Live at the Continental Club (The Rock Garage)
REVIEWED BY MICHAEL TOLAND, FRI., SEPT. 28, 2012
If there’s any band in what was once called Austin’s “alternative” scene that deserves live preservation, it’s Pong. On vinyl. As sonically representative as the locals’ studio albums are, it’s in concert where this quintet’s satire-soaked dance rock comes alive. When the guitar attack of Gary Chester and Jason Craig’s muscle-bound riffage begins bouncing off Shane Shelton’s sugary synth squiggles as nailed to a groove as relentless as Lyman Hardy’s fleet-footed disco, Pong pushes it over the top. Live at the Continental Club, part of TRG’s Texas Live Concert Series, serves as a de facto greatest hits (so far), with the band romping through the space rockin’ dance pop of “Suicide Cat,” smirking funk of “Killer Lifestyle,” and the crooked riff-pop of “Secret Meat.” The band throws in the dubtastic synth pop of “Click OK” and the electronica-kissed hard rock of “Superwrong” while it’s at it. Naturally, Pong ends the show and LP by declaring, “Finally – some good music!” That may be tongue-in-cheek, but the description can’t be denied.
“Smells like table tennis.”
What’s in a name? For a band, a lot. It’s their lettered identity and literal calling card. The name should be catchy, but not too long. Original, but not obscure. It helps if it has a double meaning, or if it gets a chuckle. So when five veteran Austin musicians got together to brand their new cosmic dance-rock combo, they compiled a huge-ass list of potential names, ultimately choosing Pong.
Formed by veterans of beloved Austin underground institutions Ed Hall, the Pocket FishRmen, and ST 37. “The name fits the retro-futuristic kind of mood we’re in,” explains guitarist and vocalist Gary Chester.
Joining Chester are Jason Craig (guitar, vocals), Lyman Hardy (drums), Shane Shelton (keyboards, vocals), and Larry Strub (bass, vocals). Craig and Shelton have spent time in local punk rock bands Pocket FishRmen and Moist Fist, respectively. The remaining three created one of Austin’s most important post-punk bands, the mighty modernist rock trio Ed Hall. Twelve years on, It’s hard to imagine a decent party where the Vocoder-driven boogie of “Interpol” or the lighter-raising rock anthem “Finally” wouldn’t be welcome additions to the mix.
“Melody is missing from society,” opines Chester. “So we have this mission to put melody back in society.” And as any band knows, ladies come along with melodies and grooves.
“You know what’s good about Pong?” Strub asks directly. “It’s that girls like it. When the women are dancing, the world is right. The world moves on women’s hips.”. – Austin Chronicle
- Contains CD
- 50 limited autographed copies
- This is the third release from The Rock Garage Texas Live Concert Series
(The Rock Garage)
By 2011, only a music fan doing an ostrich imitation would still think of Austin, Texas as a music town devoted only to roots music – blues, outlaw country, etc. The punk and alternative rock scenes have long poked holes in the Armadillo World Headquarters fantasy, with everyone from Spoon to Fastball to the Butthole Surfers earning as much (or more) notoriety as Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
So there’s no real thematic punch to the first volume in Austin website The Rock Garage’s series of recordings from local clubs. But there doesn’t need to be, either, other than to showcase the down-and-dirty doin’s that hit the River City’s club scene on any given night. Producer/writer Michael Crawford took his mid-fi equipment into a variety of joints (listed in the liners, but not specific to the performances) to capture a diverse group of artists on their home turf.
Hard rock seems to get the most play here, with standout cuts from the irreverent Honky (“Just a Man”,) the thrashy High Watt Crucifixers (“Concubine”) and the unabashedly heavy Lions (“Screaming Out”) and Brutal Juice (“Waxing Gibbons”). But there are plenty of other wares on display here. The Ugly Beats blast out a perfect piece of garage pop with “I’ll Make You Happy.” Churchwood does its Captain Beefheartian blues thang on the ferocious “Vendide Fumar,” while Amplified Heat takes the form into distorted grunge territory on “Strong Arm ‘Shut Yer Face’.” Pong takes postpunk out in the alley and beats it up with “Click OK.” The Dirty Charley Band and Pureluck kick country & western’s ass all around the barroom floor on “Should Killed My Baby” and “Your Face or Mine,” respectively, while the Texas Sapphires showcase a (slightly) more traditional spirit on “The New World.” The Pocket FishRMen and the Hickoids (whose cheerfully smutty spirit seems to saturate the whole project) give punk rock their own good-natured thrashings on “We Kill Evil” and “Stop It You’re Killing Me.”
