Fun Fun Fun Fest: Grifters

The acrobatics of a drunk in God’s grace

Hatched in the late-Eighties Memphis scene that coalesced around the Antenna Club, the Grifters doubled down on the disheveled end of the underground circuit in a woozily headstrong manner that pushed commercial potential down the stairs. Some 20 years after their last Austin rendezvous, that aesthetic remains in full effect.

Photo by John Anderson

The quartet’s sound was custom-built to be heard in small rooms after one too many belts. Places like Beerland, where they’d played the night before. Yet here they were, sheepishly taking the main stage on a bright, clear Sunday afternoon with a menagerie of high-rise condos for backdrop.

As with several other greybeard acts at Fun Fun Fun (Cheap Trick, Ride), the energy at the Grifters’ set was sparse and subdued. Even so, there was something delightfully incongruous about seeing them in this atmosphere. Raising the curtain with an extra-dour version of “Bronze Cast” from 1994’s Crappin’ You Negative, an interloper might’ve been forgiven for not believing a band would strive to sound so inside-out.

There were brief, mirage-like flashes of Marquee Moon and Muscle Shoals-era Stones in the interplay between guitarists Scott Taylor and Dave Shouse, but whenever the reformed quartet approached the precipice of cohesion, they’d trip and fall forward with the acrobatics of a drunk in God’s grace. The studied shambles grew warmer with “Parting Shot” from 1996’s Ain’t My Lookout and “Bummer” from 1993’s One Sock Missing. Breakthrough 1992 single “Soda Pop” got even closer to fever pitch, but then time ran out on this truncated day-for-night shot.

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