SASS

By Jay Armstrong

Sass photo by Josh Robicheaux

Photo by Josh Robicheaux

 

In a world of sham and plastic, where the view of the future optimistic finds itself walled by new condos and business park skyscrapers, knowing we can’t go back, what we have now and what we choose to do with it is detrimental. The importance lies in counting our allies, valuing the real, holding tight to that which is valid,  which reflects back upon us the truth expected in youth to find eternal yet found not. Passion! What else matters now? And where does one look to tell it from the paint by numbers invalid sheep in wolf’s clothing all? It’s not who you are. It is not what you create. It is how. How. How. How. Our rambling drunk stoned steps led us to SASS and thank god, or whatever, they have. This is the first band to come along in years to put passion first and not have egos the members keep falling all over totally destroying the experience.

This is where the how comes in. This is what makes SASS matter and the others do not. Each member balancing social with humble, intelligence with openness, conviction without condescension, their songs, as much as they themselves, digging steadfast heels in before the patriarchal narcissistic boot they refuse to be marginalized by. And before a bunch of metal nobodies attempt to roll their eyes back any further than usual, my advice is to go back to your circle jerk of stroking each other off and do some soul searching about the entire HOW aspect of what I’m getting at before you try calling me on the carpet for skipping over some other band you and your friends have already deemed worthy of such praise, as happens always when some new band shows up getting recognition over the ones who have been hanging around longer. I’m so sick of watching five bands pat each other on the back like they are the second coming. Being condescending doesn’t make you original, being arrogant proves in itself how unwarranted and ill informed such an attitude is, no one cares about your band or your friend’s bands because you only care about yourselves; there is no openness, there is no warmth to your so-called art as a result of your collective unwillingness to give up anything of yourselves in it. Your tight circle of bands blowing each other is as much a sham as you are. Which is why SASS is circumnavigating that bullshit phobic oversensitive hierarchical jealous crab bucket you subscribe to. Often I find myself contemplating where Lester Bangs would have aligned on band discussions, his barometer of taste holding up eternal infallible. Certainly we could attach his typical attitude of (gender), social, and aesthetic conditions prevailing in this country” to defend the inclusivity I’m railing against, I imagine us drunk at five am arguing to near fists over it but you can bet your ass once we got past that hangup he too would have found his marrow shaken through by the first five songs SASS have given us. Besides, breaking through the construct barriers is merely hypothetical at this point anyway. It’s pretty easy to talk shit. It’s pretty easy to judge. SASS float on the fringes of the holy over-hyped circle of cool fonts and clone condescension without doing either. Sure their lyrics carry the same them/us weight we need from expressive music, sure the guitars rip the veil of calm from top down to boil up the frenzied aliveness dormant in the day to day for us all, but to do it with appreciation for what’s being created and the experience to be shared in the moment is the beacon guiding us to the oasis away from the rocks on which so many other bands have smashed our spirits upon. Making solid music isn’t rare, especially in Austin,TX, yet the very ethos of this band reminds us why it takes more than that to be our heroes.

 

 

It is not just the metal kids SASS make me feel disappointed towards, after all metal (and I use this term loosely as in say those of the Beerland/house show camp of rock n roll, not in so much the sound but in the demeanor of the fans) are nearly as easy a target as those who frequent The Blackheart making plans for brewery tours while saying shit like “music just speaks to me,” this band stokes up all the more my feelings towards the herd of which I belong. Tonight watching those denim bathed comrades of ours kicking dirt condescendingly complacent behind Vegas waiting, waiting, waiting for a savior to reign down salvation upon them, a savior who is obviously never coming, what was barely left in the 80’s is a relic of a time in which none of us will know firsthand, I want to shake them all with the violence of seventy years ignored realization. Saviors don’t arrive through some miraculous birth, they are anointed not by some higher being whose grace bestows something to lay our lives down before, but instead by us, for us. If you want to stop bitching about how things used to be better, those golden days of never were you parrot like yet another idiot in a red hat, how about going inside the venue for thirty minutes with an open mind to give someone you do not know personally a chance? There’s a solid crowd around SASS, it may come off as though they are unknowns and I’m trying to sell them to you out of some secret knowledge of “what’s next” but this isn’t academic high school hype of needing to attach my own opinion to something in hopes their success will be in any way dependent on the words I write or the friends I drag to their shows. That is not the case at all. These words are useless, this band needs neither I nor you, they will do great things as long as they stay together. SASS belong elevated beyond where they find themselves at the moment, that is all I’m getting at, and the reasons people seem to have for not opening up to them are so trite I can’t help but call out the bullshit as I see it. Sass

