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Crispy Critters

Photo by Lisa Fletcher

GRAM RABBIT at the Echo, October 21

Fronted by a woman who calls herself Jesika von Rabbit, teeters uncertain on 4-inch heels and exponentially enhances her allure with obstinate sullenness, Gram Rabbit offer up in spectacle exactly what they do in sound: music that reminds you of everything from eerie desert twilights to Carter-family country and then again sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard; a little twang, a lot of machine noise, some vaguely trancelike slowed-down synth effects, some fine psycho-pop lyrics about Jesus and cowboys and unrepentant goofiness.

The sound is more aloof on their August release, Music To Start a Cult To, than it is live; they’re also far less solemn up close than they presume to be on their record: Rabbit ears fly, masks come on and off, von Rabbit dances like a jerky little horse, bassist–effects man Travis Cline throws himself around like a scientist battered by

flashes of genius, guitarist Tracy Lyons- Tarr beams like a drugged Martian, and guitarist Todd Rutherford intones his vocals like a solitary coyote holed up in a rock cave, dying for sympathy.

Born of a collaboration between von Rabbit and Rutherford in a Joshua Tree motel a few years ago, the band would be hard to put up with if they took themselves a hair more seriously; instead, their quirks seem less like self-conscious constructions than inevitable chemistry. It’s as if that convocation of lost-soul weirdos who descended on the high desert some 40 years ago — the ones who built age-reversal machines after conversations with Venusians, took conspiracies too seriously, and scanned their radios all night for static and country music — ate some psychedelics, died in the ’60s, got reincarnated and grew up into a whole new world of sound-making machines. They’ve finally found their true calling in electro-country-space rock, and after all they’ve been through in their past lives, it’s nice to see them finally happy.

—Judith Lewis

MASONNA, BASTARD NOISE, DAMION ROMERO, THE CHERRY POINT at Restaurant Halie, October 16

Rain falls tonight, and there is no small correlation between drops falling from cloud to gutter and noise-music fans descending through the chichi and froufrou of California-French cuisine to the basement. The Cherry Point open with analog sheets of sound, wet with shrieking, that replace the audience’s usual ears with a supersonic kind of Folger’s Crystals. The packed underground wobbles with rising humidity as the throng gathers to hear Damion Romero and his dense, curving bass tones and flanging foghorn thrum. Sustained loud sound makes time actual: That is, 10 minutes of unstructured sound is really 10 minutes long. It’s more difficult to live in actual time as one ages — “Are we there yet?” melts suddenly into “What the fuck was that?!”

Maso-san a.k.a. Masonna and his girlfriend sit with the rest of us, all long hair and black clothes, the essence of politeness and cool; his foot taps wildly as Bastard Noise (John Wiese and Eric Wood) reap a simulation of postnatal shrieks, but ADS hits, and it’s stuttering static and silence until cold slivers of glass grind noisily across space, time and conversation, and the cosmos sighs, turning over in bed and tolling an iron bell before sleep comes. The Bastards’ homemade tube amps and old pedal devices make mountains out of molehills and stretch screams from dying stars that fall directly onto downtown Pasadena and crumble the walls.

The chatter and echoing laryngeal destruction of Masonna’s instantaneous performance lashes out, and he throws himself headlong into the audience. Most people leave before the unexpected encore in which sinewy superstar Maso-san aggressively surfs a table against a speaker box, providing more than a little shock with tonight’s awe.

—David Cotner

Greg Shaw, 1949–2004

It’s difficult to remember now what a pervasive wasteland the early ’70s were for fans of real rock & roll. Dinosaur acts guarded the concert halls, and cover bands ruled the few nightclubs. There was almost no trace of an underground scene until Greg Shaw, a former West Coast editor of Creem who’d self-published numerous fanzines while attending high school in San Francisco, debuted his influential zine Who Put the Bomp in 1970. Shaw, who died from heart failure at age 55 on October 19 in Los Angeles, wanted Bomp (the title was eventually shortened) to be, he once wrote, “a kind of revisionist rock history” celebrating the spirit of the ’60s garage-rock bands. Frustrated by the mainstream record biz, Shaw issued a Flamin’ Groovies 7-inch, “You Tore Me Down,” in 1974, the first of hundreds of vital releases on his still-thriving Bomp label, which eventually included classic recordings by the early punks (the Dead Boys, the Stooges, the Weirdos), power-pop bands (the Last, Nikki & the Corvettes) and ’80s garage-rock revivalists (the Pandoras, the Miracle Workers). More than just a visionary label owner, though, Shaw was passionate about sharing his subversive rock & roll discoveries with the rest of the world. As longtime friend and former Bomp staffer Lisa Fancher aptly wrote, “However you choose to honor Greg’s memory, do it with anything but a moment of silence.”

—Falling James


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