A show last Wednesday at One Eyed Jack’s felt like a master-class lesson in Garage Rock 101 — proving that all you need to start a party are a guitar, a bass, and a set of drums, the bands at hand assumed simple set ups, showing how less is more when it’s executed in talented hands. And while every band spun out into wildly different sonic territories, a shared love of good old fashioned rock and roll seemed to be the driving force of the night.
New Orleans’ own Native America got things started with a tight set of their raw garage rock. Since releasing their latest album, Grown Up Wrong, back in November, the young band has been popping up around town for excellent shows that have earned them tons of new fans. Guitarist and singer Ross Farbe has been a fixture on the local rock scene for years as a member of Sun Hotel, giving him the skills and experience to push Native America in directions that few bands can go. On record the band nestles deeply in a bed of heavy reverb, giving the songs a vintage sound that allows for explorations of sound and space within the short rock songs. On stage, the effects are toned down and the band delivers a more straightforward sound that’s closer to a surf rock band opening for The Ramones. In both contexts Farbe’s confident tenor keeps the mood dreamy even when the guitar gets crunchy and the drums explosive.
The ladies of Ex Hex only formed as a band last year, but their polished songs and effortless interplay are enough to make one assume they’ve been doing this together since high school. Classic rock with a punk swagger, Ex Hex know when to keep the songs short and when to shoot into the stratosphere with a euphoric guitar solo. Frontwoman Mary Timony, best known for playing with former members of Sleater-Kinney in the short lived Wild Flag, has been grinding away as a career musician since the early 90s. In Ex Hex she has finally found the perfect band to showcase her heartfelt songs with the chops to follow her wherever she goes.
The energy in the room was palpable as King Tuff’s drummer took the stage and pounded out a primal beat. When King Tuff appeared in his sequined jacket and matching guitar the crowd lost it and began an intense mosh pit that never let up over the course of the hour long set. King Tuff is a bizarre guitar wizard, with the look and sound of an alien that has only heard 70s hard rock and is now trying to pass as a regular human. It’s easy to label Tuff’s sound as “throwback,” but the riff rock that he plays so well feels fresh and modern thanks to his outsized persona and sense of humor. It takes a certain charm to say “This next one is a love song to my smoke machine” with a straight face and then blast into full on boogie-rock mode while a crowd-surfing gorilla leaps from the stage.
Early in the evening, Tuff’s bassist commented about how the last time the band played One Eyed Jack’s there were barely ten people in the crowd. This time around, the room was packed, with bodies flying through the air and fervent fans singing along amidst the controlled chaos. Rock music will never be the most popular genre of music in New Orleans, but the enthusiasm of the crowd at Jack’s last week proved that rock and roll is definitely alive and well here in the Crescent City.