Review – Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators

(Above: The Taylor Texas Corrugators captured onstage via cell phone at the Record Bar on April 7, 2010.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

In person, Greg Ginn couldn’t be more different the songs he wrote for the legendary hardcore punk band Black Flag. The primary architect of the group’s sound, Ginn’s songs were brash, aggressive and threatening. In contrast, Ginn is gentle, soft-spoken and hospitable.

Likewise, the music Ginn is currently making with the Taylor Texas Corrugators couldn’t be further removed. Black Flag’s taught bursts of violence have been replaced by extended, amorphous, improvised pieces.

The mechanics of Ginn’s recent show with the Corrugators at the Record Bar, however, were eerily similar to the rituals he performed more than two decades ago. Ginn pulled into town late Tuesday afternoon and gave a brief, free performance at the Guitar Syndicate music shop in the Crossroads district before heading to Westport for the evening gig.

The three-piece outfit hauled all their own equipment in a white panel van that showed some scars from its many treks across the continent. With only one roadie/soundman in tow, they set up and broke down all their own equipment with an efficiency born from years of routine.

Once all the amps, cords and instruments were assembled onstage, a simple rat-a-tat-tat from Sean Hutchinson’s snare signaled the start of the proper set. For the next 20 minutes, the three bobbed and weaved, trying to make sense of the monstrous sound they were creating. Gary Piazza’s guitar solos were heavily indebted to Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia, but with enough bursts of feedback and weird noises to topple any jam band tedium.

At 55 years old, Ginn was easily older than the combined ages of his two bandmates, but he was very much the bedrock of the group. Anchoring the songs on bass guitar, Ginn hasn’t lost his keen ear for melody. Time and again he tossed out a bass line begging to be fleshed out and turned into a proper song, only to be discarded for the next impulse.

As Piazza wailed and Hutchinson held the backbeat, Ginn closed his eyes and swayed back and forth in unison with Hutchinson’s backbeat. One got the feeling Ginn would be doing this regardless, and was just as happy to play for fans on the road as in a studio or rehearsal space.

Ginn was equally happy to talk with anyone who approached him. He made it a point to catch everyone’s name, listened patiently and answered thoughtfully. Sadly, there were only a handful of fans at the opening end of the Corrugators’ allotted hour at Guitar Syndicate, and about two dozen souls in the Record Bar that night.

When I asked Ginn how he hooked up with the Corrugators, at the pre-show stop at Guitar Syndicate, he shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said softly. “They’re probably into U2.” Turning to me he asked, “Do you like U2?” I confessed that I liked the band, but that their last few albums had been too similar and I had fallen away.

“Everybody likes U2,” he said with weary resignation. “I guess that’s why thousands of people turn out for Bono wherever he goes.”

Moments later, Ginn proved his disdain for the group when Hutchison threatened to start playing “Where the Streets Have No Name” one night during a show. “Is that one of their songs?” Ginn asked. “I don’t even know what that is.”

Ginn could be forgiven – even respected – for not knowing one of U2’s biggest songs. When that single broke in the summer of 1987 he was on the tour, reasserting himself after the recent demise of Black Flag. The road, the van, the do-it-yourself ethos weren’t just part of Ginn’s punk persona; they are the core of who he is.

The night ended as spontaneously as it began. After three songs and 45 minutes, Ginn thanked the sparse Record Bar crowd for coming out, and started packing up. It wouldn’t be long before the gear was hauled out and Ginn was back home, back in the van.

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Mount Righteous invade KC

(Above: Mount Righteous play in the street back in 2008 when they had a guitarist in the lineup.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

There must be something in the water down in Dallas/Fort Worth. After spawning the uber-upbeat indie rock choir the Polyphonic Spree and singer-songwriter St. Vincent the town presents yet another indie band from the fringes: Mount Righteous.

The exuberant nine-piece collective sounds like a cross between John Phillips Sousa and the Shins. The unique sound is intentional, said founder and drummer Joey Kendall.

“We knew since we were such a big band, we wanted to be able to play without a PA,” Kendall said. “Since we weren’t going to be using mics and amps, we got a hold of brass instruments.”

The normal lineup of bass/guitar/drum was thrown overboard for brass, woodwinds, accordion, melodica and bells. Adding further distinction to their sound, everyone in the band sings in unison.

“We do that so we don’t have to use mics, but everyone can still hear us,” Kendall said. “That said, we just wrapped up recording our second album and there are some solo vocals on there. In concert we’ll use megaphones for that part.”

Mount Righteous’ off-the-grid approach means the band can literally play at the drop of a hat. Since forming in 2007, they’ve crashed SXSW by parading in the street, played in a D/FW metroplex, and marched just outside of Mexico at Borderfest.

“We want to be prepared to rely only on ourselves,” Kendall said. “There’s a feeling of freedom that comes with knowing we can play whenever and wherever.”

On Saturday, Mount Righteous will bring their show to The Brick in Kansas City.

“This is our second visit to Kansa City,” Kendall said recalling the band’s May, 2008, performance. “There’s a good vibe to the Brick. Since we book our own tours, we look to places that have already booked us. We met some cool people there last time and are looking forward to seeing them again and hopefully make some more friends.”

When Kendall started corralling members for his new project several years ago everyone had standing obligations to their own bands. Eventually, though, Mount Righteous started taking priority.

“I’ve always viewed this as my main focus,” Kendall said. “But it took several years of work for the band to be worth doing full-time for everyone anyway. You need a lot of shows and a couple records under your belt before you know what you’ve got.”

Unlike the Polyphonic Spree, Mount Righteous is a true collective, with everyone in the band contributing lyric and song ideas. Although some musicians might feel constrained with such an unusual array of instruments, Kendall feels relieved.

“I think if we used the standard, traditional guitar lineup it would be overwhelming. There are so many ways you can write a song on guitar,” Kendall said. “Whereas there are hardly any pop songs written with these instruments.”

Kendall concedes that its unusual that so many unconventional bands have come from his neck of the woods, but doesn’t think Mount Righteous isn’t doing anything others aren’t.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in community collective bands,” Kendall said. “There were bands like that in Grapevine (Texas, the band’s hometown) even before Polyphonic Spree. What we’re doing isn’t that new of an idea. We just might be better at getting things organized and going on tour.”

The show: Mount Righteous go onstage at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21 at The Brick, 1727 McGee. Visit http://www.thebrickkcmo.com/ for ticket prices and further information.