Black Irish Texas and Fort Worth, Surly Wench Pub, Aug. 17

As history proves, Hüsker Dü's addition of melody to hardcore punk's bark, by taking some cues from the Buzzcocks, but mainly blazing their own trail, begat (and here's where the going got gross) Green Day, who begat Blink-182, who begat every terrible pop-punk band you watched on Fuse for most of the last decade.

Tucson's Fort Worth, which has played nary a show in recent memory, operates in an alternate universe where Hüsker Dü's margin-destroying underground punk inspired intelligence and musical expansion. To wit: Gregory Wheaton's baritone guitar (basically an electric guitar tuned down to the register of a bass) meeting Justin Bernard's perfectly spare but punctual — and punctuating — standard guitar playing. Wheaton sang in the clean tenor commonly known as "emo," and this mattered too, but not that much, because the songs contained nothing that led us to believe that Fort Worth is inflicting any pain they may have suffered onto the audience. Which leaves Fort Worth as an excellent rock band, capable of remarkable ensemble playing, and genuine thrills. Is SST Records still around to sign these guys?

Black Irish Texas, who are actually from the Lone Star State, play the kind of music their name would suggest: blue collar, amped-up Irish folk. Of course, the Pogues have been steering this ship since it set sail around the time of — as fate would have it — Hüsker Dü, but that comparison isn't totally fair. Still, it's better than bringing up the dreaded likes of the Dropkick Murphys, who have nothing in common with Black Irish Texas except a mohawk. But this great band has a banjo player and a fiddler, which helped evoke early 20th century Irish immigrant communities in New York or Boston. The singing had the grit of Shane MacGowan, but with the articulation American dentistry will provide. Sometimes the intensity level reached punk heights, but still conveyed the atmosphere of the old country.

As a dance band, they were spectacular. Some highlights were a brilliantly placed nod to the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" at the end of a tune, and a loving ode to grandmothers that only King Diamond could hate. Black Irish Texas was warm and inviting while conquering with their frenzied repertoire. Irish folk fan or not, you'd be making a mistake not to catch this group next time they come to town.

More by Joshua Levine


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