Swagger in the Flesh

Originally uploaded by V'ron.
You know, I haven't seen the Fleshtones in over 20 years, but I'll tell ya, they haven't changed a bit. Oh, sure, they're older: Peter Zaremba's hair isn't a brown as it used to be, Keith Streng has put on a few more miles on that face of his, but other than that, they really haven't shown their age. They're still as vital as ever, they still have the energy of teenagers, they still have the swagger of teenagers, which is why I probably felt like one all night, despite my exhaustion this week from two nights of a sick three-year-old keeping me up. God only knows why I dragged myself out or how I scraped up the energy to do it, but I'm sure glad I did.

Opening the evening for the Fleshtones was a relatively younger set of chaps from Detroit, the Hentchmen. apparently they've been around since the early 90s; somehow they slipped under my radar. I was riveted -- they are comprised of a guitar, drums, and farfisa -- no bass guitar, just a hohner bass keyboard, the kind Ray Manzarek used to play.

Hentchmen keyboardist and drummer
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
But this wasn't trippy San Francisco or Doors-like, father-of-emocore farfisa. These guys had Detroit written all over them, and that's Detroit garage -- the perfect band to open for the Fleshtones. I picked up a couple of their CDs afterwwards, the current one and a retrospective one that I later learned featured the White Stripes' Jack White on every song -- so that might be their claim to fame. However, I decided I liked them well before I knew where they were from or what notorious former members they could claim. In and of themselves, they grabbed me with hooky little guitar riffs, dangerous farfisa runs, sweaty vocals and great desperate=for-love lyrics. So, yeah, I decided I needed to get caught up with them, and bought two, count 'em, two of their CDs.

Add the Fleshtones to a growing list of bands worth being worthless at work the next morning for. I had mentioned to a friend that i was going, and he commented that he didn't think they were dangerous enough. Maybe the come off that way on record, but live is a different story. They swing, they swagger, they turn the fuzzbox on the bass. They dance around the stage, through the audience, and embrace the ferverent devotion of the few but hardcore fans who turned out on the Thursday night solstice to see them. They've been slogging it out for years, and they seem to never tire of it, and their love for the garage is genuine and contagious.

In the crowd: Buzz of Buzz's Garage, holding court. He'd done a radio interview with Zaremba earlier in the day, and we learned that there's a Fleshtones Tribute Album (with bands like the Hoodoo Gurus contributing) called (what else) "Vindicated" this fall. Zaremba seemed a bit embarassed by this, and I think I understand. It's one thing to have bands cover your songs, it's another to put together a whole slew of covers. Still, its good to see that in at least ways, this very overlooked crew of garage vets is getting their due.

Keith Streng
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Also in the crowd: Steve Whalen, who apparently knows every single Fleshtones song ever recorded, and was overjoyed to sing along for as many as he could, and even dropped and gave them 20 for "Push Up Man." Plus, the Fleshtones really worked this crowd -- at one point both Streng and the bass player took off their axes, hung them around fans' necks, and watched carefully as the smiling fans pounded away. They even involved me, your intrepid photographer in the show, playing to the camera, and dancing around me when I made it clear i wasn't some distant reporter, but a fan who happened to have a camera. And that's what I am most of the time, a fan of music who happens to have a camera, rather than a photographer who happens to turn up at shows. Then again, the Fleshtones are in that league as well: they're clearly fans of this music who happen to have musical talent (not to mention showmanship!) of their own. That's probably why they haven't changed a bit: the swagger of great garage has a way of keeping you young, a lesson that the Hentchmen are clearly taking to heart, and I have engraved on mine.


A.C. said…
Awesome recap. As usual, you make it seem like we (those not in attendence), were there. I hope they come back soon enough. Did they see these photos? Amazing! ~*)

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