Those bands worth a listen because they are so different, but not so far out there that you can’t get a grip on the music — I hate it when that happens. VietNam is from the school of power-chord minimalists. Forty years ago, we’d have called them an acid-rock band. But VietNam is far too hi-fi and musically organized to be lumped into the jam-band file. There’s an urgency in the message and a blackness in the band’s lyric-writing that would make even the king of all head-kickers, Charles Bukowski, shudder with delight. Consider the title of VietNam’s first album: The Concrete Is Always Grayer on the Other Side of the Street. Deadly.
The band started out in Austin only a few years ago, the result of jamming and song crafting that went on between a couple of University of Texas buddies named Michael Gerner and Joshua Grubb. They eventually stepped out and made wall-of-sound stoner rock in a band with a saxophone that never got the industry attention it deserved (in my opinion), lived on the road in a van, and eventually made their way to Brooklyn, New York, where the VietNam membership would come to change several times over. The last man standing these days is Gerner, who is the band’s chief songwriter.
Another pop critic once tried to describe Gerner, who has a tendency to preach his lyrics rather than sing them, as being “positioned somewhere between genius and mental breakdown.”
But that pretty much describes all of us, right? No, there’s more to the VietNam band story — call it bombast. And, like Led Zeppelin, bombast is a sound these hairy dudes make pretty well. Touring now behind their third album, An A.merican D.ream, VietNam is a shoo-in for Austin’s Psych Fest. That’s where they’ll be after their stopover in Normal Heights.
Gap Dream and Tomorrows Tulips also perform.
VietNam: Soda Bar, Tuesday, April 30, 8:30 p.m. 619-225-7224. $10.