Sound Advice: Tav Falco’s Panther Burns with All-Seeing Eyes (May 8)

Underground Memphis music legend comes to Newport, Ky.'s Southgate House Revival

click to enlarge Tav Falco - Photo: Lucia Rossi
Photo: Lucia Rossi
Tav Falco
Though he was born in Philadelphia, raised in Arkansas and has often lived in Europe in recent decades, Memphis is the city most tied to the legacy of underground Rock hero Tav Falco. When he moved to the city in the early ’70s, he experimented with performance art, photography and filmmaking, the latter of which led to an artistic awakening. Shooting footage of Tennessee musicians like R.L. Burnside and Charlie Feathers, Falco became intrigued by Blues, Rockabilly and musical performance in general. Falco made his public debut as a “musician” in 1978 while doing performance art and dancing at a concert in Memphis by Jim Dickinson’s Mud Boy & the Neutrons, famously ending his appearance by chain-sawing his guitar onstage and then (allegedly) passing out.

That origin story is befitting of his eventual legacy. Falco is now named alongside bands like The Cramps and The Gun Club as innovators of a style of music that exploded the Blues and Rockabilly and then revived it by injecting 10,000 CCs of Punk-Rock spirit and avant-garde deconstructionism into its heart. Tav Falco’s Panther Burns was formed (with Big Star’s Alex Chilton, who was fresh off of producing The Cramps’ first singles) in 1979, and Falco’s work would go on to inspire Jack White, Jon Spencer, Primal Scream, Spacemen 3 and an innumerable number of Garage Rock musicians, as well as every performer who has ever had their music described as “Psychobilly.”

The band released its major label debut/swan-song in 1982, but Falco has kept Panther Burns alive with a rotating lineup ever since, releasing music and touring the world while also still working in film and other media. Late last year saw the release of A Tav Falco Christmas, a collection of holiday classics Panther Burned by Tav and a band that included Minutemen/firehose bassist Mike Watt.

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