SXSW Aftermath: The Texas Garage-Rock Torch Passes At The Continental Club
Christopher Gerniottis of Zakary Thaks (left) joins Austin's Ugly Beats
Photos by Brittanie Shey
In February, Magnolia City Mixtape mentioned a piece in Texas Monthly about the storied history of garage rock in Texas written by Aftermath nerd-crush Michael Hall. (His reporting has gotten men on death row exonerated, and he's in a rock band!) On Friday of SXSW, we heard a story on KUT about one of the biggest bands in the Texas psychedelic canon, The Green Fuz, a band that's been covered by everyone from The Cramps to The Lemonheads. Hall's story inspired a number of the bands to reunite for a garage-rock showcase at Austin's Continental Club, peppered with a few new Texas garage rock bands inspired by their forebearers.
The Souls' Christopher Voss, cheat sheet in hand
On NPR's All Songs Considered, Carrie Brownstein talked about needing a SXSW palate-cleanser during the SXSW preview show, and Aftermath understands what she means. By Saturday night, we were operating on too little sleep, too much gluttony, the exhaustion of trying to be in eight places at once, and, thanks to that evil mistress Spring, fatigue-inducing cold. We had reached the limit of our tolerance for pretty much everything, so the idea of camping out at the Continental Club for the night sounded like a groovy plan. It also ended up being our favorite showcase of the weekend. We walked in the door as McAllen's The Souls started Otis Redding's "Shake." Always a good sign. After a few songs the band was joined by original lead singer Christopher Voss, who needed the help of a cheat-sheet to remember the lyrics to the group's biggest hit, "Diamonds, Rats and Gum." "These were good guys in 1964," he said of the band," And they're good guys now."
Houston DJ Black Slacks' pick of the night, The Novas
The Novas, from Dallas, took the stage next, and Aftermath spotted Houston DJ Black Slacks in the audience, who told us, "These guys are like surf-rock meets The Byrds." Of all the original psych bands we saw that night, The Novas were by far the most impressive, mostly because it was obvious they'd never stopped playing. They looked cocky, confident, and they sounded just as tight as they must have 40 years ago on their renditions of "Hazy Shade of Winter" and The Hollies' "Bus Stop." The Novas were backed by a drummer from a different band, The Outcasts, out of San Antonio, and he gave The Ugly Beats' much younger drummer Stephen Austin a run for his money in terms of energy. (All the other members of The Novas were original.) Aftermath favorites The Ugly Beats played next. The band is part of the Texas garage revival and have been together since 2003. About halfway through their set they were joined by Christopher Gerniottis of Corpus Christi's Zakary Thaks, a band that bordered on punk alongside many groups who came from Detroit in the late '60s. Bassist Jason Gentry said to the crowd, "It's a huge thrill and an honor to be playing with all these guys tonight." The group then launched into a set that included the Zakary Thaks' "Bad Girl" and "Levitation." Later, Stephen Austin told us that while the other bands wanted to play crowd-pleasing covers, Gerniottis was the most keen to play his own material. "If anyone is going to appreciate it, it would be this crowd," he said. The Green Fuz was the band Aftermath was most eager to see, but things took a turn for the odd when seven members of the band took the stage. Singer Randy Alvey had a fistful of green Mardi-Gras beads he proceeded to throw to the crowd during the set, which seemed pretty hokey. A gimmick like that, and too many members on stage (three guitarists!) should have been a warning sign.
The Green Fuz, one band that should have stayed retired
Green Fuz's set was awful. Not just awful - horrible. Out of key, offbeat, awkward. Aftermath thought at first that maybe it was just because The Ugly Beats are a tough act to follow. Then we had to take out our ear plugs to make sure we were hearing things right. Then we had to move to the back of the club to get away from it all. During a break between songs, someone in the crowd yelled out "PLEASE STOP PLAYING. IT'S REALLY BAD." Ouch. Luckily, the show was redeemed by another group of newcomers to the genre, Shapes Have Fangs, whom Aftermath's Austin host had been talking up all weekend. We'd like to see a double bill of these guys and The Ugly Beats at Rudyard's sometime soon. At this point Aftermath was in dire need of some Home Slice Pizza, so we split before the final two bands, Kenny & The Kasuals of Dallas and Mouse & The Traps of Tyler. Having forgone the line earlier in the day to see Roky Erickson with Okkervil River at the Galaxy Cafe (we heard a girl in line refer to him as "Eric Erickson"), we were perfectly happy to have started SXSW by seeing Ray Davies and ending it with some '60s rock of the Texas pedigree. At one point during The Ugly Beats' set with Chris Gerniottis, Aftermath noticed Voss on the side of the stage, looking on in approval. It was apparent them the torch had been passed.
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