Freak Radar: Getting Right Down to the Trippy Heart of the Matter

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The freak radar is actually just a crummy low-res screen housed within an average looking blue-gray box. What makes it special is that in a fit of inspiration, it has been decorated with a ‘Hello My Name Is’ sticker upon which someone has ingeniously written ‘freak radar’ in a carefully laid-out script. That’s the freak radar, patent pending. Investors welcome.

Nota bene: in order to conserve the language get right down to what Don Henley so rightfully called “the heart of the matter,” I’m going to attempt to restrict my adjective choice in describing bands and their respective issuances, whenever possible, to trippy. Certainly this speaks to an enlightened way of thinking; the term fairly reeks of descriptive precision and aptitude, and interested bands will find it yields very useful pull quotes to include in their electronic press kits, which is, arguably, the working goal of language.

Cock ESP, Burnt Skull, Holy Money
September 10, The Clinic
Anyhow, last week’s freak radar was jam-packed with about three or four trippy minutes of Cock ESP at the Clinic, where they were preceded by the tripped-out viscous sludge metal of Holy Money and the trippy romp metal of Austin’s Burnt Skull. The Clinic is an unmarked building easterly down Harrisburg way; as the name suggests, it is a decommissioned former clinic, the erstwhile waiting room of which serves as the main performance space, beyond which the building continues in a trippy endless way, a seemingly infinite labyrinth of darkened hallways and empty examination rooms. Therein, Holy Money’s two-singer approach, one shrieking high, one low, and their electronic oscillations gave an extra trippy depth of field to their viscous metal grooves, which wended all over the map, from Sleep to Swans to Death. Burnt Skull’s offset their otherwise metallic screamo momentum with trippy Gun Club guitar tones and surf-rock beats, as well as their trippy background-sampler cacophony, impelling the listener to experience the overwhelmingly trippy sensory overload of hearing at least two or three bands performing at one time.

Headliners Cock ESP came out costumed in trippy patriotic get-ups, festooned in stars and stripes, in sizes too small to entirely contain their American glory, with trippy hats that were likewise too small for their heads. Full disclosure, head cock, Emil, forsook wearing a little hat entirely in favor of wearing a yellow furry chicken mask. Their backline too was in miniature; consisting of belt-buckle sized amplifiers and Melissa and Doug brand colanders and other noise toys both scaled down and wired up. All of which the sound engineer at the Clinic painstakingly miked. My math may be off a few numbers high or low, but I’d put attendance around 15 to 20 people at the highest, freaks all, with nearly as many vehicles outside in the parking lot, which is to say that it was a truly Houston occasion. Once prepared, Cock ESP, the pride of Minneapolis, perhaps the entire Twin Cities, set their electronic spoons and strainers to feedback and squeal mode and proceeded to roll atop one another for a few minutes. It was trippy and delightful, and over an early enough time that one could go forth in search of a late-night snack without competition from dispersing bar crowds.

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Your tripped-out FREAK WEEK continues below...

“Meenie Weenie” featuring Lily Taylor, Alex Tu, Splendid Emblem, Markus Cone, Anisa Boukhlif, One Data featuring Lil Haiti Baby

5201 Mulford, September 16

Forgive any extraneous capitalization where none was intended, but conventional spelling and grammar is my trip, baby. If music for airports is your kind of a trip, but you hate to fly, or at least you hate to reckon with the great dressed-down, shoes-off feel-up that is passing through an airport in the modern era, then this Friday offers the twee-titled “Meenie Weenie” house show, and it is Chris Farley in a little coat full of minimalist electronica trippiness. Not to drop names on you, but I’ve met quite a few of these artists, and they’re so trippy they don’t even have eyeballs. Their faces are just tie-dyed yin-yang symbols that extend diametrically from chin to crown. I cannot tell you the exact timeline, nor whether one will be able to witness this in addition to the Matthew Barney River of Fundament screening at MFAH, all I can mention is that unless you are gills-deep in amanita muscaria it remains a physical impossibility to be in two or more places at once.

Deep End Records First Anniversary feat. KA, Sandy Ewen, AK’Chamel, DJ sets from Flash Gordon Parks, Stewart Anderson, Eleelandc, CeeJ.

September 18 Walter’s Downtown

Being that Houston is a place that no one is permitted to leave, like a trippy Mayberry as described by Rod Serling, it’s nice to see some newish blood like KA sailing north or south on the light rail, their horns, metal buckets, and flying luttenbachers clattering away behind them. I’m speaking figuratively of course; Houstonians don’t ride the rail, they ride-share. In truth, KA will be joining the decidedly un-pentatonic doyenne of tripped-out deconstructed guitar-ism Sandy Ewen, and the Swamp City Boys, AK’Chamel, aka Houston’s trippiest, at a celebration of Deep End Records' first year doing business inside the glittering bunker of dreams that is Walters Downtown.

And now, you’d better button that shirt collar and get ready to report to middle management, because the trip ends here. Notice the blue-gray paint, take heed of the wood-grain veneer of the desk, you are off the freak radar for now.

Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”

Wortham Theater Center, September 21

Nine and a half years ago, I sacrificed approximately one hours-worth of an ongoing opportunity to gorge myself on the sweetmeats-in-sewage spectacle of live music in downtown Austin during South by Southwest in order to sit in a church with Donovan and wait, somewhat patiently, for him to invite the members of Austin’s only classic-rock band, the Butthole Surfers, to join him for the second half of his classic “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Why it didn’t happen I still don’t know. Maybe his people couldn’t get through to their people. But this is Houston, and this is the future of then, and as the Butthole Surfers are probably rehearsing in the post office on Washington Boulevard, and Donovan has to be knocking on heaven’s door, it’s a sure-fire bet.

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