Someone in the crowd during Red Feathers’ set last Thursday at Ace of Cups cheered “Go Ian!” in response to the frontman’s cavorting. I’d prefer to run with his pseudonym, “The Pink Owl,” though, because it matches his ludicrously outsized stage persona, one that works magically when the garage psych combo behind him is firing on all cylinders but could just as easily be a laughingstock. It’s all about how you sell it, I suppose.
The Pink Owl inhabits a longstanding rock ’n’ roll archetype: part young buck, part slithering lizard, all wanton lust. He is Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison and David Yow rolled up and smoked, howling and contorting his shirtless torso against a wave of cacophony caked in bluesy snarl. From his scarf to his tambourine down to his skintight jeans tucked into high-heeled boots, he is playing the part of your daughter’s secret fantasy/worst nightmare. Possibly your son’s.
He let loose with his high-pitched drawl before the band had even begun to bash away: “Hey alright! Come oooon, come oooon. Hey everybody, let's get down. Let's get right. Hey can we turn these lights down?”
With that, Red Feathers launched into several variations on boozed-up, dusty vinyl raunch. There were Sabbath grooves and Crazy Horse freakouts — even a few moments of Cream-style fuzz-bombing. Steady pentatonic rhythms served as a ragtag-but-sturdy foundation for The Pink Owl’s flamboyant mewling: “I'll die in a shallow grave, and I'll bury you with me!"
The closest cousin that comes to mind from Columbus is Outer Spacist, another punk band with psychedelic roots (and a singer with a fondness for scarves). But whereas those guys deal in brilliant, comically-charged energy blasts, this was darker, danker and more brooding. It was still party music of a sort — as is most rock ’n’ roll that involves kick moves — but less cartoon, more B-movie.
“Thanks for coming out to the spacious Ace of Cups,” was our warning that the end was nigh, followed by a grand finale that was instantly gnarly and hard-hitting. The tumbling toms and garden-as-crotch imagery culminated in a single echoing yelp, an appropriate conclusion for a band so adept at channeling reverberations from the distant past.