In the 1950s, confirmed surf-brat Dick Dale and his band the Del-Tones pioneered a brand-new rock-and-roll sound. It was hard, fast, and drenched in reverb, featuring hot horn sections, flamenco-style guitar licks, and big Gene Krupainspired percussion. It was tribal, but modern, and quite unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. The sound came to be known as surf rock, and Dick Dale was the inventor and unquestioned king of the surf guitar. Known for beating his guitars to death, Dale was tapped by Leo Fender to test a new guitar he had been working on called the Fender Stratocaster. The assumption was if this newfangled ax could survive the California wild man, it must be a sturdy guitar. Of course, the now-mythical Stratocaster survived just fine, but Dale's Fender amps weren't so lucky. He blew them up night after night. They would burst into flames, or so legend has it. Dale may have begun his career as a rebel, but the Del-Tones' instrumental style was quickly absorbed into pop culture as the definitive sound of Southern California. He even composed original music for Disneyland's famous Space Mountain roller coaster. Dale's career got a huge boost in the '90s when Quentin Tarantino used Dale's signature tune "Miserlou" as the theme to Pulp Fiction. You can catch the man who started it all on Saturday, November 22nd, at the Hi-Tone CafÇ. Memphis blues rock stars The Porch Ghouls (who will soon be out touring with Aerosmith and Kiss) open the show.
It always sounds trite when you call somebody "an original," but when you're talking about the eclectic Michelle Shocked there just aren't many alternatives. She grew up rootless, a military step-brat from East Texas who, at age 16, fled her oppressively Mormon home. She ran to California where, in the mid-'80s, she took up with the burgeoning hardcore scene and became active in leftist politics. Her music shifted gears from rock to folk, with elements of the blues, traditional country, and Texas swing. Her American breakthrough record, Short Sharp Shocked, was a veritable stew of Shocked's disparate influences. It didn't sound like anything else making the rounds in 1988. Through the years, Shocked has stuck to her guns, fighting the bastards of the recording industry, blending music and politics along the way. Check her out when she plays Newby's on Friday, November 21st. Word has it that her backing/opening band for this tour is a hot, traditional country outfit in the spirit of Webb Pierce. Sounds good to me. -- Chris Davis
No great fan of arena-rock, even when it's good, I wouldn't cross the street to see Matchbox Twenty, who seem to be this generation's Journey --middle-of-the-road rock that moves units without moving much of anything else. But I know how pop music works well enough to recognize that Rob Thomas is so talented at what he does that he'll still be afflicting us decades down the road. So, if you happen to be heading down to The Pyramid Sunday, November 23rd, make sure you show up early to see Thomas & Co.'s opener, East Coast power-poppers Fountains of Wayne, longtime cult-heroes who have finally hit the big time with their smash "Stacy's Mom," an ace single with a sly poignancy that's pretty much ruined by the song's popular but way-too-snarky video. But the band's fine new album, Welcome Interstate Managers, offers a lot more than just "Stacy's Mom," including such sharp character sketches as "Bright Future in Sales," about a young striver going through the motions with a Whiskey Sour crutch, and "Hackensack," a sad, beautiful little lament from a hometown boy pining for a childhood crush who made it big. I wish they were headlining their own show at someplace like the New Daisy or the Lounge, but you take what you can get.
Elsewhere in town this week, Commercial Appeal music writer Bill Ellis, under his William Lee Ellis guise, will be joined by his CA predecessor, Larry Nager, at Otherlands Coffee Bar Saturday, November 22nd, for a record-release party for Ellis' latest collection of blues/folk/roots music, Conqueroo, released earlier this year on the locally connected Yellow Dog label. The show is a make-up date for an earlier show that got canceled after July's windstorm.
Also, local label/collective Makeshift Music will sponsor a showcase at Young Avenue Deli Wednesday, November 26th, in advance of the label's third sampler CD, which will be released later this month. Appearing at Wednesday's show are Cory Branan, Blair Combest, and The Glass.