Itâ€™s been quite a while since John Forbesâ€™ Georgia days, but old-school fans of his bug-eyed, growly style and joyfully maniacal presence have strong memories of his heyday in the Atlanta band scene. The singer/guitarist returns to the Peach State this week with his latest group, the loose and bluesy Tijuana Hercules. Forbes still wears old-man attire and opens his eyes wide when he sings and hollers.
â€œYep, I still wear hats and, most likely unintentionally, behave like a freak,â€ he says.
Currently settled in Chicago, Forbes used to play guitar with Phantom 309 and Dirt before relocating to the Windy City in 1993. Dirt came from the art-freak Cabbagetown side of the Atlanta scene and was particularly popular in Athens for its gritty, chaotic, post-punk jumble of menacing guitars, screeching vocals and black humor.
Tijuana Hercules started taking shape in 2000. The group released a few self-produced EPs before issuing a self-titled LP in 2005. The bandâ€™s most recent slab, 2009â€™s The Almanack of Bad Luck, features a brassy horn section, which elevates its already clangy sound to a new level of cacophony.
â€œI had a ton of help on that one,â€ Forbes says. â€œHorn sections, organs, pianos, electric washboards, jew harps and trash percussion. And I even had Kelly Hogan sing on a song.â€
Forbes drew the cartoons for the animated video to one of the standout tracks: the upbeat and boozy â€œQuicksand Passinâ€™ Through.â€ Itâ€™s a colorful, trippy freak-show montage of worried beasts, horny aliens and bizarre characters. (Imagine the scribbled drawings of the Meat Puppetsâ€™ Kirkwood brothers reworked by Dr. Seuss.)
In Chicago, Forbes sometimes invites as many as 12 or 14 musicians onstage for shows, often with two or three drummers on full kits. But even with a smaller lineup, Forbes manages to make a wonderful, rhythmic racket. At this weekâ€™s show at Little Kings, the roster will include Tony Mendoza, Greg Norman and Alan Scalpone.
â€œThe instrumentation is me on 12-string guitar and everyone else on percussion, horns and whatever else is at hand,â€ Forbes says. Expect a raucous, Beefheartian slew of burp-inducing rock and roll.
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