Finally, Summer, a Season Ripe for Sacrifice

Finally, summer!

Call it the mind-destroyer, Sol Invictus, the great enervator or the fiery hand of stifled dreams, but by any name it rages on and we cower in the shadows. Like many of you, I’m only here because at one point in my life, I made the grave decision to avoid the cold at all costs. I’m no stranger to doing whatever it takes; my car lacks climate control, and the air conditioning in my home is likewise on the very brink of collapse. So, I've been putting in emergency poolside sessions, all legal surface area exposed, maxing out my potential for sun damage and midnight fits of asthma, triggered by chlorine exposure, sleepless in the night, listlessly sweating out the seasonal, tropical malady.

I’m going to talk about two of the best shows happening this weekend. There are a few other shows going on this weekend, about which you’ll not hear a word here, as I’m only going to mention two. Neither is at all integrated into the body of this column. Both of them are just hanging out at the bottom of the page like unattended kids at the Apple store or the tattoo parlor or the meth lab, wherever it is that unattended kids hang out these days. Bear with me, or scroll down.

The Inuit people worked out a hundred words for snow, which is no surprise; cold invigorates the human mind. Whereas we, in extremis, hurry toward mindlessness and oblivion. We don’t have a word, not even a sniglet, for the fine lines around the eyes that precede crow’s feet, or for the kind of flappy air circulation that is particular to wearing basketball shorts off-court, or for the various different types of sweat and hypothermic exchanges peculiar to exiting and re-entering zones of air conditioning, or for the sudden transformation from underripe to overripe that seems to overtake all people, and most fruit, in a hot climate.

Perhaps because of our historical proclivity toward pestilence and total war, the recent trend toward increased human life expectancy is proving a real head-scratcher. This morning I noticed a news item with the literal subheading: “Actor Appears to Look Older In Photo He Shared.” It's not quite Logan’s Run, a few cobs shy of Children of the Corn, but clearly breaking news in the early days of Menudo world. Tennessee Williams had a hunch about all this, which may be among the reasons Sebastian Venable was savagely dismembered by children in Suddenly, Last Summer.

Most of our common experiences are off-book and unnamed. We are subterranean, prone to night meetings, our only optimism consisting of denial of the coming day; we carry on like a mithraic mystery cult. Allowing that worship is the ritualization of terror, we all default to sun worship sooner or later, much like the Reverend Gwyon in William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, our brains overcooked by the burning red orb. If nothing else, that almost explains the popularity of barbecue, one of the most indigestible food-like things human culture has devised. Like the rodeo, Mithraic cults also center around the sacrifice of a bull.

And even we take it further, we’re living in a nearly completely metaphysical realm online, lambasting Olympians and Ghostbusters alike, and all the while laying waste to each other heroically in the comments section (please, please, please, never read the comments).


Alley Kat, August  12,

The last I saw of the Country Teasers was at a party in San Francisco years ago. It was late. They were plotting the makings of a raunchy rap album while a friend of theirs was being repeatedly (and enthusiastically) slapped in the face by a friend of ours who is now a working psychiatrist. I don’t know that their rap album was ever made.

Their name was apt. Brits love the overall kitsch and drag relics of the American South as much as Southerners love the English tradition of meritless snobbery and singing in faux-British accents. The Country Teasers were one of the few, last British guitar bands that weren’t completely awful. Their druggy, boozy pastiche of ersatz country songs and Twin Infinitives-level production offered something to anyone in love with hideously stupid, terrible music. Most of the lyrics are unprintable; out of context, they’d be indefensible, the kind of hateful diatribes and garbage boasts such as you’d find written on the wall by the urinals in a gas station bathroom. Except that it’s satire, an art form on the decline. Here at last is something you could never confuse for a beer commercial or an army-recruitment ad.

Current traveling companions excepted, The Rebel is one Ben Wallers, formerly a Country Teaser, currently of Hertfordshire, UK, Jane Austen’s part of the world. Being archly provocative and eruditely primitive, prone to intentional comedy, he may not be everyone’s vision of Mr. Darcy, but Wallers is for some of us the high-water mark of an already flummoxed, pre-Brexit British empire.

He takes his band name, The Rebel, either from a novel by Albert Camus or from the Johnny Cash song. Like many people with search-engine poisoning, I’m going to take a stance against  total information awareness, and pretend that there are things we cannot know. For example, while it is knowable that The Rebel will be performing on this tour with Spray Paint (his current traveling companions, probably Austin’s best rock group), because other cities have trees on which they notch and etch such information, it is less knowable that here they will also performing  with Cop Warmth, at once Houston’s best and weirdest punk band, and my own group, Pleasure 2 (usually described in the Gospel of John as the "disciple whom Jesus loved").


Homecore, August 13

Happily, most of this bill is a mystery to me. Please don’t press me with the information; I like a good mystery. Christina Carter first became known as half of Charalambides, one of Houston’s best-loved exports, a folky, esoteric psych duo from the era before the backed-up toilet deluge of modern-era folky psych duos. Garden Medium is a supergroup of deep listeners and experimental artists including Sandy Ewen, Carol Sandin Cooley and Rebecca Novak. Rose Lange is a compelling violinist with a penchant for the avant-garde. Beyond that, I’m also recommending this show on the strength and mystique of this collection of songs by Spencer Dobbs.

Most singer-songwriters are the kind of folks who, to paraphrase Garth Marenghi, have written much more than they’ve read, but here is a honey hole of songs at once aware of the passage of time, not quite minimalist, but respectful of sonic space, equanimously observant and moving, not manipulative in the usual ways, a bundle of quality work.

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Tex Kerschen is a Houston based gadabout, dilettante, estimate reviser and the Houston Press music listings editor.
Contact: Tex Kerschen