Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gourds & rasslin

Gourds x 2

The Gourds were back in north Texas for two shows on Thursday and Saturday.

A brief Gourds "primer" for the uninitiated... The Gourds are a band from Austin. Their sound has often been described as "bluegrass meets cow-punk". That might be a fair description if one were limited to just four words, but you'd need at least a paragraph more to describe the inclusion of influences as varied as acid rock, Cajun/Zydeco, Tejano, Celtic folk music, traditional country, you name it. Another blogger described their sound as "the kind of music that makes you want to go jumping from room to room around the house, whooping and hollering, and slapping yourself on the ass." Well said.

The Thursday show was at Dan's Silver Leaf in Denton... I hurried up there after work and didn't miss a single song. They started playing within 10 minutes of my arrival, and played for about 2 hours. I counted 19 songs, not counting a short instrumental to start the encore...

The Gourds - Thursday 02/15/07 at Dan's Silver Leaf, Denton TX

Kevin on vocals & mandolin
Here's the set list from Thursday February 15 at Dan's in Denton:

Layin around the house
Ants on the melon
El Paso
Curse the sunshine, piss on the rain (announced as a new song, not sure of title)
County Orange
Illegal oyster
Pine Island Bayou (featuring a mean mandolin solo by Kev)
Burn the honeysuckle
New roommate
Mr. Betty
Do4U (featuring an instrumental long enough to make you wonder if they're converting to a "jam" band)
Lower 48
*** encore ***
"Reggae encore intro"
Shake the chandelier

It's always fun to watch the crowd at a Gourds show, especially people who obviously haven't seen them before and don't know quite what to expect. I kept watching these two girls sitting at one of the tables in front of Jimmy and Claude. It looked like they were there with some guys who were fans of the band, but the girls probably hadn't been to see them before. One of the girls was all smiles and was mostly watching Kevin and his crazy stage antics -- doing little dances and making Jimi Hendrix faces as he strummed frantically on his mandolin. The other wasn't quite sure; she looked a little bit bored. Well, not everyone appreciates good music, and maybe it takes a special kind of person to enjoy a Gourds show. The most important thing is just to show up prepared to have a good time. It was good to see Jimmy's dad in the crowd; now there is a man who knows how to have a GOOD TIME.
Saturday's show was at the Aardvark, in Ft Worth near the TCU campus. I headed down there after work and met my friend Lance. I caught part of the last song by opening act "Baby Gramps", a one-man act that Lance described as "different". The Gourds took the stage around 23:30 and played til about 1:45. Highlights? 1) Max's dad, Dollar Bill Johnston, joined the band on stage for the song "Smoke Bend". Dollar Bill sings vocals on that same song on the Gourds album "Cow, Fish, Fowl or Pig". 2) Only occasionally will they include "Gin & Juice" (yes, their cover of the Snoop Dogg song) in a set, but they did throw it into the mix on Saturday. It's always interesting to see what other songs they work into the "Gin & Juice" extended instrumental; this time it a mind-blowing combination of Bob Marley's "Wait in Vain" and Cheap Trick's "Surrender". 3) After that, the band did a two-song encore, beginning with a cover of a Velvet Underground song "Sweet Nothing" that I couldn't remember hearing them play before. It was another great Gourds show, and it was cool to see them for the second time in three nights.

the Aardvark marquee

Dollar Bill Johnston (Max's dad) on vocals

Jimmy on bass, Claude on accordion

same guys, different instruments

Max signals the sound man for "more banjo"
Here's the set list from Saturday:

Ants on the melon
All the labor
I'm troubled
Layin around the house
If I lose
Smoke bend (with Dollar Bill Johnston)
Hooky junk
Mr. Betty
Shake the chandelier
Burn the honeysuckle
Jesus Christ with signs following
My name is Jorge
Lower 48
County Orange
Pine island Bayou
Gin & Juice / Wait in Vain / Surrender (Snoop Dogg / Bob Marley / Cheap Trick)
*** encore ***
Sweet Nothing (Velvet Underground)
Are you ready for the country (Waylon Jennings)

Heroes of World Class

Well, the wrestling dvd (mentioned in my February 15 entry) was everything I hoped it would be -- and more. The documentary helped me reconnect with a part of my life from over 20 years ago, helped me to learn the real story behind the people and events that I normally experienced only as a tv spectator, and helped me feel like I had gotten to know some of the participants on a personal level. It turns out that I have a lot in common with Brian Harrison, the filmmaker who produced the show. The dvd case explains how Harrison began watching the World Class Wrestling telecasts in 1983 at the age of 10, idolizing the Von Erichs and wrestling's other "heroes". They could have been writing about ME.

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, and I felt a true sense of loss during the segment in which Kevin Von Erich explored the ruins of the Dallas Sporatorium prior to its ultimate demise. There's no telling how many hours' worth of the wrestling matches I watched in the mid-80s were filmed in that venue southwest of downtown Dallas. I even made a trip down there once, in 1992 or '93 when I was a student at SMU. Some promoter had come down fraternity row, hoping to drum up business by handing out passes for free admission on a Friday night, and advertising dollar draft beer! They attracted a sizeable crowd from the Kappa Sig house alone! We arrived early and after purchasing as much beer as we could carry, we looked for seats way up in the back rows. But the ushers made us move down to ringside; they were filming that night and wanted to make it look like there was a big crowd there (i.e., no empty seats within view of the ringside cameras). We didn't see much of a card; this was about 8 years after I stopped watching wrestling on tv and the Dallas wrestling scene had apparently fallen on hard times. The only name I recognized that night was "Killer" Tim Brooks, who must have been about 65 years old and hadn't aged gracefully. But we had a good time, and it ended up being my only time ever to set foot in that legendary building on the corner of Industrial and Cadiz. I used to drive by there all the time, looking for trains to photograph on the edge of downtown Dallas. But during all those times I drove past it, armed with multiple cameras and dozens of rolls of film, I never once bothered to stop and snap a picture. And now it's gone.

the Dallas Sportatorium - as seen in "Heroes of World Class"

Of course, the true story of tragedy, well-documented by "Heroes of World Class", is the loss of life endured by the Von Erich family. Four brothers of the five passed away decades before their time: David due to an intestinal infection at age 25; Mike, Chris, and Kerry by suicide -- at 23, 21, and 33 respectively. As a father, I can't imagine the grief I'd feel at losing ONE kid at an early age, let alone FOUR. Kevin, the sole surivor, was always my favorite wrestler of the family. As I watched the documentary, it occurred to me how, as much as I admired him as a wrestler in the mid-80s, I admire and respect him tenfold today for his strength and composure at coping with such incomprehensible tragedy. Kevin, God bless ya... and thanks for being an inspiration to me for dang near a quarter century.

about that new coach...

I realize I haven't commented on the Dallas Cowboys' new coach yet. Well, what more can I say than "at least he's a Texan". We'll leave it at that for now. That, and... it's too bad the Chargers didn't fire Marty Schottenheimer about a month earlier. He probably would have been pretty expensive, though...


np: Waylon Jennings "Are you sure Hank done it this way" on KHYI 95.3 FM


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