Music » Sound Features

Eight Halloweens Strong

Blackflowers Blacksun gears up for another round of playing the dirty punk blues, as part of Bend's counterculture scene

by

comment
sound2-a7c5ebad1f8c5804.jpg
W

alls adorned in a collage of taxidermy. Floor covered in peanut shells, served under low light. Tall boys of Old German for $1.The former Horned Hand garage music venue, shut down for serial neighborhood noise violations, had a charm all its own—and in 2011, it's where many fan-girls became enamored with the guttural proto punk dirty delta tunes of Blackflowers Blacksun.

Today, devotees with their ears to the underground know: When Jack Frost brings the flakes, frontman Greg Bryce will emerge from a summer battling blazes to once again deliver his brand of locally produced blues.  

BFBS' lineup also showcases lap steel player Andy Coman, drummer Randy Rooker and fill-in drummer, Maxine Roach, previously of Harley Bourbon. With musical influences including Iggy Pop and the Stooges and MC5 from Bryce's roots in Detroit, BFBS' sound is made for dive bars, house parties and barns.

In the tradition of delta blues, Bryce takes salty and sultry covers and twists and churns them into something new. In turn, the audience twists and churns their bodies. Dancing at these shows is an imperative.  

Looking over a 2016 set list from a Cinder Cone Clay Studio show, some songs are more punk than blues, and vice versa. "Jack" and "Cold Drink" really move the rhythm into a slow-mo space, reverb and feedback aplenty. "Sex Beat," a Gun Club and Jeffrey Lee Pierce original off the album, "Fire of Love," amps up the frequency of slide over string. Stereotypical punk rock moves ensue; leaning in, head banging and toe tapping. Meanwhile, "Elvis from Hell" elicits a rowdy body torque despite less screamy vocals.

S

urrounded by a dozen guitars in his spare bedroom, many of which he altered or built himself, Bryce explains the evolution of counterculture music in Bend.

"The scene is full of people that are DIY, making their own shit. The Horned Hand was a staple because it gave musicians, kids, a place to perform and park and sleep in their van," Bryce says.

Indeed, the era of the Horned Hand era was a different time, before Sprinter van living was cool.

In addition to the many that surround him, Bryce mentions he's got another dozen guitars that are "farmed out." He adoringly points to scratches and dents on the dozen within arm's reach, admiring a particularly gnarly acoustic salvaged from a dump in Galena, Ark., where he is often stationed for summer firefighting. Bryce blasted mud and sand out of the internal cavity after a flood to make it playable. Pretty DIY.

Showing me a collection of modern and antique guitar slides, Bryce explains the origin of this instrumental tool. Back in the day, to produce the hallmark sound of a slide whine, his favorite bottleneck guitarists used the broken necks of whiskey bottles and ran them up and down the fretboard.

"Spark plug wrenches are the best because of their mass against the thick strings," Bryce says. "They create less chatter than the lighter glass option. Plus, they only cost one dollar at the pawn shop." Pretty DIY.

When I ask about his band, experience and accolades, Bryce continually shifts the interview to talk about the Bend music community as a whole. Entering the Bend scene in 2007, Bryce performed at open mics and then with his band at M&J Tavern. According to Bryce, once the Horned Hand shut down, M&J really stepped it up for the underground.

"M&J has changed the music scene," Bryce notes. "They have been a champion of local music and an incubator for the untrained musician. Americana, homemade music." Bryce says locals he admires including Jess Ryan, Harley Bourbon (now The Roof Rabbits), Joe Balsamo of Box Car (now Big Evil) and Kylan Johnson, who have all "come up through M&J."

As he goes on to explain the shift of Bend audience demographics, a string of spirituals from the Mississippi Delta plays on the record player.

"Punk music is a lot like the street look or street fashion. It starts with someone who can only afford second hand clothing and pretty soon people are paying $300 for jeans with holes in them. The more and more popularized something is, picked up on and decimated, all of a sudden you're Beyonce. Our core audience are locals that really like blues music. And older folks, grown up punk kids... the hipper than hipsters, with all the puffy coat people trailing after."

Blackflowers Blacksun 8th Annual Halloween Show

Tues., Oct. 31. 9:30 pm

M&J Tavern

102 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

No cover, but tip your band. It's the cool thing to do.

To hear a recent interview with Greg Bryce on KPOV's, The Dog and Pony Show,  check out http://kpov.org/kpov_show/the-dog-and-pony-show/.


Latest in Sound Features

Add a comment

More by K.M Collins