Probably the most high-profile Minnesota-connected surf-rock project since the Trashmen – not saying a whole lot, admittedly – St. Paul-bred noise-rock shredders the Blind Shake hit the road last week with “Swami” John Reis, leader of the cult-loved Southern Cali hot-rod punk band Rocket From the Crypt. The local trio made an entire album of wildly tubular, sometimes gorgeously intricate surf-riffing with Reis. Titled “Modern Surf Classics,” it was issued last month on Reis’ label in San Diego, where their tour landed last week.
The midway stop on the cross-country trek is Thursday at the Turf Club, a fitting location. That’s where the Blind Shake – guitar-dueling brothers Mike and Jim Blaha and their drummer cousin Dave Roper – first met Reis. The California rocker also of Drive Like Jehu notoriety flew in to DJ the Bombay Sweets’ release party at the Turf in 2011 (Sweets leader Nate Grumdahl’s old band the Selby Tigers had toured with Rocket From the Crypt). Also on the bill at the Turf that night were the Blind Shake, performing with another of their renowned collaborators, Michael Yonkers.
“We were really happy to meet John and have him see us play after being such fans of his bands for so long,” Jim Blaha recounted before hitting the road. “About a year later, my brother got a text message out of the blue from John. It was asking if we wanted to do a collaboration on a surf record. ‘Let's shred steel,’ it said. The reply was ‘yes!’”
Response to the record has been a rather emphatic “yes,” too, with nice write-ups everywhere from Vice’s Noisey blog and the Quietus to the Reader in Swami John’s native San Diego. Fans of the Blind Shake won’t be surprised to hear the trio fit right in as surf-rockers, what with their already stellar, Spaghetti Western-gone-psych-punk guitar sound. Reis clearly wanted them for a reason, and he lets their bombastic, window-rattling rhythmic side shine, too. Both the album and tour are also spiked with hard-blasting saxophone, which adds to the way this project unforeseeably blurs the line between the Stooges and Ventures. Here’s one of the cooler cuts posted below.
The Bombay Sweets will return to open Thursday’s show along with Pink Mink and celebrity DJs Lori Barbero and Paddy Costello (9 p.m., $12-$14, click here for tickets). If you didn't see it Sunday on TBT, the "Lowertown Line" episode is now viewable online.