Phases & Stages
Gorch Fock, Attack Formation, Attic TedThe Parish, Jan. 14
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person," Irish prerock critic Oscar Wilde wrote way back in 1891. "Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Were he still among the living, Oscar the Grouch surely would have appreciated the dyspeptic theatricality of Friday's bizarro Parish bill. San Marcos masked men Attic Ted forced America's forgotten musical past onto its squeamish present, lumbering cabaret waltzes emerging from the ether of ambient noise and mad-prophet AM radio sermons. Grady Roper's forked-tongue lyrics were heavy with fire and brimstone, even as his spook-house organ mingled leering fun with lingering dread. Attack Formation strove for a different sort of anonymity, exchanging instruments and vocals like a Knitting Factory swap meet. If there were anything approaching a lead, it might have been Bill Jeffrey's piercing trumpet, but mostly the eight-person ensemble was a model of interchangeability: a concise post-punk riff here, a wall of serrated Sonic Youth noise there, avant-garde know-it-alls masquerading as pop savants and vice versa. Headliner Gorch Fock's own masks Jane's Addiction, Scratch Acid, Captain Beefheart were no less effective for being purely figurative. Instead of simply assuming their clamorous ancestors' personas, the local sevenpiece employed them as portals into their own singular brand of madness, borrowing former Big Boy Randy "Biscuit" Turner for a psilocybic take on Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." (R.I.P. Spencer Dryden.) Frontman Joey Ficklin, when not punctuating the group's twin-drum assault with percussive trombone blasts, radiated an antagonistic charisma that entertained through taunting and mockery. "Just because I've enjoyed being in the same room with you doesn't mean I like you," he said near the end, before the closing avalanche and its "I hate everyone" refrain. For a band whose upcoming album is called Lying and Manipulating, that felt an awful lot like the truth. No masks required.