Photo by Rosa Guerrero
Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys Boondocks April 28, 2008
Better Than: A double drive-in bill of Dazed and Confused and Reefer Madness, reenacted Rocky Horror-style.
Download: The Velvet Underground's "Heroin," so nobody feels left out.
If you go see Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys, even for free on an otherwise unassuming Monday night, get ready to double the babysitter's tip, call in sick (or at least tardy) on Tuesday and, on your way out, dodge an elbow-throwing, room-clearing brawl. Who could ask for anything more? Or less?
In their defense, not all of this can be laid at Mr. Reefer and his cohorts' feet. They were done by midnight, leaving a good two hours for the folks at Boondocks to make their own bad decisions. With such a sizable interval, surely the trio's volley of songs about marijuana, cocaine, whiskey, pills and No-Doz (among the many controlled substances, both legal and illegal, that found their way into the set list) had very little to do with the melee that erupted once the lights finally went on. Perish the thought.
Make no mistake, Reefer and friends can be a benign ensemble whose greatest sin (and virtue) is defibrillating the shade of Hank Williams Sr. for an audience whose appetite for debauchery is more in line with grandson Hank III. Dusting off "Lost Highway," "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" and "Settin' the Woods on Fire" Monday, replicated to every last acoustic-guitar flourish and upright-bass thump like they were applying jumper cables to some long-dark jukebox, the Houston honky-tonkers made iFest's slotting them into this year's family-friendly festival remotely comprehensible. Somewhat.
It's a reasonable assumption, though, that this past weekend's all-ages downtown audience didn't quite get the litany of odes to the aforementioned mood-altering agents to which Reefer and accomplices Geoffrey "Uncle Tick" Muller (guitar, banjo, musical saw) and Sean Supra (bass) treated the Boondocks crowd Monday. Or hell, maybe they did. This sort of music - starting around Jimmie Rodgers, continuing through Hank Sr. and Lefty Frizzell and really coming into its own in the days of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Bocephus - was always pretty pimp. Couched in impossible-to-misconstrue lyrics, it never ventured much further than rememberances of getting fucked up and/or killing people who, it should be pointed out, deserved their fate. Most of the time, anyway.
Of course, not quite every song wound up in a blackout, pool of blood or hangman's noose. Reefer's rendition of Wayne "The Train" Hancock's "87 Southbound" was jolly enough, though why the song's narrator is in such a hurry to get to San Antone is a topic best left unexplored. The trio's translation of Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" into backwoods bluegrass was a minor stroke of genius, especially coupled with their reading of the stomach-churning hillbilly standard "Muleskinner Blues," which followed with no loss of continuity, or even a key change. Muller's disquieting saw-work on "Lonesome Wind," as expressive as any lyric, was darker than even Nick Cave's most necromantic imagery.
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So-called country music is never better than when it abridges the depths of human desire and depravity into a few terse rhymes and tense guitar licks. Monday, whether meaning to or not, Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys provided an ideal conduit for the lubed-up Boondocks crowd - grinding their rocks off on the dance floor, drinking their weight in whiskey or crudely pushing and shoving as they almost spilled out onto Westheimer come closing time - to put those ageless archetypes (and stereotypes) into action.
Personal Bias: None whatsoever. Who doesn't love a good punch-up?
Random Detail: Despite Wayne the Train's coordinates, 87 southbound doesn't come close to San Antone. It will, however, steer you through Orange, Port Arthur, High Island and straight down Galveston's Broadway Boulevard.
By the Way: Boondocks' brand-new expanded smoking deck is a sight to behold, not to mention a handy escape route once the fists start flying. - Chris Gray