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Pontiac Brothers – “Fiesta en la Biblioteca”

October 29, 2011 4 comments

The Pontiac Brothers - "Fiesta en la Biblioteca"

Have you ever been to a concert that you will never forget? One of my unforgettable shows was the Pontiac Brothers’ visit to the Uptown Lounge in Athens, Georgia on the “Fiesta en la Biblioteca” tour in either late 1986 or early 1987. Why was it so memorable? Because Matt Simon, the Brothers’ singer, was so outrageously and over-the-top drunk that he passed out on stage after three or four songs. The guitarist, Ward Dotson (of Gun Club fame), took over the vocal duties while Mr. Simon took a break. The singer woke up after a half dozen songs, pulled down his pants, and belted out a blazing cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds.” After channeling his best Bon Scott, Simon passed out for good and the show was over.

It was a memorable but disappointing evening. I was disappointed because I was a huge Pontiac Brothers fan, and I had literally worn the grooves out of my copy of “Fiesta en la Biblioteca.”┬áThe album has been out of print for a long time so I haven’t heard it in twenty years or longer. I just recently found it on Spotify and wondered how it held up.

Los Bros Pontiac were always described as a amalgamation of the Replacements and late 1960s-vintage Rolling Stones. That’s a bit generous; the Pontiac Brothers’ songwriting skills never reached the level of craftsmanship that characterized Jagger and Richard’s collaborations or Paul Westerberg’s songs. The closest the Brothers came was “Be Married Song,” a cynical masterpiece that would have slotted right in on “Beggars Banquet.”

I am happy to report that “Fiesta en la Biblioteca” is delightfully unfocused. It veers from proto-Americana songs like “She Knows It,” which sounds a bit like Green on Red, to the 70s stadium rock anthem, “She Likes to Rock,” which trots out Gary Glitter licks long before Glitter’s songs were ubiquitous at sporting events. The weirdest moment on the album is the cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women.” It weird because I expected The Pontiac Brothers to put their own stamp on the song – to rave it up, to rock it and punk it up. What we get instead is a straight up cover of it. And even though Jerry Garcia couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag, I am sad report that Matt Simon isn’t even in Jerry’s league on this one.

Overall, though, “Fiesta en la Biblioteca” holds up well. It is a straight up rock album – something of a rarity in the mid-1980s. Don’t forget about all the diverse styles that constituted “alternative” music in 1985-1986 – the genre consisted of everything from REM, the Cramps and Husker Du to Black Flag and Sonic Youth. It was hard to find just a regular kick ass rock n’ roll band. That was the reason I wore the grooves out of this album.

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