Title: Hillbilly Moon Explosion
It’s really all my mom’s fault. My mom grew up in a conservative small town in the Midwest. I grew up in a low rent suburb of Seattle and am now firmly part of the liberal coastal elite.
Therefore, she and I don’t have a lot in common. Her television is locked onto the Fox Channel. I don’t have a television. She abandoned the Methodist church and is attending a nondenominational one because the Methodists ordained gay clergy. I haven’t set foot in a place of worship (other than weddings) for many decades and have friends and co-workers that are gay and I support gay marriage (after all, gay couples can scarcely do worse than hetero couples on that score).
But…she did grow up in the 50s. Even growing up where she did, Elvis was huge and she was a fan. Even while I was growing up in the 60s and the 70s, she would regularly play rockabilly.
Somehow that took. To this day, I love the sound and the rhythm of rockabilly. Given that it is decades after its emergence, the sound has morphed over time. So, instead of listening to the rockabilly of Elvis (although I do have some of his songs on my playlist), I listen to the psychobilly of The Cramps, The Reverend Horton Heat, The Legendary Shack Shakers, The Termites, Guana Batz, and many others.
Somehow, probably through the magic of iTunes, I stumbled some years ago upon the Hillbilly Moon Explosion.
They’re hard to categorize. They play pretty conventional rockabilly. Many of their songs feature a female singer (Emmanuela Hutter). Her voice just somehow lyrically floats in an ethereal manner above the steady rockabilly beat. For some odd reason, the songs that feature her seem to be those that would belong in a song track of a David Lynch film. The music is traditional but has some edge of abnormality to it that is somehow compelling.
The fact that the group is based in Switzerland makes it even more mysterious. How does a Swiss band decide to form a rockabilly band? How do they come up with such a unique sound? Is it because of the remoteness of being Swiss that they were able to experiment with the form and come up with something new?
They’re kind of a niche band, and being located in Europe, I really had little hope of ever seeing them live, so I was much shocked to learn that they would be appearing at the Funhouse.
I’ve written about this a couple of times before, so I won’t belabor the point. I’d just like to reiterate that the Funhouse has a capacity of at most a couple of hundred people. I think my ticket was $15. I checked their tour schedule. Their US schedule is about a dozen dates starting at Nashville, heading to the West Coast, going up the coast, and then heading back down. If all of the venues are about the size of the Funhouse, how is this an economically viable proposition for them to come all the way from Europe for?
Regardless, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.
When Hutter was singing, they were exciting to listen to. Even live, her voice floats. Live, she puts more energy into her singing. She screams, groans, and moans.
Those songs where she doesn’t sing are not as strong live. At that point, they become a pretty typical nondescript rockabilly band.
Also, they are much stronger when the lead guitarist plays with a heavier sound (think Link Wray). Sometimes he switches to a gentler sound, and when he does, they veer into almost a conventional country territory.
In the studio, they occasionally collaborate with Sparky from Demented Are Go. His grounded gravelly voice contrasts sharply with Hutter’s ethereal in a pretty awesome way. Considering Sparky’s …um…legal troubles… in the US, I will probably never see the two bands tour together. My loss.
It was definitely a pretty awesome night to watch one of my favorite bands in the close confines of a small club.