Saturday, May 19, 2012

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
"Punk jazz" with the Dead Kenny Gs

If the seminal punk bands Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys were to jam with members of Sun Ra's Arkestra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and James Brown's JBs, the end result might sound a bit like the Dead Kenny Gs, who are coming to St. Louis next Saturday, May 26 to perform at 2720 Cherokee.

The music of percussionist/vocalist Mike Dillon, saxophonist/keyboardist Skerik, and bassist and saxophonist Brad Houser has been dubbed "punk jazz", since it combines the thrashing beats, heavy riffing, and angry and/or satirical lyrics associated with punk rock with an ever-shifting variety of other styles, from marches to funk to skronk to surprisingly lyrical passages dominated by Dillon's work on vibraphone.

Although Dillon and Skerik have played St. Louis before with the band Garage a Trois, this will be the St. Louis debut for the DKGs, and so today we've got a half-dozen clips to help you get acquainted with their music.

The first selection up top, "Black Truman (Harry The Hottentot)," was recorded last June in Delray Beach, FL and serves as a fairly concise example of the group's eclectic approach, as it shifts rapidly through a variety of styles in just a few bars.

Down below, you'll find three examples of songs that help bring out the "punk" aspect of the group, starting with "I'm Your Manager, I'm Your Pimp," recorded live at Red Rocks in Colorado. Below that are two numbers with some socio-political implications: "Kill the Poor," recorded last June at a show the DKGs opened for quirk-rock band Primus; and "Death Panel," which comes from a July, 2010 show in Asheville, NC.

Below that, clip #5 offers almost 50 minutes of music recorded in January of this year at a venue called Crowbar in Tampa, FL. While the video quality of this recording (done by an audience member) isn't very good - it's dark, and apparently shot from a fixed position at far stage right - the audio actually is quite nice, and it provides an instructive example of how the band integrates its various elements to put together a whole set of music.

As a coda to the set, the final clip is a 2009 interview with Skerik and Hauser. For more about the Dead Kenny Gs, check out this 2011 Los Angeles Times interview with Skerik; this 2011 interview Dillon did with the website; and this feature story on, also from 2011.

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