The vulgar, cheeky, rowdy honky-tonk of San Antonio’s The In and Outlaws is a good fit for Casbeers at the Church. Something about their music complements the strangeness of people drinking beer and dancing suggestively in a former house of worship, pews intact. During their September First Friday gig at the venue, the band blew through riotous “Cowboy Hat” and their irreverently loving “That’s My Baby’s Mama” with the reckless professionalism of veteran rockers. And then they sang “The Unicorn Song.”
Songwriter/vocalist Gordon Waid trotted out some Roman-style columns and porcelain unicorns, the kind sold at gauche antique shops, arranging the props ceremoniously while lamenting the sacrifice of imagination in the name of maturity. The band crescendoed as Waid linked creativity to schizophrenia, scream-shouting at the audience with wild eyes, already drenched from performing for two hours. After hitting the song’s climax, the audience heaved a sigh of relief. Waid wasn’t getting in anybody’s grill anymore and none of the unicorns were smashed in a Townshend-like stage tantrum.
After the show, Waid divulged that a friend makes those unicorns for him and he’d never dream of hurting them. He also got out of work early and went surfing that day. Such is the vibe of the Outlaws: part nonsensical angst, part surprising sensitivity, part easy-going dudeness.
Half of the members previously played in thrash punk outfits. Waid occasionally still sings in The Jocks, with whom he used to begin a performance wearing a football uniform and end in only a jock strap. Drummer Brad Turner played with the speed punk El Flaco. Upright bassist Lloyd Walsh still plays with the pop punk group Exploding Sex Kittens. Only guitarist Matthew “Rosey” Rose previously played in a country band, in his native London. “The one I played in was really a farcical band,” Rose said. “We played ‘Stand By Your Man,’ ‘Rawhide,’ ‘Country Boy.’ We had to force people to hear us play. The same with this band, really. Emotional blackmail.”
However, each member grew up listening to classic country, even if he didn’t always play it professionally. They agree their music represents a meeting point between country and punk, without the earnestness of alt-country godfathers Uncle Tupelo. Take the lightning-fast punk aesthetic of “Cowboy Hat,” wrought with cultural commentary and righteous indignity. “Why’d you have to go and get a hat like that?” Waid pleas, lamenting the acceptance of the headwear by mainstream fashion. “I was so sick of seeing women in pink, bent-up cowboy hats,” Waid told the Current, “those are particularly stupid-looking hats.”
Musically, the band makes a counterculture statement, too, keeping the clean electric guitar and hoedown rhythm of barnyard honky-tonk, a style about as foreign to modern Nashville as an Indian raga. During the interview, Waid called out today’s country music for being monster rock ballads “with a twang.” Turner mentioned that he just heard the new Toby Keith rap song on a local R&B station. About their own conscientiously retro aura, “We know that we play an older style,” Turner said. “`But` it feels good. There’s no way to sell out with this kind of music.”
When the band played the semi-finals at the Lone Star Battle of the Bands, it was preceded by Peacefield and Mario Flores. Flores proudly bought into radio-friendly country appeal, while Peacefield played surf rock and sang about saving the whales. Despite the two acts’ more mainstream approaches, the crowd went wild for the In and Outlaws’ manic performance. They won the event, but lost in the statewide finals.
No big deal, Waid said. They’ll just keep playing. Besides, they thrive off criticism. A few days before the First Friday gig, a woman watching them perform on the internet commented that they were “Jed Clampett on crack.”
“You can’t buy a quote like that,” Waid said. “I’ll take that criticism any day of the week.” •
The In and Outlaws with Blackbird Sing
9pm Fri, Oct 1
Casbeers at the Church
1150 S Alamo