While Smilin' Bob Lewis and Rachel Ammons of Tyrannosaurus Chicken were occupied with setting up their foot-powered drum contraptions and plugging in a mess of guitars and fiddles, a certain giddiness in the crowd began to take root. The floor started filling up with folks double-clutching drinks and, for those of us who'd seen Tyrannosaurus Chicken before, we were most excited about all those people in the room who were about to have their first experience with the ... well, what do we call them?
We've thrown around the term "deconstructed blues party music," but that's a bit cumbersome. And it doesn't sound fun, which Tyrannosaurus Chicken most definitely is, in spades. Seeing as how their energy is pure white lightning moonshine and the energy they inspire in the crowd is right out of a rave, we tried "hickstacy" for a bit, but that's disparaging in spite of our best intentions.
So when my friend and better musical half Marshall drilled my shoulder with his fist and said "hey — I've got this! They're 'psychedelta!' " the term was instantly coined, gilded and ready to fly.
And psychedelta it was. From the Jew's harp that opened their set in the most disorienting way imaginable, to the constant four-on-the-floor porch-stomp kick-drumming, to the vocals — Lewis' blown-out, distorted hollers and Ammons' hilly Karen Dalton squeak — one thing was clear: We got shipped off to Trippytown.
But of all the thrilling features of the band, it's truly amazing how they can effortlessly balance between such oppositional forces. They're primal and progressive, foreign and familiar, abrasively gritty and technically brilliant. The last duo to have that type of thing written about them was the newly defunct White Stripes.
So what pushed Tyrannosaurus Chicken over the edge? From the judges' points of view, nothing speaks louder than the fact that their notes, at points, all turn into cuss-filled, all caps shock: Says one: "Damn son! This shit's for real!" Another: "It would take one seriously miserable son of a bitch not to love this." Yet another, in bold caps: "Who are the poor bastards that have to follow that?!"
Yep. It's really that good.
Still, big, huge, enormous ups are due to the other finalists, as well. Mandy McBryde and the Unholy Ghost brought what the judges agreed was their best gig, thanks to the band's wonderfully realized, sonically experimental take on Americana. This Holy House, the last addition to the night's line up, managed to improve on an already killer set from the night before, drawing on eclectic touchstones from Bad Brains to Muse and whipping through a daring set of spectacle and volume. Sea Nanners not only rocked but charmed the crowd all the way through a dynamic set full of wanderlust-y road music and quirky brio. These guys get exponentially better each gig. Can't wait to see what ideas the band will be running with a year from now. And finally, Mike Mullins saw his second Showcase finals in a row, leading The Year of the Tiger through a terrifically chunky, synth-stunned set of futuristic rock anxiety, replete with an overhead projector blasting hyperactive anime.
And thanks yet again to our judges for their weekly support, to Chris King, Suzon Awbrey and Maestro for being such great hosts at Stickyz and Revolution and, as always, to all of the folks who came out and supported our unbelievable local bands.
In the meantime, catch Tyrannosaurus Chicken as soon as you humanly can.