During March's South by Southwest music conference, as Bedhead headlined a bill at the Terrace that featured such labelmates as Ed Hall and Sixteen Deluxe, a few hundred people crowded at the foot of the stage and just listened. They did not move, they did not jump up and down or lift each other in the air or leap onto the stage; rather, they listened, held transfixed by Matt Kadane's low-key (and near-mumbled) delivery of evocative lyrics half-heard ("You cut your head on the bedside table / Temple bled as you were unable / To remember the lines of what you were reading / About someone deciding to quit speaking") and a deceptive sound that sneaks up from nowhere and everywhere -- so quiet one second, so loud the next.
At first listen, Bedhead's does not sound like music that belongs in a rock nightclub. After all, Bubba Kadane -- one-half of the band's songwriting team (brother Matt being the other half) and one-third of its "guitar section" -- is fond of saying that Bedhead is not a rock band at all, but a band that simply uses rock instruments. Its music is almost like jazz (without the improv) or something symphonic: it seethes, builds, hypnotizes, explodes, turns in on itself, each song building to a dozen fragile climaxes. Bedhead's sound is beautiful, and it is dissonant; their songs moan, and they soar. This is music that whispers and howls all at once, sometimes happily, sometimes despairingly.
Last year, the band released two CDs -- the full-length WhatFunLifeWas and the extended play 4SongCDEP19:10, both on King Coffee's Trance Syndicate label out of Austin -- that were masterpieces of understatement and tension. It's astonishing how this band can use three guitars and yet still understand that the best music is sometimes made between the notes. The songs on both albums almost always begin quietly, Matt Kadane's monotone vocals half-spoken and buried underneath the jangle and drone. They build slowly, until they finally erupt, and until they finally almost fall apart, though somehow they never do.
Bedhead -- which also features guitarist Tench Coxe, bassist Kris Wheat and drummer Trini Martinez (whose uncle is Trini Lopez) -- has existed since winter 1991, though there was an earlier incarnation of the band that included a viola player. Since then, they've shared the stage with the likes of Come, Fugazi, Yo La Tengo and Bob Mould, who opened for them, no less. Galaxie 500/Luna frontman Dean Wareham once told Melody Maker that Bedhead's "Bedside Table"/"Living Well" was his all-time favorite single; and Big Black founder Steve Albini can often be found on the Internet offering kind words about the band; he's even admitted to ripping off the WhatFunLifeWas album cover for one of his own projects.
The band's show this week marks a rare appearance on a Texas stage; with a few East Coast exceptions, Bedhead hasn't performed in recent months, a result of Matt Kadane's moving to New York City to attend the New School for Social Research and Tench Coxe's visiting Russia for several months to teach beginning English. The band's Texas dates precede a West Coast tour later this month, which will be followed by the recording of a second full-length album for release early next year. (In the meantime, the band will have one new track on an upcoming Trance compilation.)
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So go see them, try to decipher just what Matt is singing about, try to figure out what Bubba looks like as he turns his back to the audience and plays for his amp. But go and listen, because you will not hear anything else like it for a very, very long time. -- Robert Wilonsky
Bedhead plays at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8 at the Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue. Scrasj and Heaven Unsane open. Tickets $5. Call 863-7173 for info.
Maceo Parker -- For much of his career, Maceo Parker suffered the curse of the sideman. First with James Brown in the mid-'60s (and later again in the early '70s, and one final time to date in the mid-'80s) and then with George Clinton in the mid-'70s, Parker made his sound but not necessarily himself known. When people heard Parker's instantly identifiable funkified saxophone they thought, "Aha, the JB Horns," or perhaps "Funkadelic's Horny Horns." But beginning in the '90s, with the chart-topping Roots Revisited and then Mo' Roots, Life on Planet Groove and Southern Exposure, Maceo Parker became a name as well as a noise. Not that his fabled noise, which has been sampled and imitated to no end, isn't still the main attraction. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, Friday, June 9. 869-COOL. (Mitchell J. Shields)
Blues Benefit -- San Andreas-level shock waves ran though the local blues community recently when the news broke that Grammy-winning Third Ward guitarist and songwriter Johnny "Clyde" Copeland was hospitalized in New York while awaiting a heart transplant. To help offset his medical bills, a marathon benefit has been scheduled for next Wednesday at Rockefeller's. And since the only thing harder than finding someone in the Houston blues community that Copeland hasn't helped is finding someone who doesn't want to return the favor, there's been a logjam of people offering to play. Consequently, the actual lineup -- aside from "everybody" -- is still a little vague. But it is known that the 15 or so acts that will finally be scheduled are likely to include Clarence Hollimon and Carol Fran, Joe Louis Walker, Grady Gaines and Jerry Lightfoot. Tickets will range from $15 to $25, and though exact showtimes weren't available at deadline, you can figure on "show up early and stay late." At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, Wednesday, June 14. 869-TICS. (Jim Sherman)