Brief notes on the continuing travels of a road warrior searching for new inspiration.
“You can’t live in this world but there’s nowhere else to go,” laughs Coughlin. – The Dharma Blues, Jack Kerouac
Never miss the opening act. Sort of like “Never get out of the boat,” as jettisoned out of the throat of the Chef character in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.
And so I don’t. Especially in a small joint like the desert’s Rhythm Room. Tiny yet intimate in a way that a bar just can’t be—the Room has held some old legends, and a few new ones, too. Tonight there is a mixture of the weird and wonderful, and so IT is.
Case in point: Woods opening for Swedish psych sensations Dungen.
Jeremy Earl has a high-soaring yet subtle falsetto voice, and he’s singing into a bullet mike stolen from some time-warped rockabilly 50s band; jangling along on what looks like a black-and-white Dan Electro guitar (I ask Dungen front man Gustav Estjes about it, and suddenly the bassist and drummer start a spontaneous rave up).
Dan Electro guitar? (“Or, maybe a…”(Estjes’ voice trails off as the hearing loss/Swedish accent gets muffled in my Zeppelin/Garcia/Trey-ruined ears. Damn. I missed a priceless bit of tech information from Gustav.) No matter—it’s a cool fucking old ass guitar, and not in a Jack White-way, but in a dirty New York way that makes it new again. New again—what a concept. These cats are grounded in ancient templates with their bass-drums-guitar setup, bullet mikes and all, but it works, like certain things work in a fresh manner with just the right sincere edge, tenacity and promise of something/anything new.
“Where are you from?” I asked because I always speak before I think.
“New York,” Earl answered like I should know, or I might not like the answer. Well, yes, I should know, but the answer is not so much as surprising as the way Earl said it. Not “Brooklyn,” or “the Bronx,” or anywhere specific—just “New York,” like I didn’t live there every other day. Stuck inside of the Desert with a Swede on my Left and a Bunch of Anti-Hipster Lo-Fi’ed Zoo Yawkers up in front of me. What, Me Rand McNally’ed?
That’s how these cats roll—doing things that may appear obviously familiar—psychedelic folk through an amplified bullet mike with, perhaps, a Dan Electro, bass and drums. But doing it in a way, especially the heavily reverbed and feedbacked jams, that strike quite an original pose, if not an overall fondness for any one generalized tune.
The whole experience just sort of washed over me as guitars and bass, turned up high and wide, explored the upper levels of the amplifiers, while the drummer pounded the skins
into anti-nostalgic oblivion, not caring if they ever stopped, rave-frenzy relentlessly stretching forward, but finding a way to segue back into a tune, any tune, at any time, as if the band always existed, and yet they somehow escaped my persnickety radar. That’s inspiration—when the things you don’t know far outweigh the things you do.
And less than an hour later, Woods are done. Who are they? What? 4 albums, thus far? Memory returns when I remember I just read a review of their recent low lo-fi album Songs of Shame, which I devour after this mind-shifting gig—roots rock, asymmetrical improv, reverb, ribald audacity, and intense amplified revelry. Right, I approve.