Sun City Girls

Fri May


Berbati's Pan

10 SW 3rdI

n a way, the real Sun City Girls were Pat Benatar, Bonnie Raitt and Daryl Hannah, all of whom contributed vocals to the 1985 Artists Against Apartheid protest tune "Sun City." But even if they'd formed a sorta-supergroup and played pugnacious pop while donning mermaid suits, it wouldn't come close to the outlandish oddity of the Arizona outfit that claimed the name Sun City Girls in 1981.

Named after a retirement development near Phoenix (and not the controversial concert venue in South Africa), Sun City Girls actually features three guys, two of which are brothers. The group organized a Moonies-style marriage of hardcore punk, performance art, free jazz, and industrial noise that entranced the few fans who don't consider those genres mutually exclusive, while outraging less open-minded enthusiasts.

After two decades, dozens of self-released cassettes and a move to Seattle, Sun City Girls remains one of the only absolutely unpredictable acts on the touring circuit. The group has scores of songs to sift through for setlists, but the more pressing question is whether the band will play music at all. Among its more interesting experiments: bedsheet Kabuki plays, slide shows from a Bali vacation, abrasive stand-up comedy.

With modern groups from Liars to Unicorns willfully disappointing crowds with half-assed antics and nondescript noise assaults, it's easy to question the value of audience abuse as an artistic end. However, Sun City Girls transcend that discussion because even its most offbeat shows seem more inspired and entertaining than the average indierock exercise.

In casual conversation, it's difficult to nail just what made a concert great. You can praise the vocalist's operatic highs, you can vouch for the way the guitarist merged classical technique with classic rock, you can attempt to put into words a bass tone that rattles like a car on the edge of combustion. Eventually, the discussion will degenerate until you're attempting to approximate instrumental sounds with guttural tongue clucks. That is, unless you're able to add "plus, the guitarist used a globe on a pogo stick and the bassist rode a mop like a horse." Sun City Girls can create memorable songs, with versatile virtuosos on vocals and guitar, but in a live setting, they often prefer to make memories.