The Road More Traveled
It alludes no one. It is inescapable and undeniable. It does not bargain. You, I and everyone we know will die. To fear it is the essence of being human. It is fear of the unknown. As humans we reconcile that fear by applying various concepts and rational to explain what it is to die but the fact remains, we do not and as of yet can not know. If we are fortunate aging is the process we follow to death. It is a road that becomes more dilapidated and pot hole ridden as we follow it. It is also a road that if our thinking is right we relish and appreciate with each passing mile. To me there is nothing that smacks of mortality more than the aging rock star. The starkness of seeing a figure who personified your youth grow old and shitty speaks for itself. Its a reminder of what is waiting. Which is what makes last Thursdays epic performances by Austin’s noise rock pioneers Scratch Acid so incredibly fucking inspiring.
Scratch Acid was a band that received minimal attention outside of Austin during their first incarnation. Three sporadic releases between 82′-87′ went basically unnoticed and probably would have stayed that way if not for the success that its members had beyond the bands break up. Specifically David Yow’s and bassist David WM Sim’s second band, The Jesus Lizard, is highly regarded for their recorded work and considered by many (myself included) one of the best live bands on the planet through the 90’s so interest in Scratch Acid naturally grew. Kurt Cobain citing them as a major influence certainly didn’t hurt either. When they announced a 3 date mini-tour in 2006 surrounding Touch & Go’s 25th Anniversary shindig interest was exceedingly high and the reviews of their performances in Chicago, Austin and Seattle were overwhelmingly positive. Then in 2008 Jesus Lizard reformed to play a run of Euro and US dates including ATP, Pitchfork and FFF Fest that only bolstered their legendary status as a live act and sparked interest in another Scratch Acid reunion and proper tour. It was earlier this year when SA’s drummer Rey Washam posted a set of dates on his Facebook page that included Dallas, Austin and Houston. There were no venues announced on the post and within a few days the post vanished. Months passed and finally the official announcement was made. Scratch Acid in Dallas at Trees, motherfucker.
I quickly bought up a ticket and I waited, telling anyone who would listen of the fury that soon would unleash itself on our fair city. Then on the Tuesday, before the Dallas date, I went to jail. Yeah, I’m an idiot. I didn’t pay my traffic tickets and they threw me in the clink where an arch criminal like myself belongs. Now I’m no stranger to jail. I’ve been before and I can deal but being in jail while wrestling with the possibility of missing a band that you have waited to see for 20 years is pretty much torture. I’m not ashamed to admit I did a lot of praying. Thing is that jail sucks for sure but in a way its kinda good for the soul. Gets your mind right with a strong lesson of how good you actually got it if you know what I mean. The feeling of getting out is great. The feeling of getting out and knowing you’ll be at Scratch Acid concert with some of your best friends within a matter of hours is on par with booty rocketing a half dozen pills of high grade ecstasy.
Night of the show I went down with a few buddies and my sister. Familiar old school faces everywhere, high fives (bring it back) and hugs all around. Crowd was good and thick but not sardined in at all so in other words, perfect. After grabbing a beer we adjourned to the patio for a smoke and after a short while the first guitar chord rang out. We rushed back in as the boys were taking the stage and strapping in. They are little fatter, a little grayer and a bit balder for sure but they simply could not have been any better. Rey Washam an Austin legend after playing with everyone from The Big Boys to The Didjits to Helios Creed to Ministry absolutely destroyed as Sims laid down his patented, intensely taut, low end rumble. Guitarist Brett Bradford’s angular and metallic playing style provided the perfect accompaniment. The band was ridiculously tight, the sound was dialed oh so perfectly as they were recording the session for an anticipated live release. They were all so god damned good but there was no denying who the conductor was on this evening.
David Yow is a light. The man is a sneering, spitting, sweaty titan of life. A vicious, snarling lunatic shrieking and moaning through the walls of his padded asylum. At 51 he embodies the sound of his band with such fury and intensity that it is truly something to behold. Out shining “front” men half his age to the point they would wilt like a hothouse daisy in his very presence. Switching between his in-song mad-man persona and your favorite uncle in between he raged through basically every song SA recorded in their brief career. I have seen Yow perform with Jesus Lizard and now Scratch Acid many times over the last few decades and age has not diminished him in the slightest and in fact he is as good as he’s ever been. He says he is through, hanging it up, no more tours. If he is, he is going out at the peak of his powers. Of course I hope it isn’t true. If it is he leaves me knowing this: It isn’t about how far you’ve gotten or the condition of the road you’re on. Its about enjoying that wonderful view and squeezing every last drop of life you can out the trip there.