Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tijuana Hercules careened through the Star Bar, but never crashed

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2012 at 10:35 AM

TJHerc1.jpg
  • Photo by Richard LaMarre
John Forbes and his Tijuana Hercules cohorts rolled through town like a drunken twister Saturday night (May 20), unleashing a glorious mess of a show at the Star Bar. For those who are unfamiliar, Forbes is the former singer and guitarist for Dirt, the greatest proto-grunge band in the secret history of Atlanta music. And for those who still dig around the local record stores, there is an eternal mystique surrounding the group’s name, at least around these parts — Dirt’s essential albums Shemale Sugar Pussy and Sahara of the Bozart just don’t exist on the Internet, so if you want to hear the music, some record bin archaeology is in order, but I’m digressing.

Forbes has been living in Chicago for decades at this point, honing his wild-eyed energy, and after a recent premonition of all the protests and god-awful traffic that comes along with something like the NATO summit occupying his town for the weekend, he skipped town ‘til the heat blew over, and thank goodness for that.

Flanked by opening act Women’s Work, and headliners Tiger! Tiger!, Tijuana Hercules bristled with spastic, shot-gun energy that propels its junkyard rock ‘n’ roll beat with a deranged growl and leer. Forbes’ piston-in-the-red strum on a 12-string guitar, and drummer Tony Mendoza’s unrelenting plod on a two-piece kit (fitted with a hat box, pie pans, and sauce pans) held the music together at it’s core. There’s an obvious chemistry between them, but the same can’t really be said for their two sidemen, Alan Scalpone (guitar and trumpet), and Greg Norman (trombone and bass horn), both of whom brought the show to a head with the song “Why Why Why” as they wailed on a single snare with shakers, and plowed through the crowd with horns blazing.

These guys weren’t nearly as fluent in Forbes and Mendoza’s shared musical vernacular, but they couldn’t stop smiling all the way through their respectively lopsided rhythms and stumbling horn blasts. But therein lies the true role, and the true beauty of the show. There’s something wonderfully compelling about watching four guys lost in total musical elation, barreling like freight train that’s gonna veer off the tracks at any moment for a spectacular crash and burn, but somehow, they just barely keep it together.

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