Don’t go looking for Dixie Hammer on MySpace, ’cause you won’t find them there — or anywhere else in cyberspace, for that matter. Frontman Milton Robichaux (guitarist and, on the few songs that have lyrics, lead vocalist) doesn’t even have a personal computer. Also, Robichaux, formerly of Big Drag (myspace.com/bigdragtx) and Happy Dogs (who, according to nirvanaliveguide.com, played a show with Nirvana at the Alfred’s on June 30, 1989, back when that wouldn’t have been a big deal at all), can’t revisit 99 percent of his recorded output because he doesn’t have a CD player.
But enough trivia. Show-opener “Skankin” establishes the template for the rest of the set. Hodad garage rock constructed like first-wave punk: Lots of tight little pieces fit together so snugly no natural light seeps through, but the best of their songs glow gaudy neon like a drive-in-movie marquee. “Crash to Earth” keeps the B-flick-soundtrack vibe cruising, but this one’s got vocals. Robichaux harmonizes with drummer (and fellow Big Dragger) Dylan Phillips — both in that ubiquitous post-British Invasion sneer — but what they’re saying is anybody’s guess. A speaker buzzes in steady bursts like a metallic bee with a 12-foot wingspan, and it’s audible every time the instruments even think about quieting down. Inevitably this eventually causes them to take a Mulligan on “So Long.” Robichaux throws up his hands in a kill signal just a few bars in.
“I’m sorry,” Robichaux says to the audience, which includes an enthusiastic Joe Emery (guitarist for tonight’s Austinite headliners the Ugly Beats) front and center. “We’re experiencing some technical difficulties. And our guitarist is experiencing some technique difficulties.”
He’s not, but Dixie Hammer’s songs don’t seem too hung up on complicated technique anyway. Robichaux’s lead flourishes and keyboardist Hans Frank’s fills provide some much-needed color, but the driving rhythm is the thing. Phillips and bassist Christine Hill (and Frank and Robichaux; when you get right down to it, the whole band is practically a rhythm section) stay decently tight when you take into account the Hammer’s only been playing together for four or five months, averaging about a gig a month. The occasional missteps mostly add a welcome variance on the standard 4/4, causing songs to lurch and careen unexpectedly, like every turn might send the song squealing off Dead Man’s Curve. At this point, the Dixie Hammer crew look like they’re more concerned with having a good time than recording some masterwork they can’t even listen to, so ramshackle works for them.
Robichaux and Frank (of Glambilly fame) swap instruments for the closer: A beach-partier’s take on “Red River Valley,” seemingly constructed around Frank’s jangly guitar solo. It’s the wankiest moment of the night, but that’s not really saying much. Considering the set mostly consists of instrumentals there’s surprisingly little time spent showing off.
“It’s great to be back at the Mix,” Robichaux says. “We just left like an hour ago.” Hill also works behind the bar here, so that’s probably not an exaggeration. Keeping an eye on the Mix’s calendar might be your best bet for catching this band, since your only other option at this point seems to be scanning the posters on other bands’ websites, but at least Dixie Hammer have picked a name that provides a decent idea of what they sound like: rockabilly that’s constantly pounding, pounding, pounding to replicate the surf that swells so many miles away. — Jeremy Martin
Fri, May 21
2423 N St. Mary’s