Friday Night: Batusis At Mango's
"Everything was as it always had been ... the years were a mirage and there had been no years," E.B. White once wrote, describing the collapse of time. This is what Batusis effortlessly evoked at Mango's, that ever-shifting building, now the color of a yogurt smoothie, down in the nook of sweaty midnight Montrose.
Throughout the years, the place has hosted divergent bands, from street-punks Ann Beretta and homegrown East Texas visionary Daniel Johnston to recent post-hardcore postures from This Month in Black History, but this night was all pure rock and roll pastiche - not some jukebox heroes mimicking the past, but a soulful mishmash taking anxious listeners from dirty Cleveland to Gotham City heroin alley, from glam punk to mondo surf, all within an explosive hour.
When the New York Dolls last graced Houston at the House of Blues, Rocks Off's Craig Hlavaty suggested that the band lacked fervor and backbone, and were outrocked by opener Black Joe Lewis. Many audience members disagreed.
Meanwhile, the few of us who saw Cheetah Chrome devastate Rudyard's with Rocket from the Tombs years back likely thought he was scrunched-in by mutant bird-voiced David Thomas and the rubbery guitar fingering of cohort Richard Lloyd, once of Television fame. This time, though, Chrome took full reign, complimented by the casual flair and finesse of Sylvain Sylvain.
Sure, the rock-solid rhythm section culled from The Cult and Joan Jett's Blackhearts hit their marks, but most eyes kept to the twin guitar prize. Anyone who didn't want to get neck-deep and romp through the classics should have stuck to some skinny-pants band mimicking third-generation Gang of Four at another club.
This crowd wanted to feel the pathos, heavy-duty gyration and unbound electricity of "I Want to be Loved" by the Heartbreakers and "Sonic Reducer" by the Dead Boys, which still feel hinged to a year-zero punk attitude, when rebel rock and rollers both erased and idolized the past at the same schizophrenic time.
Jaded people will shrug off these gestures as par for the dinosaur-rock course. They tag it as bar-rock ruckus meant to pay the rent of has-beens, but that misses the whole point. Classic punk bands always played covers.