The Baptist Generals' Revival

Chris Flemmons spent 10 years working on his city rather than his band, The Baptist Generals. They’re both better for it.

Sub Pop staffer Bekah Zietz wasn't all that impressed on her first couple of listens. As she always does, she brought the new album home to play on the stereo in the living room of her Seattle duplex. She plays her music loud and does other things.

She got to Jackleg's seventh track, "Broken Glass," and found herself setting down her newspaper. In that moment, all she could do was give all of her attention to the song.

"After listening to it [a few times], I realized that this is a record that actually forces you to listen, and that's one of the things about it that I really respect," Zietz says. "I think that it really does force you to look at yourself in a way that maybe sometimes you don't want to have to deal with. ... It's like taking a challenging class in school that might at first appear easy, but you actually have to pay attention."

The Baptist Generals perform at Wall of Sound Fest in 2006.
Jason Janik
The Baptist Generals perform at Wall of Sound Fest in 2006.
The Baptist Generals perform at Wall of Sound Fest in 2006.
Noah W. Bailey
The Baptist Generals perform at Wall of Sound Fest in 2006.

Jacobs agrees. "It's fantastic, and I think that the depth of the instrumentation and all of the arrangement was definitely a surprise, but a really pleasant surprise."

Theirs seems to be the prevailing reaction among those who have heard Jackleg. The trick now is getting more people to hear it. That means touring, which the band is doing now. The first stop is in Denton, where it all started, at Dan's Silverleaf.

After completing their third song of the evening, the dark and enigmatic "Clitorpus Christie," Flemmons yells to the crowd. "Let's just get trashed tonight." He takes another pull from his wine bottle, and the 200 or so Generals fans scream their approval. "I mean, it's Denton. It's kind of what we do."

The band continues playing the record in order, all the way through "Broken Glass," and then "Snow on the FM," on to "Floating." They still don't nail the transition. Flemmons pauses and laughs for a couple of seconds. They finish up with bonus track "Fly Candy Harvest" and then quickly exit to the left of the stage behind a curtain.

Maybe a year from now The Baptist Generals will be on the road, and crowds who don't know anything about the old buildings on Fry Street or the Flaming Lips show that almost didn't happen will be singing along to Flemmons' odd lyrics and demanding encores just as boisterously as the crowd in Denton is right now. Or maybe not. Chris Flemmons knows better than to guess where his life will take him. And besides, there is this long-awaited release show to enjoy.

The crowd, consisting of government officials and local music heavyweights and enthusiastic fans, isn't going anywhere. They roar for The Baptist Generals, who steal just a few more seconds behind the curtain before they finally come back onstage to perform a six-song encore.

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