Purple lighted picture of white man performing side view holding a guitar

T.C.Ottinger of The Electric Hand

The Electric Hand.

The Torments.

The Detroit Cobras.

Three die-hard garage rock bands. Three gangs essentially. Their main religious belief: die with your boots on, rocking on 11!

Thus the last Saturday night in February saw a throwback cave stomp the likes of which this two-bit poor man's colon of a town ain't seen in a stegosaurus's age.

Three bands, two killer banzai charges of three-chord brutality and a headliner's display of boozy public breakdown fronting Americana-tinged soul and hoe-down flavored stomperoos. Nothin' but good people, nothing' but real good.

First up: our own Electric Hand.

 T.C.Ottinger, the Hand's frantic front man, may just be Poopville's Number One Rock'n'Roll Personality in terms of live performance. He's utterly confident, completely full of himself and pretty funny. He jumps into songs like a speeding getaway car having just ripped off a Wendy's on Cleveland Avenue. He's a mania.

 His trio of dudes follow him over the top into No Man's Land in full rock'n'roll battle kit and bayonet: these lads do the full-frontal attack on monster fuzz bass, bashing drums and tuneful yet slashing Rickenbacker electric guitar as grey crew-cut haircut-sporting T.C. sings like the road to Berlin is open and clear. I'd follow him anywhere.

World War One is Ottinger's personal obsession for whatever reason--probably because he's a Scotsman born to wear a kilt and has recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an American Army captain. But his heart was always in the Kinks first three albums the spirit of which he channels like lightning strikes. Plus throw in the hairy gruffness of Blue Cheer and you're beginning to get a feel for this band's shrieking brew of raw energy and brilliant good taste. I love them and God knows we need 'em now more than ever. Music sucks. Everywhere.

The Torments from Cleveland: Shouting Thomas Torment (The Howl), is a natural soul-shouter, a cross between Eric Burdon and, oh, Ray Charles in extreme heat. His band--two tough females in stormtrooper boots and bearing fiery female balls to match: Alyse Torment (The Shimmy) on bass and Chanda Torment (The Beat) on drums.

As far as trios go, the sheer sheerness of the Torments is what they left me with: sheer energy, sheer stomp, sheer wipe out of anything standing in the way of conquering crummy reality with hardcore Golden Age of Garage Rock styles played as if taking a piss stop in Hell was just one more thing happening on the way to the gig. These two women and man played some of the toughest garage rock I've heard.

Man, I love it when girls rock as hard as the guys. Yes!

Then the Cobras came on, a band centered around drunken singer Rachel Nagy and guitarist Mary Ramirez who didn't seem particularly bothered by her band mate's booziness. I was about to get many times more garagette rockin' chick power, inebriated and not.

The Cobras differ from the Hand and Torments with their soul-ishness, slightly Americana-esque rootsiness on about half their material. With a great male rhythm section there's still plenty of hard guts in the rhythm. And then the rest of their material is melodic '60s rockin' garage-soul-grit-cha-cha-cha: not dancing isn't an option.

 Nagy, I gathered, wasn't necessarily having a bad night and I didn't mind her constant obnoxious drunkenness because it wasn't mean and she never seriously missed her vocal cues and most verses seemed delivered as written. She just bitched a lot--but it might have been justified. The sound perhaps could've been better and her mood never turned black. She was just drunk as hell, her face rubbery like someone about to punctuate a told tale to a fellow barfly by completely passing out.

But she never did. In fact, her between song patter was pretty freaking hilarious. I mean, she always had a point, whether she was declaring her dedication to her friend The Booze or just yakking about the importance of slow-dancing. Not quite Jim Morrison-deep dissipation and certainly not pitiful. Still, it was kind of bad behavior.

They played great, though. They had a commanding presence the other two bands should work toward because they're songs were just a coupla beats per minute slower. You can't play roots-flavored anything at sheer testosterone-power levels. Because of that the Cobras owned garage-land America from coast-to-coast that Saturday night. There absolutely could not have been a better night of garage rock anywhere in the world.

Last note: the Cobras drummer was amazing and because of the band's ever-changing, chaotic touring line-up I don't know his name. But that man did more on one floor tom than I've ever heard or seen any drummer do ever.

I'd pay to see any of these bands again anytime anywhere in our little donkey-with-a-beat-up-straw-hat town. It was a classic Saturday night of sweat'n'soul and rock'n'roll.

The Torments....getting down