Into the Jungle
Okay, we're just going to say this once: At the last Jungle Rockers gig, among a crowd of fetish models, Bettie Page look-alikes and half the Houston Blues Society, we saw a woman in a little black dress, red cowboy boots and spurs. Real spurs. Dig it?
Yes, these rockin' helldaddies bring it hard, with the right attitude, look and, most important, music. You'll want to shake your tail feather with the crowd that follows these wound-too-tight-for-Vietnam Austin rockabillies. Bo Diddley is up in heaven smiling because the Jungle Rockers are around. Singer Jason Borkowski tells us all we need to know.
Houston Press: How long have you been together?
Jason Borkowski: Fifteen years in some form or another. We came up through the roots scene in Cleveland, Ohio. I used to drop Mike, our guitar player, off for high school after gigs. Probably still drunk.
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HP: When did you move to Austin?
JB: We all made an exodus here about five years ago. I'm not sure if it's keeping us young or taking decades off our lives. It's been a blast, though.
HP: What was the thinking behind the decision to move to Austin?
JB: We had been playing great shows back home, but we wanted to see how we'd match up in a cut-throat environment. It's pretty damn humbling playing down here. It's been like a finishing school. We stopped eating during sets. Austin keeps you on your toes. You'll be drunk at a party, someone will play you their new demo and it's like, "Oh, fuck, I'm through!" so it makes you better.
HP: You guys aren't exactly a shoegazing, didn't-think-about-what-we're-wearing band. How did you come up with your visual style?
JB: It's pretty much what we wear anyway. We adopted the black jackets because it's what we wore out to parties in order to stash stuff. I also really liked how all the mariachi bands wear the same outfit at Mexican restaurants down here.
HP: Where does the "jungle" theme come from?
JB: The first line from the first song we wrote together is, "This city turns to jungle at the stroke of midnight."
HP: Best things about Texas? Worst?
JB: The best is country nights under the stars. Opening up for our idol, Little Richard. The worst is loading gear around in triple-digit weather.
HP: What is your impression of Houston so far?
JB: A lot of everything here. It would take years to explore all of it. So far, it's been great.
HP: Jungle Rockers are all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. Which is your favorite and why?
JB: Drugs. Everybody do drugs!
HP: You're a barber. Where'd you learn that trade?
JB: An old Italian guy back home named Ray Porello. Ray's father was gunned down in his barbershop while Ray was sweeping the floor for his dad. While cutting my hair for prom, he asked what I was gonna do after high school. I said, "Maybe I'll be a barber." I've had a couple bucks in my pocket ever since.
HP: Do you do the other guys' cuts? Do they get a discount?
JB: Good question. Nothing's free.
Last Wednesday, Little Joe Washington was moved into Quentin Mease Community Hospital to rehabilitate from the two surgeries he underwent last month. He is said to be making progress every day and in good spirits, but no timetable has been set for his return to the stage.
Washington was among the nominees listed for this year's 2010 Houston Press Music Awards, with the legendary bluesman snagging a nod for Best Blues. This year saw many new names and faces making the cut in other categories, including Robert Ellis, Mike Stinson, Tyagaraja, Balaclavas, Black Congress and the Live Lights. The full list of nominees is available at www.houstonpress.com/rocks/hpma.
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1. Janelle Monáe, The ArchAndroid
2. Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past
3. Anders Osborne, American Patchwork
4. Truth & Salvage Company, S/T
5. The Black Keys, Brothers
6. Loreta Kovacic, The Brother Tadpole Classics
7. Deer Tick, The Black Dirt Sessions
8. Blitzen Trapper, Destroyer of the Void
9. Delta Spirit, History from Below
10. Jack Johnson, To the Sea
1. The Highwaymen, "Highwayman"
2. Conway Twitty, "Slow Hand"
3. Mel McDaniel, "Louisiana Saturday Night"
4. Johnny Lee, "The Yellow Rose"
5. Johnny Lee, "Lookin' for Love"
6. Randy Travis, "Forever and Ever, Amen"
7. Rosanne Cash, "Seven Year Ache"
8. Eddie Rabbitt, "Drivin' My Life Away"
9. Charlie Rich, "The Most Beautiful Girl"
10. Dwight Yoakam, "Honky Tonk Man"
(lists compiled by Craig Hlavaty)
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