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The Strange Boys @ Secret Headquarters 09/21/07
Last Friday night in a small, nondescript office space in the middle of Denton, Texas, The Strange Boys put on an unforgettable show for twenty five unsuspecting kids. After hearing Keith and Sean rave about them, I saw them at the Fuck Yeah Fest and they absolutely blew me away. I became obsessed with this band immediately because they're doing something literally no one else is: reviving 60s garage rock. At times I hear the psychedelic surf rock of ? & The Mysterians, the pop sensibilities of The Kingsmen, and an exaggerated, almost Stones-ian approach to vocals. Not to mention, they're some of the most unassuming dudes I've ever met.Just before The Strange Boys took stage, or should I say took room, I got a whopping taste of Texan hospitality. Some dude, who couldn't have been of legal drinking age, goes into the back room, opens the fridge, and comes back into the adjacent room to hand out free beer to the rest of the kids. Mmm, my first Lone Star. It's no Shiner Bock and it clearly tastes like Budweiser, but I try my hardest not to let my friends know that. Never rip on state-wide beers. They carry some sort of iconic reign over Texas.
There's not a person in attendance over the age of twenty five and the small room is about as half-packed as it's going to get. Lead singer Ryan Sambo begins playfully singing, occasionally shouting, nonsensical jabber into the microphone. Words can't describe how ecstatic I am to be in the middle of nowhere watching my favorite unsigned band of the year. Nothing excites me more than a venue that is so hard to locate (the entrance is literally in a dark alley way behind a revivalist center) that it virtually operates sub rosa.
The Strange Boys - "Drugs Igby Drugs"
The Strange Boys rocked us through a short set comprised of 60s resurgence tunes from their soon to be released Nothing 7". For some reason, Sambo's voice reminds me of a post-punk, blasé take on early Bob Dylan. Combine that with the flagrant throwbacks to ? & The Mysterians and you've got quite an interesting combination of elements. On "Art For Art's Sake", climbing bass lines, blase, retro vocals, and mid-song solos provide for a head bopping, very bandstand-esque escapade. Other songs like "We Both Know" and "Drugs Iggy Drugs" are based upon the incorporation of a surf rock, keys-infused backing. The amalgam of effervescent garage rock elements is overwhelming and watching it play out live is quite an indelible experience.
Yet in the middle of the show I hear Sambo trailing off, "This just ain't right. This just ain't right." As if he were summoning the audience's energy, Ryan was clearly not feeling it. Maybe it was the fact that there were a mere twenty some odd people or maybe he just wasn't feeling the usual synergy betwixt the band members. Regardless, he was determined to rectify the situation by means of cover songs. The Strange Boys concluded their rambunctious set with the The Isley Brothers' "Shout". The rousing rendition prompted the crowd to clap, sing along, and even lower themselves to the ground with Sambo in correspondence to the soft, hushed parts.
As I approached front man Ryan Sambo after their staggering performance, he seemed a little uneasy. I mean, I had been snapping gratuitous shots of them for the last half an hour. I introduced myself and let him know that I had, in part, come out to Texas to see this show after seeing them at the FYF. He maintained a modest front, "Aww, man! You should've come to see another show. We're playing in Austin soon." I could smell his disappointment, but I had just experienced pure bliss. I assured him that it was well worthwhile, considering how infrequently they grace Los Angeles. It was nothing like seeing them in front of an overly appreciative LA crowd, but I got more than I bargained for. It's not everyday that you get to sit through a show this unique put on by a handful of fresh-faced Austin natives.