One Two Three Faw!
A brief history of Texas garage rock
The Modern Age: 2000 and BeyondSo, here we are, up to the present. The one moment in time when "garage rock" means something to consumers forking over $17.99 for the new Hives album, and to the record-label suits trying to keep this trend afloat.
Given this fresh context, has the definition of garage rock changed? Let's ask the folks at Emo's, who hosted the first American version of nuevo Euro garage rock extravaganza Gearfest over Labor Day, and have been repeat hosts to Estrus Records' longstanding GarageShock fest.
"Dave Crider and Estrus Records were key to pushing the term into its modern form," says Joe Sebastian, who until last month's resignation, had been a fixture at Emo's since the mid-Nineties. "Their focus was on the stripped down, sort of bluesy, R&B type stuff."
It's that definition many folks subscribe to, following the trail of high-energy soul left by Tim Kerr's Poison 13 and Bad Mutha Goose in the Eighties. Today, Austin's Crack Pipes and Hard Feelings best showcase the bluesy Kerr influence, even as Kerr continues to push the envelope in his current Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee, which melds a freeform jazz aesthetic to the punk rock attitude that helped define garage rock as much as anything. To Sebastian, Denton's smokin' Riverboat Gamblers exemplify this outlook.
"Getting down to the prerequisites of what garage rock means, they've got it all," testifies Sebastian about the Gamblers. "Their record was produced by Tim Kerr, they play with all the garage rock bands. They've got the energy and the willingness to play anywhere. They've never been concerned about the monitors clicking out for a second or a mic stand breaking or anything like that. They're there to play the shows and make the rock. They're starting to get respect for that."
To top it off, the Gamblers also landed a deal with Swedish garage rock label Gearhead, former home to the Hives, at Gearfest. Then again, some, Sebastian included, don't even think the Hives are garage rock. By some folks' definition, even local scene fixtures Those Peabodys don't make the cut. Something about being too Seventies hard-rock influenced. Don't buy it. Peabody Adam Hatley's speedy riffs may have more than a little Angus Young in them, but the rock is loud, dirty, and devil-may-care.
Seattle's Mudhoney is maybe the foremost garage band of the past 20 years and rarely mentioned as such, due to their affiliation with the contrived "grunge" movement. It wouldn't be a stretch to include Austin's entire Room 710 slop-rock scene (Spiders, Hobble, Honky, Squat Thrust, et al.) or the Replacements-influenced barroom rock of Grand Champeen.
No matter how bluesy these bands may be or whether they fit in to a particular social scene, they fit the important part of the profile. They're slightly out of tune, they don't care if their monitors cut out, and they'll definitely play in your garage.