It was a good day for Kansas City on St. Patrick's Day down here in Austin. Maybe all that pretending to be Irish back home gave us all a wee bit of luck. The day started off, for me, at the Anodyne/Cheap Lullaby showcase at the Parish, where, at the crack of noon, Be/Non commanded the stage. With the Architects' Adam Phillips its temporary drummer, the band sounded precise and mechanical as singer-guitarist Brodie Rush led his group over a half-hour set of freaky, Zappa-meets-Krautrock, proggy strangeness.
Because it was early, the crowd was comprised of mostly KC folks plus a few off the street, which was a shame, because unlike so many other more successful bands at SXSW, Be/Non is actually doing something original. I fantasize about one day sitting my daughter (who has yet to be born) down on our leather couch, going into our walk-in entertainment center, rooting around through my polished marble record filing cabinets, pulling out that great Be/Non double LP from 2011, putting it on the hi-fi and blowing my little trendily named child (Pomegranate? Acorn? Samantha?) away.
After lunch at the Mekong River across the street, where the service was atrocious and riddled with infighting (sounds like a band), the Architects went onstage at the Parish to an encouragingly larger crowd, including a family of four — two boys, mom and pop — all of whom had mohawks. The Architects played fierce and sounded good but didn't seem too happy with the set afterward, but they had driven into town overnight to arrive at 9 that morning, so that was probably the reason.
After that, it was time to walk up to 7th and Red River for an extra-special treat: Last of the V8s at the Headhunter. It turns out that the Ramalamas, the band that grew out of the V8s' breaking up in '03, have disbanded because singer Damon Jeffers didn't want to put life on hold for touring. So original V8s Jay Zastoupil, Chico Thunder and Kriss Ward re-recruited Ryan Maddis and are picking up where the Ramalas picked up where the V8s had left off. And that may sound convoluted, but there's nothing about the V8s' sound that isn't simple, hellacious and loud.
We walked in to the small, cannibal-island-themed bar to find the V8s already roaring on the corner stage. Maddis was on fire. I'd been told before the show by a longtime fan of the band that the mad frontman would either piss someone off and get in a fight, hurt himself or break something. The likelihood of all three happening seemed fairly high throughout the show, but then I noticed something about the band. It's kind of a poetic, spontaneous dance they do, a secret choreography, whereby no matter how small the stage, no matter how apeshit Ryan goes, the members never accidentally collide. Ryan might throw his arm around Chico's neck and lean in and headbang, or, hell, Jay Z might mount Chico's shoulders and rattle off a solo. But ne'er do the tuning peg and forehead or microphone and skull meet.
But what does happen is a sight to behold. Maddis got progressively madder throughout the show, threading the microphone up through his open-chested black shirt and wrapping it around his body, tangled in it like a virtual umbilical cord. At one point, he ended up on his back with his head hanging off the stage. Be/Non's Ben Ruth was there and stuck out his foot, touching the sole of his shoe to Ryan's forehead. Ryan grabbed Ben's leg and soon was doing a slow backward somersault off the stage. The band, meanwhile, kept going, churning out slab after slab of old-school, MC5-influenced dirty rawk. It was beautiful. I nearly cried — seriously — in part because I will never, never, ever be as cool as any one member of the Last of the V8s, and also because this band's very existence in a market driven by the most poisonous, bullshit trends is poignant in itself. Seeing them play live is like watching a band of Comanche warriors go to battle for the last time — majestic and tragic.
But I don't mean to sound dire about the V8s' future. They'll be playing shows at home in KC in the coming weeks, and maybe they'll go on tour and cut a record. This is a band we should be fucking thankful for. You can't put a price on rock that pure.
WORD OF THE DAY
"La quinta" — n. Spanish. "Next to Denny's."