The Sonics, Once Too Controversial for Dallas, Made a Rollicking Debut Saturday

The Sonics
With Mind Spiders
Texas Theatre, Dallas
Saturday, June 13, 2015

The best things in life are often worth the wait, but in the case of the Sonics this was an unusually long one. The legendary garage rock band, who made their first run as a band in the early 1960s, had never played in Dallas before they played the Texas Theatre on Satutday night to help round out the Oak Cliff Film Festival. For the crowd who filled the old Depression-era theater, a range of in-the-know 20-somethings and older classic rockers, this was a real treat, an honest-to-goodness special occasion. And with their members now in their 60s and 70s, this might well be the only chance to catch the Sonics in the Big D.

The band having gone as far back as the mid-1960's says a lot. Back in the day the Tacoma, Washington group was known for its shock-rock lyrical content. With songs about witches, drugs and Satan, some radio stations wouldn't even play their music, as saxophonist Rob Lind mentioned on Saturday. With Dallas being the good ol' Southern town that it once was, it's no surprise that they never made a stop here back then. The fact that it was their first show here was, at least kinda sorta, a historical moment for rock 'n' roll in Dallas.
The music was scheduled to start at 10 p.m. but an extended sound check moved the starting time to about 10:30 when the openers, Dallas' Mind Spiders, played their brand of bouncy, oddball glaze in front of projections of crawling ants and lined-up mannequins that for the most part was only half impressive. While their set was sharp and professional, something was missing. The band was able to pull off a few good moments with their rhythmic precision and charming riffage but they still lacked energy. For a band once named Best Punk Band in Dallas, they didn't seem very punk. They were minimalist more than anything, so much so that front man and guitarist Mark Ryan didn't say much more than that there were a few songs left and a thank you to the crowd. It really didn't matter much anyway, because most people were there to see the Sonics.

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As the original garage rockers themselves took to the stage, guitarist and founder of the group Larry Parypa saw some technical difficulties with his gear which was luckily fixed by one of the theater's dedicated sound guys. The rest of the band soon followed, looking dapper in their all-black suits and the tumble and rumble started just as soon as as bassist Freddie Dennis made a classic rebel yell to kick off the set. About a third of the way through, the small space between the stage and the seating area had filled up with a hopping crowd, who rushed out of the seats to dance to along to the rollicking party.
Dennis wasn't the only one raising the dead with his voice. Lead vocalist and organist Gerry Roslie proved he could still howl like a madman, as well. It was Lind, however, who did most the between-song talking, indulging the crowd with abits of rock' n' roll history and namedropping legendary acts such as the Beach Boys and the Kinks. Switching back and forth between the sax and harmonica, Lind's hulking frame played like the goofy, good-natured MC of the night.

Of course, the band played some of their classic hits from the 60's including "Psycho" and "The Witch," but they augmented them with other songs written by their friends and as well as the newer stuff from their own, recently released album, This is the Sonics — their first new record in 49 years. Their version of "Louie Louie" wasn't exactly their classiest, but overall, it was a great show. Of their fresh material, it was probably "Bad Betty" that really showed that even after 50 years, the group can still write a good tune that isn't overdone or polished. It's simple rock, as it should be. This may have been the first Dallas show the Sonics ever played, but hopefully it won't be their last.

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