Spotlight: Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds

12mid, Maggie Mae's Gibson Room

Spotlight: Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds

"I always liked the mixing of styles," pioneering avant-garage punk guitarist Kid Congo Powers says from his current Washington, D.C., base. "When we started the Gun Club, the mixing of fast punk with blues hadn't really been done. It was really inspired by what James Chance & the Contortions were doing: 'Oh, he's mixing James Brown and disco with Albert Ayler and punk – wow!'

"Nowadays, it's a pretty common thing. But then? It was, 'Why on Earth would you mix psychedelic music with rockabilly?!'"

That alchemy remains something he's enjoyed since the Gun Club's late Jeffrey Lee Pierce tuned Powers' new electric guitar to open E and taught him how to play, as well as his first song, "Sex Beat." That tuning ("I still play in open E! I find most of what I need there") and that lesson have remained the basis of a musical journey that's taken him from the Gun Club and the Cramps (where the former Brian Tristan became Kid Congo Powers), to one of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds and into the arty end of the garage-punk spectrum.

Where he's arrived is the stripped-down-yet-strange stylings of Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, named for a lyric in David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." After two LPs, 2009's Dracula Boots and Gorilla Rose two years later, the band arrives for what now seems a standard stop at SXSW promoting a new single ("Conjure Man") and a forthcoming LP (Haunted Head) for In The Red Records. All of it unleashes Powers' current Latino dadaist hipster persona. The music's raw and basic, mixing elements of garage-a-billy and Krautrock, yet filtering his heritage as a second generation Mexican-American through a decidedly warped lens.

"Yeah," Powers laughs, "I've obviously lost my mind!"

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