Saturday Night: Greg Ginn, Big Scenic Nowhere, and Glitter Wizard Rattle Thee Parkside
Greg Ginn, Big Scenic Nowhere, Glitter Wizard
March 19, 2011
Marginally better than: Listening to Billy Joel records in a Seattle parking garage.
It's SXSW season, and few things are longer than the faces of Facebook non-attendees this year. My newsfeed rolls like the tear-sodden Jordan with tales of locked-out, broke-ass woe from the West Coast rock elite. Pals in Austin are having too much fun to post updates I'd ignore anyway in favor of fresh horrors from Libya and Japan. Being so far from the main event was for me nowhere near as frustrating as holding one press ticket to Friday's sold-out Devo show at the Warfield, and being told to wait in the rain for the fast-diminishing chance to buy my photographer another ticket for the low! low! price of five Jacksons and two Lincolns. At that point, I wouldn't have hung five more minutes to see the Risen Elvis, much less Ohioans with flowerpots on their heads.
Instead, we wound up at Thee Parkside on Saturday night for our first-ever show there. We fell in love at once with this place, which preens itself as the city's "premier dive venue." The tiny stage, ancient bar, squirrel-themed art, and giant back patio all felt like home even though a dozen scraggly strangers were just then shivering and gulping beer inside its unheated bulk. The jukebox, its contents running the crooked mile from Neil Diamond to Roky Erikson, offloaded much random whimsical shit while the guys from Glitter Wizard had a long fartaround loading in. Vocalist Wendy Stonehenge worked over the word "check" as verb, noun, adverb, and throat culture before the whole band disappeared to the patio to reappear decked in hose, teddies, and other girly clothing. This stoner-glam hybrid laid into a long disjointed set that sounded less like an act Julian Cope raved about and more like the Junior Jackhammer League. Wendy's vocals were chewed up in a frenzy of ill-coordinated jamming that was a broad hint of worse to come.
Then commenced another long round of pulling and hauling, with the weather outside now looking like something in a Ridley Scott movie. Sheets and geysers of evil-looking rain rattled the roof as Big Scenic Nowhere set up to play. This latest incarnation of desert rock pioneers Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man uncoiled a series of dramatic and moody instrumentals. The audience was then at peak size, and over thirty assorted fans and street urchins grooved to this tough and bone-dry music before it shut off after only a half-hour.
The headliner took his sweet time mulling over a laptop and Theremin before unsnapping his guitar case and plugging in for his solo set. In addition to his many other distinctions, Black Flag founder Greg Ginn was dubbed by Rolling Stone the 99th greatest rock guitarist of all time, which could well be why as many as a dozen customers actually endured the entire hour and a half set. The remainder fled by the twos and threes into a wet and freezing night rather than endure another moment of aimless high-decibel noodling. This is just the sort of uninvolving passionless stuff we're told first-wave punks like Ginn went to three-chord war against back during the Carter administration. The faces around the room wore a uniform numb expression until it ended. Some old drunk wandered in, tried to dance, and left, shaking his head as if convinced he'd stumbled upon Madame Loud's Wax Museum. Finally it ended and Ginn bade us a diffident goodnight.
Overheard: Wendy Stonehenge: "I know you all skipped South by Southwest for this!"
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