Friday, March 18, 2005

Elevators, Grates and Chinese Stars

I spent yesterday morning doing some writing and pre-show research before heading down to the Convention Center to see the 13th Floor Elevators panel. You can read my review of it in today's Austin Chronicle daily supplement, which isn't online yet but can be found at finer breakfast spots and rekkid stores about town. Roky Erickson looks so much better these days. He spoke sparingly, but said some pretty cool things. For example, he recalled playing a "church social" with Janis Joplin (who was briefly considered as a second vocalist in the Elevators) and Mance Lipscomb. Meanwhile, drummer John Ike Walton said the Elevators once played a dance in the gym at Bellaire High School - my alma mater. By the time I arrived almost two decades later, we were lucky to get a D.J. that played "Rock Lobster!"

It's important to realize the fact that everything the Elevators pioneered made them a target in Texas. Whether it was having long hair, playing rock music or taking LSD, lots of people were threatened by their sensibilities. They dealt with hostilities that made it much more daring to be a "freak" than it was in San Francisco, yet they were doing what would come to be known as psychedelic music before the Grateful Dead had a record deal. It's nice that most of them (except, unfortunately, for guitarist Stacy Sutherland and second drummer Danny Gallindo) have lived to see their legacy properly enshrined.

After writing that panel up, I headed over to the Velvet Spade. I watched a little of Edie Sedgwick, a mediocre drag queen track act, before heading to the patio to catch the Tuxedo Killers. I was quite stirred by their spazzed-out prog-punk assault. They play interesting music with a refreshing sense of youthful, fuck-all whimsy. Any singer who ends a set with pants around ankles is probably gonna get my vote.

I was at the Velvet Spade to review the Grates, a three-piece guitar/drum/vocal combo from Brisbane, Australia. Despite obvious similarities to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Grates put a "grate" big smile on my face with their fun, lo-fi pop tunes. Singer Patience Hodgson embodies some of the odd goofiness of Karen O., but Hodgson's take on it is less cutting and more fun. Their song "Trampoline" is one of the catchiest things I've heard all year.

Yet another quick writing break, then I caught up with my Bay Area buddies Tamara and David to see zZz at Flamingo Cantina. The Amsterdam organ-and-drum duo was intriguing, but we lost interest after four or five songs. The Chinese Stars were on the indoor stage at Emo's and they kicked ass with a relentless barrage of quick right turning disco-punk. Now I remember why I liked Six Finger Satellite so much. 400 Blows were up next. I could appreciate their their anti-melodic spanking machine, but experienced quite enough of it after five minutes.

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