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Seeds of the surreal 

by Mike Corrigan


Do the Seeds mean anything to you? Does the name SKY SAXON conjure up any acid visions? Is Web of Sound a permanent fixture in your '60s garage-psych record shrine? If you answered "yeah, man" to any of the above questions, listen up. Sky "Sunlight" Saxon (as the former leader of the Seeds is now known) will be surfacing at Boomerang's this Saturday night. Local roots rockers the Panics will open the show.


With limited musical ability and songs that centered almost exclusively on sex and drugs, the Seeds nevertheless went on to carve out a respectable music career in the latter 1960s -- one that included the hits "Pushin' Too Hard," "I Can't Seem To Make You Mine" and "Mr Farmer." ("Mr Farmer" was recently featured in the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous.)


Along with a handful of other rough, young, one-hit wonder bands such as the Count Five, the Mysterians and the Shadows of Night, the Seeds helped define the garage rock sound. This primitive, driving form of rock would heavily influence American proto-punk bands of the early '70s, such as the MC5, the Stooges and the New York Dolls. When the Ramones burst on the scene around 1974 and gave punk and new wave its marching orders, it was with the spirit of the Saxon snarling in their subconscious. The Seeds would eventually succumb to the murk of psychedelic excess, but for a brief moment, they were a great example of a late '60s band that embodied the original tenets of rock 'n' roll.


Immediately after the breakup of the Seeds in late 1969, Saxon kept his feet wet in music fronting several bands and releasing various singles. But things were getting weird fast. His heavy hallucinogen use seemed to be taking its toll. As the '70s progressed, he became increasingly disconnected from the realities of Western culture, eventually moving to Hawaii, adopting the Sky "Sunlight" Saxon moniker and living the reclusive life of a quasi-holy man. Every now and then, he'd resurface and release an album of new material before disappearing again into the mystic haze.


As Seeds accolades started piling up in the post-punk era, Saxon again found himself in demand. In 1989, he and the original Seeds teamed up for a slot on the Psychedelic Summer of Love tour with the Music Machine, Love and Big Brother & amp; The Holding Co.


What should you expect from Saturday night's show? Beats me, though I think you can definitely look forward to a surreal experience. As well as an opportunity for you garage punk fans to pay your respects.





Sky Saxon and his band play with the Panics opening the show at Boomerang's on Saturday, April 28, at 9 pm. Tickets: $10. Call: 325-1914.





The Return of Mountain Con


Last time they came through Spokane, MOUNTAIN CON's lead vocalist James Nugent described his group as a bunch of "poor hayseeds with dreams." But since then, the Seattle-based sextet of transplanted Missoulians has made some headway. At least in their adopted hometown, where jaded scenesters and members of the local media were initially hesitant to give these guys a break. They'll be in Spokane Friday night at Boomerang's.


"I think they're starting to warm up to us," says Nugent of the Seattle rock press. "They're like, 'Well, they haven't gone away yet.' "


Maybe the fatefully hip in the Emerald City are finally coming around to Mountain Con's strange brew of urban rhythms, electronica, harmonica, acoustic guitar and lap steel (think honky-tonk-infused Beck reading Walt Whitman). The band's slightly daring concoction has always done well amongst the unselfconscious masses, but now...


"We're starting to get a lot of people coming to the shows in Seattle that I've never met before," says Nugent. "It's the craziest thing ever. I almost freaked out the last time I was on stage there. I got up there and was thinking, who are these people?"


The band -- including Nugent, organist Ben Erickson, bassist Pierre Ferguson, drummer Mike Watt, steel guitarist Eric Swede and sample maestro Erik Blood -- is fresh from its second appearance at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.


"The actual show went really good," says Nugent. "That was definitely the highlight of that tour. Lots of business folks were really impressed," he says slowly over-enunciating the words business and folks. "That's all South by Southwest is. Just a big, you know, convention."


Yeah, but those "business folks," as distasteful as they can be at times, are the ones with the keys to the kingdom. Indie rock is a game. The trick for a young band is to be able to sift through the chaff to get to the people who can actually help you. And not get screwed in the process.


"In L.A. it's the very worst. Everybody has got their fingers in something down there. Even if they do like you, it's like, 'Oh I'm a representative from Virgin Records and blah blah blah.' Well, that's great, but what does this mean to me? You know -- OK, pay for my hotel room."


At this point in the conversation, I was beginning to get the feeling that the business end of the rock and roll lifestyle isn't exactly what these guys signed up for. Just how "hands on" are they?


"We probably should deal with it more," Nugent admits. "Because a lot of times, we don't even know what's going on within our own ranks. But every time we get involved, it's usually a disaster. There's some good people there, but there's also some real snakes. I learned that from the moment I started playing when I was 16 when the bar in Missoula didn't pay us. It goes from the bottom to the top. It's kind of scandalous business. But, oh well. You just hope that the people working for you are doing the best they can. I think they are."


In August, the band starts work on its follow-up to last year's refreshingly bent and stylistically schizophrenic debut on Acid Blues Records, The MC Stands For Revolution. Once again, they'll team up with Tom Rothrock (who's worked with Beck, Elliot Smith and R.L. Burnside). On the last album, Rothrock mixed and co-produced the recordings Mountain Con had made themselves -- in their garage.


"There's only so much you can do there," says Nugent about the band's home recording experience.


This time, the group will put themselves completely in Rothrock's capable hands -- from basic tracks all the way to the sheen of the final mix.


"We're starting to send demos back and forth right now, and then in August we're going to head down to the Bong Load studios for three weeks. Three weeks! That's an amazing amount of time to be in the studio for a band as broke as we are."


Nugent adds that fans should look for the new album sometime in the fall.


"Or January," he says, "depending on what the business folks think is best."





Mountain Con plays with the Bucket Riders and the Baseboard Heaters at Boomerang's on Friday, April 27, at 9 pm. Tickets: $5. Call: 994-7476.





History in the making


HOLD EVERYTHING. As I type these words, the first punk band from China ever to play outside of Beijing is on its way to Spokane right now for a Friday night show at the Rocket Coffeehouse. That's right. The trio known as REFLECTOR is one of only a handful of punk bands in China, and no Chinese punk band has ever been allowed to play to the outside world.


Through an unbelievable twist of fate, Reflector was granted a one-month visa and is planning to play as many shows in the U.S. as time will allow. The show at the Rocket will be the band's world debut. Wow! Stay tuned for information on more Reflector shows in our area in the coming weeks. Hey ho. Let's go!





Reflector plays at the Rocket Coffeehouse on Friday, April 27, at 9 pm. Cover: $3. Call: 835-3647.
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