The collection also finds space for a couple of out-of-town guests, specifically Nashville Pussy (whose drummer got his start in the Austin scene) and its staple “Good Night For a Heart Attack” and longtime Austin favorite Dash Rip Rock and its snarky satire “New Orleans Needs Stronger Dikes.” They may not be from Texas’ capitol, but they both fit right in to the profane, rocked-out scene celebrated by The Rock Garage. Here’s hoping for volume 2.
This compilation is the best cross-section of Texas rock since the Woodshock album 25 years ago. It’s like walking down the main drag in Austin on a really good Saturday night with a killer band in every bar. Each band has its own style, but they all rock really hard. They aren’t following trends, but making them. Starts with a string of country rock climaxing with The Hickoid’s tale of a drunken romantic encounter at Tacoland. Then there are three retro bands: Texas Sapphires’ swing arrangement of X, techno primitive analog synth from Pong and 60s garage from The Ugly Beats, who toured with The Cynics. Then hard rock alternates with comic relief for the rest of the album. A great party record. – Shindig Magazine UK
Whorehay Spahn(Radio Free Bakersfield) - “Pure Luck on this week’s show. Man, that’s a song I’d have liked to have written… ”
Robert Góngora – “ Got some HONKY up next off the latest compilation, The Rock Garage: Texas Live Concert Series Vol 1. ” - RadioValencia.com pirate station in San Francisco.
The Rock Garage Texas Live Concert Series Volume 1
“Hi y’all, we’re the Smiths,” opens Honky hesher J.D. Pinkus. “We’re gonna play a bunch of new songs about not eating meat.” Yuks lace themselves through 15 mostly local field recordings, including Nashville Pussy channeling Sam Kinison and the Ugly Beats’ touch of Jello Biafra. A smidge of Dicks in Churchwood, Pure Luck’s metalbilly (“Your Face or Mine”), and Satantonio splatter from the Hickoids into the Texas Sapphires’ fiddling hayride (“The New World”). Raw.
Live at the Fish Fry
Taxidermy from the Scoot Inn last May, this second installment of the lead-balloon-named Rock Garage Texas Live Concert Series rages a grease fire of raucous, mosh-tossed, old-school Austin punk, irreverent as Bill Hicks and twice as consumptive. Gunning “Flaccid Is the Night,” complete with dueling guitar and bass breakdowns, and the Gary Floydisms of “One Blowjob” peak in a spastic go-go (“Go Saddam Hussein”), Howitzer recoil (“Amy Carter”), and crack (“Go Out Smoking”).
Rock Garage Texas Live Concert Series
Recommended Thur., July 21, 8pm
The Scoot Inn, 1308 E. Fourth, 512/478-6200
Photographer/cameraman Michael Crawford did his main tour of local punk rock duty in the 1990s, which is why his three-day Scoot Inn lockdown features Sincola shrieker Rebecca Cannon in country darlings the Texas Sapphires, Fuckemos’ throat Russell Porter aboard his Babydick, and NOLA ringers Dash Rip Rock. Crawford’s debut releases, a Pocket FishRmen live set and a contemporary comp featuring all those mentioned minus Babydick but including Pong, the Hickoids, Amplified Heat, and many more, proves Matador and Super Secret Records aren’t the only A&R documenting Red River. $5.
THURSDAY: The Reaction (8:30), the Hickoids (9:30), Churchwood (10:30), the Dirty Charlie Band with DixieWitch (11:30pm), Pure Luck (12:30am) – Raoul Hernandez