Sure in the wake of the god awful mediocre psychedelia trend which almost washed east sixth from the map with its tasteless endearment to those better kept on the other side of 35, I get why people are standoffish towards getting stoked so early on a band. We’ve been burned time and time again by those propping themselves up on our tastes and shitting all over us once the money or recognition comes in (or as in Matthew Melton’s case just because they are a piece of narcissistic shit with no love for anyone other than themselves–every situation is slightly different). Do you really listen over the SASS demo and see that happening? Their noise is as pure as could ever be, an honest lifting shout to the masses of blasé accepted social norms, a scream in the face of misogyny and gender expectations which is but a whisper amongst the full throttle rock n roll we find those lyrics neatly tucked beneath. And so what if they burn us and go the way of The Coathangers or something and stop feeling real for the sake of mass consumption. Would that ruin their value for this moment? Does Chinese Democracy take anything away from my brother and I jumping up and down for hours with Appetite for Destruction on repeat when I was nine? Does Lars’ stupid hat and atrocious sound of late make me feel guilty for learning to play drums because of him? Fuck no it doesn’t. The current self-imposed dichotomy has got to go, we need a new model, we need to find our all-in-it-togetherness once more. Those of you who were around during the Trailer Space Spider House days remember the beauty of championing the deserving rather than the pretentious route format followers and somehow over time we have lost the way. SASS could be one of the bands to bridge the rifts between each camp in this town. I can think of three maybe four bands to hang our hopes on at the moment and none of which have the reborn childlike energy of SASS and certainly the others lack the positive comforting warmth these members give off. Zizek resurfaces once more while typing, “past itself is not simply ‘what there was’ it contains hidden, non-realized potentials, and the authentic future is the repetition/retrieval of THIS past, not of the past as it was, but of those elements in the past which the past itself, in its reality betrayed, stifled, failed to realize,” and how those words bring clarity not only to the bridge this band creates with sound but moreso of the path Rock n Roll as a community has evolved to reach this pivotal place teetering from one side to the other of discarded vs socially ingrained immortal.

If anything gets taken from what I’m saying I hope it is this; we live at a time and place on the edge of two options for the future of all we have spent our lives pouring ourselves out again and again into. We have watched friends destroyed by drugs, seen venues and neighborhoods and the general ethos which attracted us to this city demolished by capitalism, witnessed families/friendships/love destroyed at the alter of Rock n Roll. I ask you was it worth it? I wake up every day believing it has been. Even the strangers ran into at shows I want to hug and thank for allowing me to finally find a place where the only judgement ever felt occurred in those periods where I was doing nothing. This city made us all become something we would not have been elsewhere. Alive. Madly alive. Madly alive with the hope not in a tomorrow which is as vague and shapeless as old age but instead in the US now of having ambitions only in wanting to better ourselves through each other, to watch those close no longer hide dreams but to create themselves everyday until their distinguished voices are heard, to live outside of a middle class nothing, to embrace fully the realization there is a life still worth living, the dreams of Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti are alive, our voices can still implement change, our hands can create something in which to be proud of, we can be photographers and writers, we can form bands without some bullshit aim of getting signed and rich, we can find peace in allowing each other to see their own beauty. And no doubt it feels strange to write such vague words of blind optimism, I’m of the Nietzsche religion after all, it is not my style, yet while listening over their demo that embodied spirit is what screams out from each and every song. Most bands don’t give you sense as to reasons they came together or the places they draw their creative focus from yet with SASS it seeps through every chord, every shout, every pause, Miles Davis tapping us on the shoulder as we hear those whispered words between the noise,“it’s not the notes you play but the notes you don’t play,” and with this band it makes sense. You can hear it in the energy of those talking about their shows, you can see it on the face of the members when they are unplugging their amps and making quick eye contact with each other–they want to be doing this for the sake of doing it and they want to be doing it here with us as part of US. There are so few bands doing anything as an expression for anything other than self-gain and self-elevation, I’m telling you now, bear-hug SASS with your entire being. Magic and love have a tendency of disappearing before you even have a chance to realize the real of it. Speaking of…do Pharaohs still make noise anymore? Why in the hell couldn’t Ditch Witch go on forever? The immediate nature of this band gives me the fear all over again. Who knows how long we will have them with us. Who knows just how soon they may take off on tour and stay there for years to no longer ignite a room filled with only us. Love it while you have it.