Pong, Hug/Broken Teeth
Red Eyed Fly/Babes, January 8 It was like the Nineties never happened. On a Capitol City Saturday night, wherein a cluster of parking spaces just over the hill from Austin's burgeoning, Las Vegas-like strip of live music venues on Red River almost caused this would-be reveler to turn back home and consult the Book of Revelation, it was like time had shrugged off the last decade as nothing more than a bad-smelling musical burp. Local trio Hug, for instance, were happily suspended somewhere around mid-New Wave -- early Eighties. Their frontman in a tall, European soldier hat, leopard-skin smoking jacket, and white ruffled tuxedo shirt, the guitarist in drag, and man-behind-the-synthesizer under an enormous Mexican sombrero, Hug came on like a house party still on its first kegs: giddy tunes with nervous melodies and still some inhibitions. Try as he might, the group's frontman couldn't quite punch through that Frank N. Furter wall (shower curtain?) and camp up the tunes and delivery the way Hug's screwball songs demand. Maybe he had the flu, like everyone else. He tried, though -- goddammit, he tried. And the crowd responded. In fact, it was hard not to stand in the good-sized throng crammed into the Red Eyed Fly and not hear the echoes of Electric Lounge nights past. Build the club, and they will come, especially if their last one went away -- or two or three went away. Plus, you can buy crack right across the street; so much for being around the corner from the police station. One would think that an area targeted by the city as Austin's answer to the San Antonio's riverwalk would be policed better. Worse still was the riffraff around the corner and up the street on Sixth -- at Babe's. There, SSIK and Dangerous Toy Jason McMaster was leading his new group Broken Teeth through Seventies hard rock: "Riff Raff," "Let There Be Rock," "Problem Child." AC/DC. Okay, not AC/DC, but McMaster's red leather pants and Nashville Pussy belt buckle would've looked firm and full on ol' dead Bon Scott, and this local fivepiece was making no bones about the south-of-the-navel nature of their particular band of rock. Keep your stanky Nashville Pussy, Broken Teeth is a mouthful of McMaster and therefore delivered with the belief that rock & roll really can save your soul. Back at the Red Eyed Fly, in the headlining slot, Pong wasn't delivering much more than a late set and a lot of technical problems, which prompted Flying-V frontman Gary Chester to start celeb(e)rating Elvis Presley. When the band's Ed Hall core kicked in, Lyman Hardy pounding the toms and bassist Larry Strub churning a heavy undercurrent, Pong thundered; the addition of a second guitar and synthesizer (plus two musicians to play them) have fleshed out the band well. Material was another matter, and when the band went into their Monty Python mode with falsetto Oi's, suddenly it got very late. Consistency has not yet begun to plague Pong, already one of Austin's most promising groups. Sometimes you wished Pong would just up and launch into UFO's "Rock Bottom" or some old Van Halen tune, which Chester loves to noodle on while warming up. Why not? Pong is nothing if not that and a good dose of Eighties New Wave -- with an already large and loyal following. Just like the Nineties never happened ...
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