"The Panther Burns," Gustavo "Tav" Falco once said, "are the missing link between the earlier forms of swamp blues' unbridled howl and the psychological onslaught of the new millennium. We are, essentially, the ditch diggers in American music."
Forged in the smoky clubs and vacant warehouses of Memphis in the late 1970s, the band was one of the first to revive rockabilly as a sort of freewheeling, low-fi, anti-corporate rock art form in the wake of the punk explosion.
Those were dusty days, and Falco, a singing, screaming showman, filmmaker and itinerant guitar player, brought grit, garishness and a blazing theatricality to his primitive band's shake ‘n' bake of blues, country and rock ‘n' roll. Alex Chilton, in his pre-Big Star days, was an original member of the band.
Tav's got a new Panther Burns, and they'll play Dollhouse Studios in Savannah Oct. 20, with the incredible Dex Romweber Duo as opening act (more on that in a minute).
Falco's organic, all-cylinders approach to thrash-and-burn psychobilly had immeasurable influence on the visionary grimers that surrounded and followed, including the Cramps and the Gun Club.
There's a new 2-CD reissue out of the seminal Panther Burns albums Behind the Magnolia Curtain and Blow Your Top, with extensive - and somewhat inscrutable - liner notes from the man himself.
"Behind the Magnolia Curtain was in fact recorded in one and two-takes within about 6 hours," Falco says. "There was the presence of the marching drum band from Tate County, Mississippi, whose members were stalwarts in Napoleon Stricklin's Cane Fife and Drum band. The Drum Corps appeared on 4-tracks marching around studio B of Ardent and were recorded simultaneously with Panther Burns-all of us playing and thrashing at once.
"We were bon vivants of the swamps living it up on ample doses of fried chicken and short pints of bourbon whiskey."
Some of the most galvanizing scenes in the documentary film Athens, Ga. Inside/Out feature the high-octane guitar-and-drums twosome Flat Duo Jets.
The singer and guitar player, whose highly caffeinated performance sounds like ‘50s rockabilly in the electric chair, is Dex Romweber.
The Tav Falco gig will be Romweber's third Savannah appearance in a year; although life and its various perils have slowed him down a bit, he's still great, and he is always welcome on our stages. Nobody can beat the surfin' hell out of a tremolo bar like our Dex.
The other member of the Dex Romweber Duo is Dex's sister Sara - originally a member of Let's Active - on the skins.
It's powerful stuff.
"Early on in my career, I was very self-destructive and I did not know myself at all," he told me in 2011. "I made some pretty horrendous personal decisions. And I don't know if that affected it, but people seemed to like that more! The more screwed-up you are, the more they're cheering for you, which I don't really want to live by now.
"This one guy came up to me after a show and said ‘Aw, man, I wanted to see the old Dex.' And I told him, ‘I wouldn't be alive if I was the old Dex.'"
The Dex Romweber Duo's first Bloodshot Records album, Ruins of Berlin, features vocal duets between Dex and Cat Power, Neko Case and Exene Cervenka, and a guitar duet with Rick Miller of Southern Culture On The Skids. It was produced by John Plymale (Meat Puppets, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Corrosion Of Conformity).
The Oct. 20 show starts at 8 p.m. with Savannah's the Jackals. Tickets are $10 at Graveface Records.
Dollhouse is at 980 Industry Drive.