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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 9:56 pm | Fair 52º


Jeff Moehlis: Greg Ginn Without a Net

Former Black Flag guitarist and the Taylor Texas Corrugators summon The Dead at Muddy Waters

Greg Ginn is best known as the guitarist and primary songwriter for defunct Southern California hard-core punk pioneers Black Flag, whose uncompromising DIY ethos and relentless touring was the foundation for the American music underground.

Behind the scenes, Ginn also ran the SST record label, which he started because no one else wanted to release Black Flag’s first record. SST’s catalog grew to include all of Black Flag’s output, plus classic albums by The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr. and others. A hallmark of these SST bands was that their music continued to evolve in interesting ways — they refused to be restricted by the limitations that “hard core” or “punk” might suggest.

Ginn’s music has certainly continued to evolve from the days of Black Flag. At his criminally under-attended concert Tuesday night at Muddy Waters Coffee House with the Taylor Texas Corrugators — named after Ginn’s new hometown of Taylor, Texas, which is also home to SST’s new headquarters — the music was much more “Jam Band” than “Kick Out the Jams.”

The Grateful Dead are an apt point of reference, in particular The Dead’s penchant for extended instrumental improvisation. This might seem like a surprise if Ginn’s association with Black Flag is viewed with blinders on, but it turns out that Ginn is a huge Grateful Dead fan and attended around a hundred of their concerts.

During their one-hour set, Ginn played hypnotic bass riffs, using a pick that lent power and brightness to his sound. Self-described “freelance drummer” Sean Hutchinson, who also plays with New Monsoon, kept things flowing with a balance between repetition and invention. Guitarist Gary Piazza, who also plays with the band Incredible Sheep Shrinking Invention and was appropriately wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt, played fluid, meandering leads that at times captured the spirit of “Captain Trips” Jerry Garcia himself. There were also some nice noise and feedback freak-outs that eventually settled into the groove that Ginn’s bass defined.

Improv can be a risky endeavor, but Ginn and company pulled it off delightfully.

Opening the proceedings was an enjoyable alt-pop set by Santa Barbara’s Cat OK, led by Rob Taylor. The band is building up quite a resume, having in the past year or so opened for the Meat Puppets, Black Francis from the Pixies, and now Ginn. I think Taylor would love to open for Paul Westerberg next — wouldn’t it be great if he was the next indie rock legend to pass through town?

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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