychedelic rock" and also the use of the word "psychedelic" as we know it. The 13th Floor Elevators' Tommy Hall lifted the word from LSD pioneer Humphrey Osmond (who coined it in a couplet he sent to his acid buddy Aldous Huxley: To fathom hell or soar angelic / Just take a pinch of psychedelic) and slapped it on the band's business cards. A little later, Hall used it in the title of the band's debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

Prior to that, the term moldered away on library shelves, safe from all but the most assiduous of Huxley scholars, or the most devoted and bookwormish of acid-trippers. It had never been used to describe music or style or anything else. And the fateful album came out on Houston's International Artists' label, which belonged to (of all people) Kenny Rogers's brother Lelan.

So what better place than Houston to co-host a benefit for Ptolemaic Terrascope, the cash-strapped British journal of all things psychedelic? And who better to perform at such a show than Roky Erickson's childhood friend and IA labelmate George Kinney, whose band the Golden Dawn will be reuniting for the occasion after decades apart?

And who better to round out the bill than several of Texas's finest second-wave psychedelic bands? For the Houston show, to take place Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20, at Rudyard's, the first night's fare includes Houston's the Linus Pauling Quartet and the Mirrors, and Primordial Undermind and ST-37 of Austin. (Linus's Ramon Medina is the prime mover behind the event. Other organizers include Kurt Brennan of Sound Exchange and Medina and Brennan's indie labels, Worship Guitars and Fleece Records. Another show is slated in Austin the following weekend.)

Saturday's bill is epic. Not only will the Golden Dawn shine once more, but it also marks the live debut of the Dunlavy (a.k.a. Scott Grimm of the Mike Gunn fame), backed by former Gunner John Cramer and the rest of Cramer's new band, Project Grimm. Austin's Winslow and San Antonio's Crevice are also on the bill.

While the Golden Dawn reunion has the Love Street Light Circus crowd flashing back in anticipation, the younger set is most excited that Grimm will perform on stage for the first time since the demise of the Mike Gunn in 1994. Since then, Grimm has been something like a psych-rock Jandek. Like Jandek, he's prolific; despite not gigging, he's released five albums. Unlike Jandek, his identity is not a secret and he does speak to the media, though he prefers e-mail interviews. These cyberchats are classics. In his exchange with Medina on the Worship Guitars site (www.worshipguitars.org), Grimm richly earns Medina's description of him as "Houston's bitchiest musician."

Here's Grimm on why he quit gigging: "There's that famous rock cliché that recording is like masturbating, and playing live is like having sex. Well, I agree with the recording part, but I always thought that playing live was more like masturbating in public…Live music sucks. The sound is always bad, there's so much smoke you can't breathe, that drunken imbecile decides you're his new best friend, it's always way too late, and who cares, really? When the Linus Pauling Quartet played at Sound Exchange, I kept getting jostled out of the way by people shopping, for Christ's sake. No one gives a shit about music. People just go to hang out, because they've got nothing better to do with their pathetic, miserable little lives."

In a later phone interview with Racket, Grimm elaborated on his views. "I didn't quit because I hated John or [drummer] Curt [Mackey], I quit because I hated playing shows. I hated playing shows to pay the practice space rent. That's such a lame reason to play shows. I wasn't doing what I wanted to do, which was just to record stuff. The Mike Gunn was together for five years and I think we managed to put out three albums. Pathetic. It wasn't like we were touring, it wasn't like we were busy doing anything else, we were just screwing around."

Also in the Medina interview, Grimm called the Mike Gunn's fans "three or four wretched rejects" and said that having nothing better to do than come see one of the Mike Gunn's shows boggles the mind. (Sound Exchange's Brennan remembers it differently. He says the band was drawing 200 people a night, not all of them wretched.) Grimm also dwelt at length on one show that illustrated that conundrum about a tree falling in the woods. "I remember when we played in Dallas with Lithium Christmas, and nobody watched us. Nobody! The fucking sound man got up and left! And we wouldn't stop playing! What did we think, that maybe if we played a good enough song, the sound man might come back?"

"I am still amazed we kept playing," Grimm told Racket. "We ended up jamming at the end and actually wrote some stuff. At some point, it just turned into a practice session."

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