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The Sound

Goddamn Gallows plunder Des Moines

11/7/2012

The Goddamn Gallows play Gas Lamp on Saturday, Nov. 10. Rumble Seat Riot and Jayke Orvis and The Broken Band open, $10.

The Goddamn Gallows are a bunch of itinerant gypsies — musical pirates, set adrift in a van for months at a time. Covering the length and breadth of the country, this gang of marauding ne’er-do-wells stops in a town just long enough to wreak musical havoc upon the populace and terrorize the local women before setting off once again. The band is a loud, raucous, sweaty, primal entity unleashed upon a stage for 90 minutes at a time, fueled by one-part alcohol, two-parts blind, seething talent.                

Holy shit, are they fun.                

“The Goddamn Gallows came from the heart of America’s Rust Belt, arising from a night of flophouse violence,” so begins the band’s bio on its website.                

As you were born, so shall ye live. Aggression is one of the band’s hallmarks. Not in the chest-bump posturing, throw-a-punch kind of way — though none of the guys look like the kind to turn the other cheek. Rather, The Goddamn Gallows aggression is manifest in the unapologetic way in which the band presents itself. You can see it in the song-writing (examples include “Saint O’ Killers,” “Ticket to Bleed” and “Y’all Motherfuckers Need Jesus”); in Mikey Classic’s stance in front of his mic — one leg thrust forward, neck tight and bulging as he forces his lyrics into your head through sheer insistence of will; in every slap on bassist Fish-Gutzzz’s upright; and crystalized in the wild-eyed, spitting form of Avery, whose role in the band is listed as “accordion, washboard, spoons, fire.”                

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After starting as a trio, the Gallows headed out west in the first years of the 21st century and were effectively homeless as they toured the country, picking up band members as they went. To the original triumvirate of Classic, Fish-Gutzzz and Baby Genius, Avery, Jayke Orivs and Joe Perreze were eventually added. With each new member, the band’s sound and approach evolved.                

“We’ve definitely grown,” said Classic. “I don’t think we’ll ever stop growing and trying things.”                

Befitting a group that spends as much time together as these fellows do, songwriting is an organic process.                

“Our songwriting is definitely collaborative,” Classic explained. “Everyone brings their own piece to a song, and we’ll kind of sit down and stitch it all together. We do a lot of writing on the road, and we’re hoping to take a couple months off at the end of the year and get a new album put together.”                

The Gallows have been swinging through the capital city since 2008 to increasingly devoted crowds. The last time the band made it this way eight months ago, in support of Reverend Horton Heat, rumor has it that the folks at the dearly departed People’s on Court requested that the band tone down its on-stage revelry.                

“Naaaaaaaaw,” was Classic’s response, his smile apparent even over the phone. “That’s not true.”                

Muted antics or not, there’s no way to dampen the sound that these guys make on stage. You can’t bottle up the creative, genre-smashing sound that’s been alternately (and equally inadequately) described as punk, psychobilly, hard rock, gutterbilly, Americana punk and (my personal favorite) “hobocore.”                

Rather than falling into any kind of easy definition, the Gallows are content to make music that’s visceral and meaningful. Their sound is, like so many underground bands, best appreciated live and up close, knee deep in the sweat and beer and heat of a writhing mass of people. But whether it’s live, on vinyl or on the iPod, make no mistake, the Goddamn Gallows is a band to be appreciated. CV

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