Tav Falco's Panther Burns
6-26-98 Memphis Concert
A Review

Tav headlined the Dixie Fried Festival, held at the Madison Flame (the old Antenna Club, 1588 Madison). "Festival" seems a bit overstated, though with three backup bands and nearly 7 hours of music in total, it's a close call.

Othar Turner's Rising Star Fife & Drum Band opened the festivities. Unfortunately, we got a late start and totally missed their act. Several folks told me they were great, though, and knowing the band's rep, I don't doubt it a bit.

Next up were the North Mississippi All Stars. The band is made up of Jim Dickinson's two sons (on guitar, vocals & drums) and a fellow on bass whose name escapes me at the moment. He's about 6'6" and 400 pounds, so it's probably best just to call him "sir".. ;-) On this night, papa Dickinson himself played keyboards, and helped out on backup vocals. Oh, and Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers was on mandolin. We missed only the first few minutes of their set.. and regretted missing even that much. These guys are one hot band! Their repertoire consists of old blues & folk standards, mostly, with a little gospel and R&B thrown in for good measure. They're deconstructionists, kind of, though not to the extent of, say, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It's rocked up, but remains true to it's roots. VERY high-energy stuff! The highlights, for me, were "Casey Jones Blues" and "Freedom Highway".

T-Model Ford did his thang next. It was just T-Model on electric guitar and vocals, and a drummer (though he was joined by a second guitarist on the last few songs. I never did figure out who he was; a member of Othar Turner's band, I think..). T-Model has a very distinctive style and sound on the guitar. He does very little in the way of single-string runs, and plays chords, mostly. He gets this real fat, greasy, moderately distorted tone that's really marvelous. OTOH, my wife commented that after awhile his songs all started to sound the same. She has a point. He /is/ a bit of a one-trick pony. However, what he does, he does very, very well. An aside; I don't know how he got this 'cantankerous' rep. He had a smile on for pretty much the whole set, and seemed very genial to me (and a short talk with him after the set reinforced that impression). He was sipping on a Budweiser between songs, and doing some good-natured bitching about it being "pisswater". About 3/4 of the way through the set, a gent walked up stageside and offered him a hip flask. I dunno what was in it, but T-Model took a mighty slug of it, and it definitely got a reaction out of him. He /jammed/ on the next song, too. ;-)

Tav & crew took the stage at a few minutes past midnight.. and spent the next half-hour setting their gear up. :-) No roadies for the Panther Burns these days, it seems. Either Tav believes in DIY more than I realized, or he's economizing on this tour.

The lineup was; ex-Panther Burns member Ross Johnson on drums, Dixie Fried promoter Scott Bomar on bass, Claudine Claudine on rhythm guitar, and Tav himself on lead guitar and vocals. Claudine was something of a surprise; when the Memphis papers asked Tav if founding PB member Alex Chilton would play guitar, Tav would neither confirm nor deny it. I /was/ hoping Chilton would show, but I must admit that Claudine was easier on the eyes.. ;-) Apparently Tav's paramour, she's also a decent guitarist.

They opened the show with a rousing "Raunchy". Tav has really got the song /down/; it takes some doing to 'steal' an old standard like "Raunchy", but at his point, he's close.

Tav played very little of his 'lounge' material, and stuck pretty darned close to rockabilly, on this night. Oh, he did do a tango (a great "Throw Your Mask Away"), and a country shuffle ("Earl K. (Long)?, named for the former Louisiana governor), but for the most part it was rockabilly and rockin' blues. I didn’t take down the entire set list, but the highlights for me were; "White Silver Sands", "Brazil", an incredible "Cuban Rebel Girl" (Tav did a /killer/ slide solo), "Shadetree Mechanic", and "Blind Man".

There were a few surprises, songs that they've never recorded, at least not that I'm aware of; "Big Road" (very country-ish), "That Same Thing" (great job, and very blues-ey), and last (and certainly least), "Train Kept A Rollin". Done in 50's R&B style, it just didn't work for me.

The show 'ended' promptly at 3am, and Tav did a couple of cursory encores (he just unplugged he guitar, didn't even leave the stage). They were "Rocket" and "Bertha Lou". Cursory or no, they rocked! I was particularly impressed with "Bertha Lou".

A few of you may remember my rave review of the Panther Burns Memphis show of a couple of years back. While this was a very good performance, it was NOT in the same league as that '96 show. I reckon they were having the 'on night’ of a lifetime there. Plus, the lineup was totally different, with the exception of Tav himself. I dunno.. for whatever reason, Tav came perilously close to being upstaged by the North Mississippi All Stars. Indeed, many in the crowd seemed to think so, and voted with their feet; the place was /packed/ for the All Stars, but thinned noticeably before the Panther Burns took the stage. By the time they were halfway through their set; indeed, you could no longer even call it a crowd. Tav kept his chin up, but I can't help but believe that it bothered him a bit. This lack of a really rabid audience may well have contributed to this show not matching it's '96 incarnation.

So, all in all, a most enjoyable show. I give it 4 stars, on a 5-star scale. If you get a chance to see Tav Falco's Panther Burns, I highly recommend it. You may even get lucky and see another one-in-a-thousand performance, one that'll match that '96 Memphis date!

This material was originally posted on
Fidonet and the Internet on 6-28-98

-Rick McBroom