Local Wire

The Road Goes On Forever -- Or Until Quartzsite

Long before becoming a Hollywood lothario and Dreamworks Records executive, Robbie Robertson was rock 'n' roll hipster, Dylan confidante and guitarist for The Band. Those familiar with Mr. Robertson will also remember his turn as a pouty philosopher and unmitigated ham in director Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz -- a star-studded farewell concert and documentary about the group. Though Scorsese spent most of the film lobbing softballs at the guitarist (a sin far greater than Scorsese's odious New York, New York and one for which both would be lampooned viciously in Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap -- lick my love pump, anyone?), toward the end of the film, Robertson does offer a worthy nugget about the dangers of "the road."

Expounding upon how the perils of touring have claimed the lives of so many of rock's icons, Robertson notes: "The road has taken a lot of the greats. Buddy, Otis, Jimi, Janis . . . Elvis." Hyperbolic to be sure, but an observation with some truth to it -- as the demon blacktop almost claimed a trio of our own local notables, East Valley punks the Peeps.

Last week the female three-chord wonders were heading west on I-10 for a weekend's worth of Golden State gigs when they approached Quartzsite. As they passed the city limits, their van blew out a pair of tires while traveling in excess of 80 miles an hour. The impact of the blowout sent the vehicle into a 180-degree tailspin, careening down the freeway backward. In what would be the first of several lucky circumstances, there were no other cars on the road behind them. Then, just as it seemed the van was losing its balance and getting ready to tip, it stopped by crashing into the freeway guardrail, hitting the structure with such force that all of the vehicle's windows shattered. Miraculously, the ladies sustained only minor injuries; even more amazing is that the guardrail that had saved the van from going into a potentially fatal rollover had just started a few feet earlier.

While their bodies escaped relatively unscathed, the ladies' psyches weren't so spared. Understandably shaken by their near-death experience, they adjourned to the Quartzsite McDonald's, where they spent the rest of the afternoon spiking their Cokes with bourbon in an effort to settle their nerves until family, friends and a tow truck arrived. In a display of "show must go on" bravado, the Peeps dutifully returned home, borrowed another van and hit the road again, performing at a pair of remaining dates on the mini-tour.

Mea culpa, Vince: Bash & Pop erred. In last week's column about South by Southwest ("Austintatious," March 23), we misidentified Van Buren Wheels singer Vince Bochini as "Vic." The darndest thing about it is that he actually looks like a Vince rather than a Vic, and in no way was the unintended slight meant to suggest that the singer conjures up images of other well-known Vics (i.e. Tayback, Damone, Morrow). Bash & Pop can only assume that the error was the result of some temporary brain damage brought on by an excess of Shiner Bock. We sincerely apologize.

Hearts of Darkness: There's an amazing moment on Deadbolt's 1998 record Zulu Death Mask. During the album's bonus track, a cut called "Crime Scene," singer Harley Davidson assumes the role of a hardened police photographer, weary and sick of the inhumane violence he must view on a daily basis. It's a level of pathos and sincerity unlike anything on a Deadbolt record -- until he explains that the female victim laying before him suffered her fate in a most ignominious fashion -- being crushed to death by a pile of Liberace albums.

No one familiar with the band's m.o. would've been suckered by the seemingly earnest turn. Like everything in the Deadbolt canon, the song is a tongue-in-cheek delivery replete with the fantastic levels of humor, gore and melodrama for which the band is known.

The San Diego-based quartet and self-described "voodoobilly" pioneers have managed to win popular and somewhat surprising critical acclaim for a series of theatrical concept albums whose inspiration range from greasy assassins and Great White Hunter B-movies to their new gear-jamming zombie opus, Voodoo Trucker.

Doing justice to the band's style on paper is futile, though New Times contributor Dave Clifford may have nailed it when he suggested that if ontological prankster Anton LaVey had dubbed his own deadpan cynical vocal delivery onto tapes lifted from a drunken Link Wray recording session, the result would sound curiously similar to Deadbolt.

From the understated surf guitars to the hilarious bolts that come seemingly from left field (check the oh-so-fey coda on the Voodoo opener "Billy's Dead"), the group has fashioned a decidedly un-P.C. body of work. Their material takes aim at everything from snack-cake mascots ("Burn, Lil' Debby, Burn") to bisexual puppet-show merchants ("Swahili Bob"). A personal favorite of ours is Zulu's unsparing "Watongo," the tale of a voodoo priest who goes on a hippie-killing spree: "He sees that hippie begging on the street/A smelly, dirty hippie/He's on Haight Street/One day he'll turn around/Watongo will be there/Holding a hippie's severed head by the hair."

Of local note, Davidson has several ties to the Valley. His mother -- yes, even the high priest of body-count rock has parents -- is a Scottsdale resident. Davidson himself called Phoenix home for several years in the late '80s.

Looking like extras from a Russ Meyer biker flick, the group stages live shows that feature a meaty mix of reverb-drenched music and detailed imagery, down to the band members' pompadours, sunglasses and toothpicks crammed in the sides of their mouths.

The band's stone-faced demeanor does little to calm their audiences. Deadbolt crowds are notoriously emphatic, sometimes too much for their own good -- as the overzealous mohawked punk who got a mouthful of Davidson boot at last December's Green Room show can attest.

Davidson has grown accustomed to the overenthusiasm. "It's kind of like people get bottled up for a while and wait for us to come to town and then they let it all loose," he notes with a chuckle, from his San Diego home.

Voodoo Trucker, Deadbolt's fifth album for their hometown Cargo Records label, continues the trend of theme pieces. Davidson says the group managed to pull off an authentic truckin' vibe by "drinking a bunch of Pabst's Blue Ribbon, smoking a lot of cigarettes and listening to C.W. McCall and Red Simpson records before we went into the studio."

"When you put out six albums, you could be like Sting and talk about the rain forest and about your inner peace. But I don't want to talk about that shit," says Davidson. "We like to take the listener on a journey."

That journey may next take Deadbolt fans into the darkest reaches of the Caribbean soul, as one possible premise for a Voodoo follow-up is what Davidson describes as a "creepy calypso album," inspired by Robert Mitchum's infamous 1957 platter, Calypso Is Like So.

"Yeah, I was in this bar in Austin and they had the record on the jukebox," says Davidson. "Nobody was around, so I just sat down, had a beer and played the thing all the way through and it was funny as shit. So we might do something like that or maybe a phony prison album -- like a fake Johnny Cash at San Quentin."

Whatever the long-term future holds for the self-proclaimed "scariest band in the world," Deadbolt will be making a return to our fair city next week, performing a Wednesday Nita's Hideaway set. Opening the show will be Grave Danger -- the scariest band in Maricopa County, especially if its members have been drinking. No doubt this bill has all the makings for some intense mid-week debauchery. Bash & Pop strongly urges all parents to lock up their children.

Deadbolt is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, April 5, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with Grave Danger. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: [email protected]

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr