by carl wilson

What I Did on My June Vacation


Dirtbombs at Twangfest last Thursday: Photo by my friend Maggie.

Long time no see. I just flew back from Twangfest X, and boy is my twanger tired. However, I gots one things to say: HolyShitDirtbombs!!!! Best live show I've seen in ages. I know some of you already knew this. Me, I did not. For those like me: Avant-retro-punk-hop-soul-garage. Three genres happening at any given moment. Two basses, two drummers (who, if my memory's not deceiving me and it might be, closed the show by climbing atop their drumkits and plunging off them in a synchronized swandive), and one terrifically charismatic singer-guitarist whose solos could sound like anything from flying saucers to crabbing turntablists. Music that's at once visceral and intellectual - smart but never brain-in-jar cerebral. I was still hungover from the opening-night afterparty when the Dirtbombs hit the stage at the Duck Room in St. Louis and within 20 minutes I had been restored to full health.

I'd gone to the festival looking forward to seeing friends - Twangfest grew out of the Postcard2 mailing list (the ILM of alt-country), of which I was a member for many years - and kind of dreading listening to all the bands (a total of about 17 in four days). Instead I got my faith in the miracle power of rock'n'roll totally freaking restored. (Uh-oh, Celine.) Other highlights, though they didn't really touch the Dirtbombs, were Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, the Sovines reunion-and-re-breakup set (a band nobody outside Columbus, Ohio, ever really heard, but should have), the Bottle Rockets' extended encore (though not particularly their new songs, sorry), Dolly Varden's stirring outdoor show (husband-and-wife bands always get to me, but Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen are also fine and elusive songwriters, masters of deferred catharsis who nevertheless pay you off with all that old-fashioned epiphany stuff) and BR5-49's surprisingly ass-kicking, hardly-museum-piece-retro-at-all-any-more festival-closing set, which included the memorable discovery of multi-instrumentalist Chris Scruggs - grandson of banjo legend Earl Scruggs, and son of Nashville heavy Gail Davies, although the two parts of the family are estranged. Everybody kept comparing Chris's on-stage affect to John Hodgman. (Who apparently is in a Mac commercial now? Geezus.) Even better than all of those, though, was Grand Champeen's afterhours set, a three-hour jukebox of everything from the Stones to Superchunk to Billy Joel to the Only Ones that closed out Twangfest X - the tenth and maybe final edition of the event - with such giddy abandon that I'm still glowing inside days later. Unless that's just liver failure. Standout moment in the Champeen set: The guy who played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, Robbie Rist, who'd been hanging out at Tfest all weekend, guesting on vocals on Radio, Radio. Cousin Oliver sings Elvis Costello? Now I've heard it all.

On the other hand if a band called Lucero is ever playing near you, avoid. Talk about a whole-hog buy-in to rock authenticity myths serving as a substitute for even the slightest musical or lyrical interest: Songs that consist only of grunt-yelling (like the grunt-yelled parts of early Steve Earle and Uncle Tupelo songs, with all the other parts removed) about (a) getting drunk, (b) being rebels, mainly on the basis of (a), and (c) how some chick is trying to put them down. Yeesh. Plus they've got rabid fans who seem somewhere between frat-boy and biker-bar and left smashed beer bottles all over the washrooms. Like the assholes who went to Pogues shows just to see Shane get hammered, as if he were a sideshow freak, you know? It was creepy. The phrase that came to mind: "Date-rape band."

So how was your week? NxNE? Read any good books? Did you see that Destroyer interview on Pitchfork? Someone else finally figured out the trick: Interview Dan only by email.

The gig guide and other site features will be updated asap, btw, fwiw.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 13 at 2:37 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)

 

COMMENTS

I second the accolades for Chris Scruggs. I've seen him twice and the first time I didn't have the cash for his CD and then the next time he was totally sold out. Waiting to buy it at that second show instead of getting it off his website is one of the great mistakes of my life. (Anyone know where I can get a used copy?)

Posted by Joel on June 16, 2006 11:09 PM

 

 

Chris Scruggs is remarkable...good call. His solo stuff is pretty great, too; I saw him play with his trio once, and it was like a honky-tonk Who.

Posted by Charles on June 15, 2006 2:30 PM

 

 

You missed nothing at NXNE. Boring and stupid.
Sun Ra Arkestra and King Khan were exciting though.
Wish I went back to see Sun Ra's group again, but it was damn expensive, but worth it, but too much $$$ but wonderful..

Posted by Tammy on June 14, 2006 8:48 PM

 

 

the dirtbombs put on a solid show. Their drummers are like rumanian gymnasts.

Posted by marco on June 14, 2006 8:35 PM

 

 

Lucers described as a "date-rape band". Brilliant!

Good to see you at Twangfest X, Mr. Carl.

Jerry

Posted by Jerry Curry on June 14, 2006 5:30 PM

 

 

Edisto Revisited is good too.

Posted by DW. on June 14, 2006 3:44 PM

 

 

Never heard of Lucero before, but I laughed out loud listening to the first song on their Myspace page. You called it right on the grunt-yelling. I know Jay Farrar, I've listened to Jay Farrar. Lucero, you're no Jay Farrar.

Posted by David on June 14, 2006 12:53 PM

 

 

I read "Edisto" by Padgett Powell, who is not related, but after I finished it, I can say that I'm happy to share the name.

Posted by Mike Powell on June 14, 2006 11:28 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson