Austin Psych Fest Live (Thursday): Flamin’ Groovies

Sold-out APF opener boasts reunited S.F. cults icons

Flamin’ Groovies, Red 7, 5.1.14
Flamin’ Groovies, Red 7, 5.1.14 (by John Anderson)

In its two most significant incarnations, R&B-loving Sixties garage rockers and Seventies power-poppers, the Bay Area-born Flamin’ Groovies went against then-current mainstream tastes in creating timelessly resonant rock & roll. All three sounds were on display Thursday night at Red 7 for the first night of Austin Psych Fest.

In the group’s current resurgence after a two-decade layoff, these venerable cult icons have finally caught up with their underground-legend status, attracting an eager audience that’s turned what was initially intended as a short-term reunion into a surprise comeback.

In this, their first Austin gig, the reactivated Groovies – founding guitarist Cyril Jordan, Seventies singer/guitarist Chris Wilson, original bassist George Alexander, and new drummer Victor Penalosa – attacked vintage nuggets with a raucous fervor that transcended mere nostalgia. If the creamy harmonies that grace such beloved classics as 1975’s Shake Some Action sound considerably more frayed now, the foursome performed with a bracing urgency that compensated for the lack of vocal finesse.

The Groovies’ time-tested grit was in full effect on catalog favorites “Yeah My Baby” and “You Tore Me Down,” as well as covers of Freddy Cannon’s “Tallahassee Lassie” and the Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better.” Chuck Berry’s “Don’t You Lie to Me” and the Alexander-sung “Married Woman,” meanwhile, emphasized the raunchy blues edge that balances the foursome’s Beatles fetish. Though never recorded, another number drawn from the band’s vintage repertoire was a surging take on NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad.”

By the time the set climaxed with a rousing one-two punch of bigger-than-life Groovies anthems “Slow Death” and “Shake Some Action,” spirits at the packed outdoor stage at Red 7 were so high that even the portly knucklehead who briefly bum-rushed Wilson’s microphone couldn’t harsh the vibe.

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