In the fall of 1981, I found myself drinking at Carrboro, NC's Cat's Cradle with the Gun Club's charismatic, Bukowskian frontman Jeffrey Lee Pierce. His group's subsequent performance that evening left me so gobsmacked that I hit the road the next day for Charlotte, where a modest Viceroy Park audience was alternately thrilled and offended by the punk/roots/blues shenanigans of Pierce, guitarist Ward Dotson, bassist Rob Ritter and drummer Terry Graham. Hoist a glass if you were there.
Fast-forward two years to Manchester's Hacienda Club. It's a radically different Gun Club, comprising Pierce, Panther Burns guitarist Jim Duckworth, Bush Tetras drummer Dee Pop and Vampira-like bassist Patricia Morrison, late of L.A.'s Bags. The music hasn't lost any of its unhinged quality; however. Pierce is in full Jim Morrison effect, unleashing primal forces at will, e.g., "Fire Spirit," "Death Party," "Sex Beat." The show concludes in an insane genre deconstruction titled "Disco Inferno Mix" as Pierce moans malevolently, "Burn ... burn ... DIE, in a disco inferno ..."
That half of the two-hour, region-free DVD The Gun Club: Live at the Hacienda 1983/84 (Cherry Red, UK) boasts professional sound, multiple camera angles and tight closeups -- visceral, you-are-there stuff. The other half, however, filmed in '84 at the same venue, is less compelling; shot from the balcony, it has good closeups but is static, and the audio is a mic recording. But you do get an entirely different setlist and yet another lineup of Pierce, Morrison, returning drummer Chambers and slide guitar maestro Kid "Congo" Powers. Pierce, in a snap-brim and suit, has shed his shaman's persona for a bluesman's look (although with his bleached blonde locks he's more David Lee Roth than John Lee Hooker). Don't miss: the incantory "Preaching the Blues" (Robert Johnson), commencing with a sizzling free jazz collage then morphing into a punkabilly explosion. Burn, baby, burn.