Beware of Dog

Howlin' Wolf: The Menacing Mr. Hound (left) with Jacques Wait (center) and Travis Ramin

In the Pretty in Pink movie of life, DIY music is Molly Ringwald. That is to say, DIY plays the role of the poor fashion innovator. People admire all her creations precisely because they are self-made and amateur; she spends her time at home or working in a record store because she can't afford to frequent expensive bars or concert venues; she is often sneered at by creative people who have more money and resources than she does; and she lusts foolishly after Andrew McCarthy when she could obviously go for that sweet doofus Jon Cryer... Oops! Perhaps I've taken the metaphor too far. My point is that these days virtually everyone who is trying to be a musical force struggles to be recognized for her inventive eccentricities while her desired suitors concentrate on musicdom's popular crowd.

The live-music crackdown at Eclipse Records in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul is a prime example. Record aficionados used to show their appreciation for Eclipse's live, all-ages performances by slapping their hands together in what--after close anthropological study--appeared to have been some ancient rock-fan ritual. But because of noise complaints from cranky neighbors, who interpret loud music as nothing less than an affront to human rights, Eclipse frequenters were warned to simply ponder the sound of two hands clapping. Now that Grand Avenue's prissy fundamentalists have filed a formal noise complaint and silenced Eclipse's music performances, they will continue to disrupt music fans with the sounds from their lives: the yowl of teething babies, the yip of Moofie the manicured poodle, the buzz of fairly (no, make that generously) paid gardeners toting deafening lawn tools, and the sigh of shared complacency.

Luckily garage-rock revivals seem to thrive upon the genre's marginalized status. Most folks still best appreciate their favorite garage bands by rocking out with friends in their garage. Me, I like to join a handful of other garage fans and listen to local legend Howlin' Andy Hound at the Turf Club while watching die-hard fans launch themselves face-first into guitar oblivion.

A small group of intense followers have been doing kamikaze face-dives for Howlin' Andy Hound (a.k.a. Andy Kereakos) for the last 15 years. About a year ago, Kereakos convened with drummer Travis Ramin and bassist Jacques Wait to generate some of the aural-cavity-erodingest, blues-explodingest garage rock in town. Yet the local-music-scene-veteran Mr. Hound has maintained a certain degree of marginality: He recently scored 15 points from confused pollsters in our Picked to Click new music charts.

A few weeks ago, while watching Mr. Hound and his dawgs perform at the Turf, I discovered why he has gathered a small yet intense freak following over the years: Nothing inspires today's youth quite like violence and hate, and Kereakos knows how to funnel these themes into a rousing garage anthem. Upon arriving, I immediately notice that the crowd looks like a social sampler from Kenneth Anger's bad-seed film "Scorpio Rising." And while Kereakos shrieks, "I hate my generation!" over the multilayered siren of his guitar, a throng of wormy veins start to wriggle beneath the skin of his neck. Soon Kereakos's phlegmy snarl has some in the crowd poking their fingers into their damaged ears.

Next, the sound causes one freaked-out floozy to pop out of her chair. She then shakes her body around, launching her arms into a giant propeller motion that should raise concerns at the FAA. She kicks her legs up in front and flops around like a boneless fillet of Rockette. A girl in Annette Funicello's bouffant 'do looks over at her petite, vintage-shirted companion and races up to join the noise junkie, taxing her body with spasmodic jerks.

Soon everyone is up and writhing--all except for Annette Funicello's retro boy. He simply bobs his head intently to the music while others watch him closely, hoping that he'll break down--a congregation of Pentecostalists waiting for a new believer to speak in tongues. Finally the tiny man can't control himself any longer. He jumps up onto the stage, grabs Mr. Hound around the bottom, pounds both fists into the air, then crashes face-first into the drum set.

This event sets Ramin into a snare-thwapping frenzy, and the little man's various limbs can be seen flailing around behind the high hat.

After the show, the mysterious daredevil is nowhere to be found.

"Where did the little guy go? Doesn't he like attention?" I ask his friend.

"Oh, no," this witness of the flamboyant stage-dive insists. "He's too shy to stay around after a show."

When the Hound and Co. perform this coming weekend at the Turf for Rock Action--a three-day garage festival that joins garage bands from Minnesota, with those from Arizona, California, Iowa, and Illinois--I hope to see more soldiers of misfortune who match the little guy's fearless inanity. When you're involved in a music genre that competes against the status quo of pop popularity, rash action is required. For Mr. Hound and his Jackie Chan disciples, it's still an underdog-eat-doggie-dawg world out there.

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