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A Sonic boom at First Avenue

  • Blog Post by: Tim Campbell
  • March 3, 2014 - 1:10 PM

 

The Sonics at First Avenue Saturday (photos by Tim Campbell)

For garage rock lovers and vintage vinyl crate diggers, it was a night of "Nuggets" and Big Hits From Mid America" -- not surprising, since the ringleader runs one of the Twin Cities' landmark record shops.

Mark Trehus, owner of Treehouse Records (nee Oarfolkjokeopus), teamed up with First Avenue to present Tacoma, Wash., '60s legends the Sonics in concert Saturday night on a bill with Twin Cities punk-rock pioneers the Suicide Commandos and Curtiss A (with his superb but seldom-seen Jerks of Fate), plus a ringer from south Florida, roots-rocker Charlie Pickett.

Pickett, who recorded an album here in 1986 for the Twin/Tone label (produced by Commando Chris Osgood), hasn't played the Twin Cities in decades. Let's hope he becomes a regular again -- the Turf Club would be perfect. His set climaxed with a cameo from old pal Bill Batson of the Hypstrz/Mighty Mofos on a roaring cover of the Flaming Groovies' "Slow Death" -- which also served as a tantalizing teaser to a May 11 double bill (at the Turf) pairing the Groovies and Mofos.

Not to be outdone, the Commandos brought out Curtiss A to reprise their 1978 collaboration on "Land of the Free" (released under the name "Buzz Barker and the Atomic Bums" on Twin/Tone's "Big Hits of Mid-America Volume Three," as a few dozen of the record geeks in attendance Saturday would no doubt be pleased to inform you at considerable length).

Could headliners the Sonics -- making their Twin Cities debut 50 years after scoring a minor hit with "The Witch" -- measure up to the buzz they've built since reuniting in 2008? They did, and more, rocking out in black dad jeans that belied their cred as punk-rock progenitors for the likes of the White Stripes and Cramps.

While rooted in 1950s-60s R&B, especially Little Richard -- screamed authoritatively by bassist Freddie Dennis -- the quintet brought a Stooges-like grind to its own songs like "Have Love Will Travel" (copped by the Hives for their hit "Main Offender") and set-closer "Louie Louie." You might think you'd never need to hear that song again, but the Sonics took it to "Fun House" territory via the tough guitar licks of Larry Parypa, abetted by fellow original members Gerry Roslie (organ and lead vocals) and saxman Rob Lind, and backbeat-slamming drummer Dusty Watson.

Click here to see a gallery of photos from the show.

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