Kid Congo Powers is perhaps an unlikely guitar hero.
If you didn’t know better, you could be forgiven for doubting that the slightly built, slightly greying man in the thick tortoiseshell rimmed glasses mingling with the crowd, getting visibly excited while watching the main support band and manning his own merch stall had shared a stage with the likes of Lux Interior. But how wrong you would be.
This unassuming man, (real name Brian Tristan) was given the moniker of Kid Congo Powers when he joined The Cramps. Having played with them on the Psychedelic Jungle and Smell of Female albums, he later played guitar for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Of course many will remember him best for The Gun Club, which he formed with Jeffery Lee Pierce. For some years now he has been frontman and guitarist for his own band, Kid Congo Powers and The Pink Monkey Birds.
At a Stay Sick night (March 24th), following a loud and passionate set from local punks, The Querelles and an extremely impressive and energetic performance by French duo, Magnetix (not to be confused with the Russian band of the same name), the Green Door Store, hidden away in arches under Brighton train station, was packed in eager anticipation.
Fittingly for a band who have recorded at Harveyville Project High School in Kansas, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds (Jesse Roberts also on guitar, Kiki Solis on bass guitar and Ron Miller on drums) were decked out in matching preppy navy V-neck cardigans with an “H” on the chest and a “13” on the arm. But the Pink Monkey Birds could be a school band only in some strange and wonderful film collaboration between David Lynch and John Waters.
As they launched into the hypnotic “Lurch” (the opening track of the forthcoming album Haunted Head) with the projections on the backdrop swirling behind them, we were cast away to another world on a cloud of psychedelic garage. More songs from the new album followed – the more up-tempo “Killer Diller” (inspired by recently deceased comedy actress, Phyllis Diller) was followed by the funky bass lined number, “Su Su”, a homage to also recently-deceased cult actress Susan Tyrrell (Ramona Rickettes in Cry-Baby).
During the instrumental “The Rad Lords Return”, Kid Congo Powers and his guitar appeared to morph into one entity. Indeed it went so well that he punched the air in joy at the end. Other highlights were the album’s title track, “Haunted Head”, a stompy, sleazy drawl of a song and the fast garage number, “I Don’t Like”, with its brain-drilling riff.
We were treated to a performance of “Green Fuzz” (originally by 1960s band Randy Alvey and The Green Fuzz and covered by The Cramps) as well as The Gun Club classic, “Sex Beat”.
Current single (not on the album, so buy it immediately!), “Conjure Man” was as deranged, dark and magical as we had hoped. In all the excitement, Kid Congo Powers broke a string, but he made little fuss – he yanked off the offending string and hastily retuned his guitar.
There were some old favourites too – despite appeals from the crowd, we didn’t get the tripped-out “Catsuit Fruit” but we did get “Rare as the Yeti” from the much lauded Dracula Boots album and “Bubble Trouble” from the last album, Gorilla Rose.
After ending on “LSDC”, Powers sat on the drum stool rather than leave the stage, quietly confident that the crowd would want more. Of course we did, and the encore was a blast through “I’m Cramped” and The Gun Club’s “For The Love of Ivy”, following which he pointed at the “H” on his cardigan and remarked upon being an Elvis from hell.
The Pink Monkey Birds had flown us to a more colourful world and they sure weren’t in Kansas anymore.
All photos: Carl Byron Batson
Kid Congo Powers recently talked to Trebuchet. Interview follows soon.
Remaining European dates:
La Boite à Musique
La Péniche Sonic
Coopérative de Mai
L’Ampli + Magnetix