How long has it been since a band has not only hit Burque but hit it over the head, taken it hapless prisoner in a trashed garage and subjected its collective ears to hip-swivel rock? Fifteen years and change I’d say, harking back to the lo-fi ruckus of The Drags when it was acceptable to not only rock but to roll. The Scrams haven’t forgotten that a band can maintain dance-worthy melody while playing as loose as a pair of two dollar shoes. No costumes, no front, no shtick but a pure adrenaline injection to your spinal cortex that dares your feet to stay still. You can see it happen live this Saturday on a triple-threat bill at Burt’s.
Free from the tyranny of bass guitar, The Scrams nonetheless plays it steady and (just barely) in control. Drummer N8 Daly keeps a solid thump like your neighbors pounding on the wall when you’re spinning The Stooges too loud at 3 a.m. The grubby guitar riffs of Juan Carlos Rodriguez are to-the-point without needless flourish. Organist Dan Eiland seizes the melody and holds it on a short leash. Singer Joe Cardillo wanders as far as the microphone cord will allow, pacing the floor like an agitated ninth-grader bursting with undirected energy and rock and roll inspiration.
The Scrams haven’t jumped on any garage bandwagon. On the contrary, these guys play it like they mean it even if they’re unsure of what they mean. That’s the true spirit of rock and roll. When asked what he’s rebelling against in the seminal bad biker boy movie The Wild One, Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) answers with the immortal words, “Whaddya got?” The Scrams are rebelling against musical mediocrity and coming up the winners.
Despite countless lineup changes The Dirty Novels, also playing Saturday, continues to mine the rock and soul vaults, layering on dashes of glam and pop like a steaming New Mexico combination plate smothered with red and green chile. The latest incarnation features Pablo Novelas and Brian Keith providing power chord tremolo and soulful vocals while new kid on the drum stool Johnny H. wallops his kit with scarcely contained enthusiasm. And this just in—former Novels drummer Goiio Villalobos is now manning a bass. This quartet clicks with a raucous fervor unmatched since the original combo formed almost 10 years ago.
Also on the bill, Broken Water drapes dreampop vocals reminiscent of ’90s Brit shoegazer Lush with note-bending reverb fuzz and an ominous death-march beat. En route to SXSW, the Olympia, Wash., band is playing three dates in our state and I couldn’t be happier about it. Besides occasional visits from Xiu Xiu, few truly indie Northwest bands drop in on us much anymore. Broken Water also plays Santa Fe on Sunday night at Corazón with Venus Bogardus, LOW ON HIGH and Rainbow Arabia as part of the SxSF Transit Music Festival, and Monday in Las Cruces at a venue to be announced.
The band members have their talented hands full with a roster of other projects. Besides pulling bass duty with Broken Water, Abigail Ingram plays with Olympia’s moody Congratulations. Guitarist Jon Hanna and drummer Kanako Wynkoop are featured in laid-back grunge punk quartet Sisters. Wynkoop also gigs with Liarbird, which is featured on the celebrated Kill Rock Stars label (which bestowed the likes of Bikini Kill on us fortunates). As if that weren’t enough, Kanako is an original organizer of fem-friendly Ladyfest, the global musical/vocal/visual festival of uncompromising vision. Let’s hope the Northwest and Southwest reopen the touring path that was once more heavily trodden.