Even today, 40-plus years after forming in Cleveland, no one sounds like Pere Ubu.
Its organic blend of arty noise and Midwestern garage rock grew out of Rocket From the Tombs, a legendary proto-punk band that contributed songs and band members to Pere Ubu and which revived with original members early in the new millennium. The two groups rarely play in close proximity, with this unique double-header last seen in 2003. Both will concentrate on the songs performed in their original incarnations – an experience dubbed the Coed Jail Tour.
Sharing repertoire (“Life Stinks,” “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Final Solution”) and personnel (frontman Dave Thomas, guitarist Gary Siperko, drummer Steve Mehlman), the lines between the two acts could blur, but that’s not the case.
“I can keep them separate because each one has a very specific function in my mind,” says Thomas from London. “In practical terms, Pere Ubu is my main band. Unfortunately Rocket has always had to take second fiddle, often because it’s more difficult to get the people together. It’s not to say that I don’t like doing Rocket as much. Rocket is exciting, because it makes no pretense other than to be a brutal rock experience, and it’s fun to do.
“It’s also fun to not do it, which is why Pere Ubu’s had the evolutionary curve that it’s had.”
That evolution’s kept Ubu constantly pushing its sound forward, which makes a show dedicated to the past a surprise.
“It used to be we would record an album, tour it, then come home and sit there for two more years doing nothing while we recorded a new album,” says Thomas. “In the last number of years, it’s come to be a useful tool [to do shows] like Coed Jail. We all keep working, keep in touch with each other.
“Over the last year we’ve been working on a new album. It’s coming out in the fall and will be called 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo, then that’ll be the end of Coed Jail for a period. Unless somebody comes along and says, ‘Here’s $30,000 if you do “Final Solution.”’ We have our principles, but hell, $30,000, I’ll do it!”– Michael Toland
“As a teenager with little education to boast of, I had a life of drudgery ahead of me at best,” offers former toilet-cleaner Ray Burns, aka guitarist Captain Sensible, of first UK punk shock troops the Damned. “Or a vagabond of some sort. I was already known to the law. I was dossing in a Brighton squat, surrounded by junkies and ne’er-do-wells.
“Then punk rock showed up and saved me.”
The Damned beat all their peers – Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, etc. – to every significant career high: They were England’s first punks to release a single (November 1976 classic “New Rose”), full-length album (the freshly remastered Damned Damned Damned), tour the U.S., break up, then re-form. Machine Gun Etiquette (’79) and Strawberries (’82) found the Damned flashing an adventurous musicality most of their peers never embraced.
“Considering what we were up against – stadium bands like ELP, Yes, Genesis – I didn’t expect punk to last long, or even be that popular in the first place,” he laughs. “We all had daft stage names back then, and some didn’t get any better as you enter your senior years. How about Johnny Moped? Or even better, Youth!”– Tim Stegall
Third-time charm? Bright Eyes himself found his “broken folk” disrupted by electro acts at ACL Fest last fall, then his “bitter balladry felt out of place” at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion during SXSW in March. That month’s Salutations put a band to 2016’s solo Ruminations.– Raoul Hernandez
Nashville’s Rayland Baxter rolls easy folk melodies into psych-jointed jams, 2015’s sophomore turn Imaginary Man slicing uniquely Americana. New Austinite Robert Ellis follows Saturday with a stylistic fusing of last year’s subtly complex eponymous fourth LP. Local roots standouts Jonathan Terrell, Carson McHone, Harvest Thieves, and Altamesa brace the bills.
After decades of extrapolating the purest bubblegum essence of the Ramones to fans from Nirvana to Matt Groening, Japanese pop-punk legends Shonen Knife tweaked the formula into Seventies hard rock. Not that a few seeds and stems dulls the joyfulness of the three ladies. Otoko chef Yoshi Okai brings snacks.– Greg Beets