The Fleshtones Continental Club July 16, 2010
The Fleshtones are the kind of rock and roll success story Aftermath likes to imagine other musicians aspire to. They've been touring incessantly since 1976, have recorded dozens of EPs and LPs almost exclusively without major-label recognition, rocked the hallowed halls of CBGBs and Max's Kansas City, been the subject of a feature-length documentary and are still rocking well into their 50s.
For fans of the Fleshtones, the band's freeform mix of blues, garage, punk and anything else they feel like throwing into the pot on any given day is one unforgettable experience. But it is nothing compared to seeing the band live, when Friday night their antics ranged from performing 60 percent of the show among the crowd to exiting the Continental Club through the front door and walking around the block, instruments in tow, like some kind of demented marching band.
Their music is grimy, sexual, agitated and potent. Onstage, these attributes are magnified into a kind of heady ether that saturates the room.
Friday's show was opened by Austin's Ugly Beats, a young-ish band who have made enough of a mark on the Texas garage-rock scene that they were one of the few modern bands to play a SXSW reunion-cum-showcase of Texas garage bands of yesteryear.
From the start of the Beats' set to the final note of the Fleshtones', Aftermath can't remember seeing a single person standing still, and although the idea of the rock and roll revival is clichéd, there is no better metaphor for what happened at Continental Club with Fleshtones front man Peter Zaremba climbing up and down off the stage and into the heaving crowd, getting up close and personal with anyone who'd have him.
About halfway through the show, Zaremba ripped up the fluttering set list the band hadn't really followed anyway; he, guitarist Keith Streng and bassist Ken Fox stripped off their dripping T-shirts, handed their instruments off to members of the Ugly Beats, and fell to the venue's floor to challenge each other to their own song, "Push Up Man."
And they still didn't seem tired enough to stop. The band closed the show with what Aftermath is pretty sure was a spastic version of Led Zepplin's "Communication Breakdown," and we went home feeling both dirty and cleansed at the same time.
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Personal Bias: Minimal. Aftermath is a fan, but wouldn't let a mediocre show slide.
The Crowd: Sweaty from dancing, with a higher-than-normal percentage of XX chromosomes.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Baltimore! Baltimore!" (The song "The Girl From Baltimore" was on the band's set list, but they never played it.)
Random Notebook Dump: Though the guys can still rock like they're in their 20s, maybe they should leave their shirts on next time.