Texas Terri

Lone star and band of indie punks crash Trash Blast 3

By somehow sidestepping cheap Wendy O. Williams connect-the-dot punk-rock jive, the black electrical tape over the shouter's nipples worked. The trashy and busted-up way in which she carried herself across the stage, too, lurking, at once stiff and sinuous, was equal parts Iggy, peepshow barker and Nazi femme dom. Her lithesome form, a physical manifestation of a tweaked yet unspecified sexuality, had those in possession of penises boning up front and center, happy to be recipients of her random mizzles of spit and sweat. All the while, she was spouting lyrics like, "It's not that hard to get on S.S.I. if you're someone like me," with enough vinegar piss to make L7 look like warm and fuzzy koala cubs.

By the end of the set, two small strips of electrical tape and sheets of glossy sweat were all the singer had on. And yes, she was pale, tatted and pierced as well -- as per rock 'n' roll -- but without all the self-adoring carefulness too common on pop star badasses like, say, Courtney Love. And as shoddy with three chords as the band was, it had an unstudied grace, hinting at the same kind of lifelong obsession that makes early Iggy or pre-flab Ramones so damn fascinating.

That was the first time I saw Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones. This was a few years ago at Bar Deluxe, a small, low-culture dig in Hollywood. The guttural five-piece band played in the woozy, smoked-filled room upstairs. It was too cramped, so you couldn't move. The collective motion of the mostly male ex-surfer-boy/punk throng was making the floor heave like lazy tremors.

It's no surprise Texas Terri calls her boys the Stiff Ones.
Ward Boult
It's no surprise Texas Terri calls her boys the Stiff Ones.

Here's a band that understood rock 'n' roll down to its essentials, where meaning is unclouded by things like major-label jackboot or Lilith Fair moralizing or specious rap by white boys who rage bad metal. The Stiff Ones -- two guitars, bass, drummer -- are considerably bigger than their simple arrangement of chords and volume, posturing and venues, bigger than any show propped up with truckloads of staging gear, pomp and groupie-schtupping roadies. When a band gets it right, you can always tell. There's that purpose, that point, that mayhem and humor that inspire open-mouthed gazes and hasty exits from the uninitiated, and stares of fanatical fondness from the fans.

So writing Texas Terri off as just another dye-job chick fronting a SoCal yawny punk band would have been as misguided as a presumption that Fred Durst is a lean, dynamic performer and a skilled lyricist. I am glad I stuck around and got drunk. By the end of the night, I figured Texas Terri was as close to the rock 'n' roll Real Deal as I was gonna get, at least that night.

Over the phone from her home in Hollywood where she just rose from a nap, Texas Terri Laird sounds suitably tired. I've seen her band a half-dozen times over the past few years, so I half expected her at any moment to say something like, "That 30-day speed jag was nothin', dude. It was just them fuckers in county that did me in, man."

Hardly. Laird and her band had just returned the night before from a mini-tour of the Northwest. And given that her work as a confrontational front person of a loud punk-rock band is one that takes a brutal physical toll, of course the girl is beat.

"I'm pretty exhausted, sorry," she says, sliding slowly into semi-alert mode. "It's all so fucking hard, at times. I don't like being in a band anymore when you gotta come home and work and stuff."

She's not the least bit enthused about the idea of muscling up some work, particularly after this recent string of tour dates that were separated by drives of endless distances in a cramped van with a bunch of punk-rock dudes. So to cover her ass when not gigging, touring or dealing with all band matters, Laird is an able hairdresser, and offers bargain haircuts from the cozy chair in the middle of her kitchen. She's also an applied actress, showing up in bit parts on television and in movies.

Laird just completed a TV commercial for a Georgia company that manufactures a gizmo that ensures kids a Disneylike cleanliness when surfing the Net. Her character in the commercial differed little from her parts in the past, not surprising given her reedy appearance and alarming panic-red hair.

"I played a ticket person at one of those triple-X moviehouses," she cackles. "So it was about hookers and junkies and strippers and all these bad elements. But I totally agree with that. When I was a kid, I had to actually look hard for smut, and I am kinda glad that the stuff wasn't on my fingertips." She pauses and adds, laughing, "It's really just keeping children away from people like me."

But day labor is a compulsory subplot for any band member whose records have nothing to do with one of eight colossal corporations. Generally, cash advances for living expenses are reserved for bands that can sate market research, showing commensurate product sales potential with rapacious teens in far-off lands known as Ohio. In other words, if you are a band or songwriter in want of large fiscal return, then on your knees 'cause you are at the mercy of rich unyielding teenagers. That is, unless you are on an indie label. In which case, go look for a job.

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