TchKung's fire eater

Pink Elephants and Fire-Eaters

Maxi Dadd
with TchKung and Mr. Pink
Vancouver, B.C.
Friday, January 10, 1997

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Mr. Pink vocalist This evening was being billed as "the Supersonic Circus," and for me, when you give an evening a theme title, you raise the expectations. I went straight to Graceland from work, arriving around 9:30 to find that the carnival was still under construction and that the only other people present besides the various minstrels waiting to perform were some underage alchemists trying in vain to turn 18 into 19. An hour-and-a-half later, after a constant barrage of Chris Sheppard clone music, Mr. Pink took the stage.

A three-piece both powerful and dynamic, Mr. Pink's professionalism and class belie the fact that they've only been together for a couple of months. The lead vocalist looked like David Bowie's Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell into Pulp's Wardrobe. He has a great singing voice, though, kind of like a blend of Lizard King and Thin White Duke. The songs were driven like a freight-train by the drummer, who beat those skins as if they were talking shit about his mother, quite possibly TchKung a-drummin'! the heaviest pounder I've ever seen. The omnipresent Mike Sanchez impressed me when I saw his band Belter, and he impresses me still; he is a master of the lost art of the bass slide, and his fretboard gymnastics bore an intensity that could buckle fault lines.

Together, this trio create heavy power pop that sounds like the Mission colliding with Barkmarket. I predict big things for Mr. Pink, if they can juggle all their other projects.

TchKung makin' sparks Ladies and Gentlemen! Could I direct your attention to the centre ring where, for your viewing and listening pleasure, TchKung will whip you into a frenzy of paganistic dance! All members of this Seattle group play various drums, oil cans, and other percussive instruments, but the real enchantment came when drums were traded for violin, didgeridoo, and horn (and bass and keyboards). When the singer pulled out a snake charmer's horn and played along with the beautiful and talented violinist, the effect was stunning, and any spirits inhabiting Graceland were definitely frolicking and gyrating to the Egyptian pulse and wail.

TchKung's fire eater TchKung are in the same category as the Ex and Dog Faced Hermans in that everything they do is fueled by and based on their intense political beliefs. I'm sure that their diatribes against the American electoral process and songs dedicated to Earth First were quite filled with scathing, well-aimed remarks, but aside from "rob the rich to arm the poor," all I heard was "arrh, arrghhh, rahh!" Another song sounded like Cookie Monster growling out "The Ants Go Marching." The violinist fared much better on the one song that she sang, which was beautiful, angelic, and wordless.

The above antics were accompanied by a dancing fire-eater who appeared on the dance floor, whirling around with his burning batons, occasionally spitting four-foot tongues of flame, startling and exciting people dancing around him. He also offered his back, which was covered with a metal plate, to be massaged by a grinder and showered in sparks. Ah... In short, TchKung are an excellent visceral band whose addictive pagan beats could make even Hutterites do the humping watusi.

TchKung's fire eater Now, I really do like Maxi Dadd's music: cosmic salvos of power blur guitar, deep dub bass, big drums, and vocals both psychedelic snakebite and cloud nine hypnotic, male and female. But on this night, however, the band didn't fare so well; too much time and energy were taken setting up the smoke and mirrors, so that by the time they got all three TV's working and had all the projectors showing the right war footage, it was 1:10 a.m.

Maxi Dadd vocalist Joe Sather To make matters worse, when Maxi Dadd finally did start playing, they decided to try playing TchKung's polyrhythmic percussion game, which was an ill choice and a meandering mess. The first real song they played was "Cantina," a seductive Latin-tinged song on CD, but this time 'round it was tromped by a lead boot lack of dynamics. "Trunking" got things back on track, but they really didn't regain control until "Devils," which thankfully saw April White in fine voice.

Maxi Dadd vocalist Joe Sather and a TV Maxi Dadd ran through "Don't Disrespect Terry," "Punch the Girls," and "More." "Punch the Girls" was strange: I don't know whether this song actually has any words aside from the chorus because Kenneth Campbell (who sings just this one song) sings like an alien cat on a midnight fence. One bright spot was a new song, "Kryptonite," which had a cool groove but would benefit from having the chorus sung in harmony instead of in unison.

If I could offer Maxi Dadd a piece of advice, it would be to find the power within themselves. They don't need all those bells and whistles; but when they do go for the full meal deal, they should try to serve it up hot before their audience gets cold.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on January 28, 1997

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