Kicksville, we used to call it

Ignites a fire: Bloodshot Bill’s rock ‘n’ roll show has enough raw emotion to make a young girl cry, the sounds of rebellion that make every parent afraid. Photo by Tim Snow

Boy, howdy: It sure seems like music lost its way a while back — gone off the rails, you might say. I remember a time when kids playing music was all about living in the moment, the here-and-now — kicksville, we used to call it. Tomorrow may bring an alien invasion, atom bombs, or — worse yet — your best girl could say, “We're through.” But tonight is tonight, daddy, and we are gonna wail!

I can’t really tell you what happened or who’s to blame, there are plenty of likely suspects from smart phones to genetic crops; but it's not the same world. There are still long-gone daddies and way-out kitty-kats who know the score, but their numbers seem to die out faster every day. Nowadays, you pretty much have to explain to kids what a piece of hot wax is (it has nothing to do with bikini lines; well, maybe a little). Slap that platter on your turntable, kids, and in 2 minutes, 45 seconds, the rhythm will rocket you to the moon.

You might dismiss this as the ravings of an old geezer pining for the days of yore, and there’s a case to be made for that. But while I’ve still got blood coursing through my veins, my pulse will pound to those rocking sounds. The old knees may ache, but I still shimmy and shake. So I’m writing today not about the past. These timeless sounds are still alive and kicking to this day, kicking hard and straight to the gut from all corners of the globe — even the unlikely locale of Montreal. Yes, that's in Canada, and it's home to one of the swinging-est, way-out rockers of them all, Mr. Bloodshot Bill.

Montreal may not seem the obvious place for mining a disaffected youth rebellion, but it has proven to be fertile terrain. The Spaceshits, Scat Rag Boosters and The Deadly Snakes all operated in the 1990s around Montreal before finding broader success. "I never fit into any kinda scene,” Bill says, of life in Montreal. “I was playing a lot of rockabilly and country music. And it was too punk for this crowd, and not punk enough for that crowd, and I was just playing my own thing everywhere, doing my own thing, and I still kinda do that."

Bloodshot Bill has been described as “greasy, rock 'n’ roll hillbilly music,” which sums up his influences. "It's just old rock 'n' roll — my take on it,” Bill says. “I mean, people think it sounds weird or different or something … but to me, I'm just playing the song."

Music genres don’t come close to describing the wild, out-of-control mayhem that pours out from start to finish in the man’s live performances. You’ll get a sense of his brand of madness by playing a side or two of a '45, hearing the vocals hiccup, croon, swoon and holler; you can hear him feeling every word down to the core. But when you see him live, the gyrating, reckless, sweat-fueled abandon will prove that he is indeed the genuine article.

Bloodshot Bill's rock 'n’ roll show has enough raw emotion to make a young girl cry, the sounds of rebellion that make every parent afraid. The white-hot madness of Bloodshot Bill grabs every living soul within earshot and ignites a fire inside it that erupts in twistin' hips, snappin' fingers, a wild shaking all over like an old fashioned tent revival. You can’t pigeonhole Bloodshot Bill for the Madison Avenue set and slap on a pretty label; you’d end up with 90 percent rocket fuel if you tried. You need to wring out his pompadour and let the juice fill up a can: American Greaser Supply did for their “Nice N Greasy” pomade, the kind of real-deal endorsement no amount of payola can buy.

But descriptions can only go so far. You'll have to witness Bloodshot Bill for yourself when he visits Jack of the Wood on July 8. Paint Fumes, Charlotte's rising stars of the “garage punk” set, opens the show. The Fumes alone are a damn-good reason to come and rock out, Bill's presence aside. The band has a lousy attitude, guitars that feedback till tomorrow, thumping drums and a dash of outlaw. In other words, it's a genuine Tarheel outfit.

I asked Bill if the days of rock 'n’ roll are slippping away. "No,” he says. “People discover it all the time, I mean everywhere I go, everybody loves rock 'n’ roll — the more crappier stuff that keeps getting put out, the better the old stuff sounds, year after year." That kind of optimism that makes an old rocking geezer smile.

— Lance Wille plays drums for The Krektones, among other bands.

who: Bloodshot Bill, with Paint Fumes
where: Jack of the Wood
when: Sunday, July 8 (9 p.m. $8.

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