With influential ‘60s legends the Sonics and local heroes Suicide Commandos and Curtiss A & the Jerks of Fate, Saturday’s First Avenue lineup looks like a cooler-than-cool garage-rock bill that a fanatical record-store clerk might dream up. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what it is. Treehouse Records owner Mark Trehus -- who rarely dabbles in the music-booking business (running a record store is painful enough) -- put the show together after seeing the Sonics three times last year and being blown away each time.
“I couldn’t believe these guys in their 60s were as powerful as they were,” said Trehus, who first caught the Seattle area vets at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans last fall and then booked a trip to the Bay Area just to see them again in San Francisco and Oakland. “I got back to Minneapolis and just started thinking, ‘I really want people here to experience them. There’s gotta be a way to get them up here.’”
Trehus then teamed with First Ave general manager Nate Kranz on working to fly the Sonics in for the show (8 p.m. Sat., $25, click here for tickets). Suicide Commandos came into the fold because the Sonics’ manager is a big fan of theirs, Trehus said, while Curtiss A “is too often taken for granted and is about as true as rock ‘n’ roll gets.” The odd man out is third opener Charlie Pickett, another cult-loved obscure legend from Miami who is the subject of a recent anthology on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records. Pickett used to record for Twin/Tone Records in the mid-‘80s and still has local ties here, which led to him wanting to return to town “just for the chance to see and play with the Sonics,” Trehus said.
So what’s the deal with the Sonics? They were a sax- and organ-laced rock quintet that landed a regional hit in 1964 with “The Witch,” but they never garnered much national attention until decades later when bands such as the Fall, White Stripes, Flaming Lips, Hives, Japandroids and, of course, homeboys Nirvana cited their influence and/or covered their songs. Land Rover used another of their minor hits, “Have Love, Will Travel,” in a 2007 commercial. FIn the interim, frontman Gerry Roslie more or less gave up the rock ‘n’ roll life for another career but dove back in upon retirement, resulting in 2008 reunion at Seattle’s Paramount Theater and then a buzzed-about show at South by Southwest in 2009. Like the similarly big-to-a-small-contingent First Ave gig by fellow '60s cult legend Roky Erickson a few weeks ago, this will be the Sonics' first time performing in Minnesota.
“In New Orleans, they absolutely destroyed the place, and everybody was talking about them afterwards,” Trehus said. “The guys in the band will tell you they think they’re playing better now than they ever have.”
Confirming what was already obvious, Trehus gushed, “For me, it really is a dream bill.”