Video: Enormous Richard elaborates the skuntry gospel
Let’s get the disclosure out of the way: I’ve been friends (and/or collegial rivals) with Chris King since at least the late ’80s, when both of us were in grad school for English and American Literature at Wash. U. I use the word “rival” as King was the young upstart who, for a short time, threatened my delusional primacy at the seminar table.
That didn’t last. Country punk semi-stardom ended his academic career. I don’t have nearly as good an excuse.
Since then we’ve gone on road trips, done field recordings, edited klezmer and banjo tunes, taped Irish and St. Louis poets in my apartment, and hung out for what surely amounts to years in bars, on porches, in cars and in living rooms, sharing songs, stories and ideas — some of which have born fruit, others of which have evaporated as they should.
Back in the day, I only saw his now notorious band Enormous Richard once, and couldn’t make it through the whole set. I was a jazz snob at the time, and musicality meant something.
This past Saturday, ER regrouped for a reunion gig at the Duck Room, the reconstructed site of the band’s Cicero’s salad days. I paid the $5 cover and got a glimpse of what I missed in the ’90s. The band was sloppy and sweet, utterly serious about their lack of seriousness, and King prowled about the stage and the floor like a game show host some 11 pints to the wind, his jeans ripped up to the knees (a nostalgic sartorial signature), while the music — spiked by Elijah “Lij” Shaw‘s fiddle and banjo — careened off into the twangy folk pop punk that the six dudes christened “skuntry.” They played all the hits, the dance floor whirled, and I stayed till the end.
Enormous Richard has recently reissued the classic Enormous Richard’s Almanac. Get all the details and snag some free downloads here.
Postscript: I missed the first band, the Lettuceheads, but caught Karate Bikini, who I had somehow never seen before. If you’re looking for a heavy power pop fix with flute and saxophone and a triple guitar wall of sound, KB is the St. Louis band to beat.