Even while playing dissonant improvised bass in a trio consisting of himself, a shit-hot mandolin player, and a jazz drummer, Greg Ginn still sounds like Greg Ginn.
After almost a decade as the captain of hardcore mavericks Black Flag, Ginn embarked on a career as an improvised musician. During his tenure with legendary band, singer Henry Rollins complained that because of Ginn's erratic musical departures on every new release, fans never knew what to expect and thus became tired of change. If that tale is true, then Ginn has never stopped changing, because his recent work is almost as far away as you can get from "TV Party."
Last Concert Café is an out-of-the-ordinary venue for a punk pioneer to play, with its predominantly hippie-esque clientele and a man selling Rasta beads in the corner. The place has bitchin' enchiladas as we, and that new notch on our belt, can attest to. Black Flag fans of yore trickled in and out grabbing beers before heading to a back patio where Ginn and his band were setting up. At one point, the sound guy asked Ginn how much power he wants going to his bass amps, to which Ginn simply replied, "As much as possible." And all the fans in the scattered crowd said "Amen"
One older BF fan told us about how he saw the band in 1984 in Omaha at the ripe age of 16. He snuck out against his parents' wishes to see the band at a basement show. The concert tee he bought that night now adorns the back of his faded jean jacket as a back patch. He now has a daughter of 16 himself, and worries about her sneaking out a night to see bands, just as he once did. The circle of life continues.
Ginn played two sets Tuesday, the first as the jazz-swinging Taylor Texas Corrugators and then as the robotic Jambang. Both bands put out their releases on SST, Ginn's own indie label he has ran since before even the BF days. Corrugators/Jambang mandolin player Bobby Bancalari said when Ginn moved out to Taylor in 2002, he bought an old car dealership and turned it into the SST headquarters. So the next time you order an old BF or Husker Du LP, it's coming from a few miles outside Austin.
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The Texas Corrugators played an hour-long set of improvised jams, with Bancalari's mandolin out front, plinking away and going off on wild tangents. Ginn played bass with a near-acrobatic abandon, weaving in and out of drummer Steve DeLollis' latticework. It was distorted Texas swing, owing more to Ornette Coleman than anything else. Bancalari and Ginn both played with their eyes clinched closed, like they were in a trance, working off each other's instruments.
Aftermath was amazed that we had never heard a mandolin sound so mournful and metallic. (Before he joined up with Ginn, the classically trained Bancalari had never listened to Black Flag.)
Jambang was more of a stiff, post-punk version of the Corrugators, sounding like country swing as interpreted by Brian Eno during his early ambient periods. Eno's work with Talking Heads on their Remain In Light album came to mind, minus the Afro-centric rhythms. In front of flat-screens and a projector showing distorted sunsets and washed-out beach scenes, the music sounded panicky and pacing.
If anything piqueed the interest of the erstwhile punks in the crowd, Jambang will be it. Ginn finally signed the back patch of the aging punker we spoke to previously. Ginn's signature is simple enough, but he signs all of the BF stuff that comes his way with his name and the iconic "Four Bars" logo that adorned all that band's artwork and countless tattoos on its fans.