I’ve decided that Born Liars are one of those local bands that will probably be a good time regardless of the bill I find them on. And, if they seem to be lagging, I’ll drink more and rediscover the original draw. Look: Born Liars may not become the next Great American Punk band, they may not be the Next anything. In fact: Fuck the Next. Be glad you have an opening act as good as the Born Liars. They rock. They want you to rock. What more do you want?
All photos by Shin
The Ugly Beats
The Ugly Beats were tight. Tighter than I expected, and I expected plenty. In shameless homage of the headliners, they brought their show out into the shallower depths of the Rudyard’s crowd; a few chair-top guitar solos etc. No set-list points of interest here (just a sec . . . ): the Ugly Beats scared me a little, because they were beyond the Born Liars and reached the lowest denomination of “awesome” I expected from the Fleshtones. The last thing I wanted to see from the Fleshtones was anything less than was offered by the Beats, and those Austin kids set a high bar. They closed with a faithful and flawless version of The Saints “Lost and Found.” I charged to the front and began jumping like a geek. Had nothing more happened all night, I could’ve slept happily.
Oh, but those Fleshtones. A set-list recap would be useless. I found myself at a table just before their set, sitting next to a girl whose name I still don’t know, who asked me if the Fleshtones were “a big band.” I tried to explain that much, then she wanted to know what “kind of music” they were. I stammered, stopped and mumbled something about “garage” and “rock ‘n’ roll” and “R&B,” which seemed to scare her senseless. (God’s mercy on the generation who equivocates “R&B” with R. Kelly and Craig David.)
It’s one thing to appreciate the Fleshtones’ recordings. It’s another thing entirely to be in the midst of their live performance. Music critics, fans, junkies and maddingly hip assholes have been claiming as much since at least the early 80s, but this was my first shot, and hot damn. The peculiar thing about the Fleshtones is that you can know exactly what’s coming to you – I read the interviews, read the book, watched the videos, listened to the tribute, and knew the legend – but it still feels spontaneous. The cheesy antics, the crowd-play, the audience dancing . . . it all happened like it’d been rehearsed.
I can’t say much for the back seventh-eighths of the room, but those of us who stayed glued to the front of the stage had one hell of a time. People grooved and hugged for a solid hour or more. I danced my ever-loving ass clear to Hades and back (I’m writing this early on Tuesday morning and my neck and right arm are still incredibly sore from the slamming and pumping, respectively). My friend Amy bought a round of tequila shots for the band; all but guitarist Keith Streng partook (I naturally claimed the extra), and the only clear musical memories I have are 1) “Shiney Hiney” and 2) bellowing “waaaaaaaay down South” as many times as was necessary.
It was a truly visceral rock experience, like being everything you wished you had been cool enough to be when you were 16, except that you carried the added years and experience and still let loose as though it might be the last night of your life.
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Once the tom began making its way through the audience, I moved toward the side to watch from a distance. And as the band made their final trek from stage to soundboard, bassist Ken Fox paused in front of me – still playing – and said “Hey, thanks for the drink earlier. I needed that.”
My ass, Ken. We needed that. The Fleshtones institution has been roving the landscape for other three decades with a level of popular recognition that is criminal. And they don’t seem to be affected. There’s no bitterness, and why would there be? The band started not because of Revolution or Ambition, but because someone had the chance, the space, the opportunity and the vision of something pure: Rock ‘n’ roll as Fun.
I’ve heard the Fleshtones called everything from “inept” to “adolescent.” We should all yearn to be as successful. – Chris Henderson