Catch Rob Teter Now Before He’s Popular Again
First-class melodic rock tunesmith Rob Teter has a 8 PM-ish Sunday residency through the end of this month at Zirzamin. Songwise, the obvious comparison is Tom Petty, but that doesn’t do Teter justice: he’s a better and far more eclectic songwriter than Petty, as you’d expect from the co-founder of the popular, now defunct Austin gypsy-rock band the Belleville Outfit. Don’t think Petty in phone-it-in, boring, American Girl mode – imagine early, inspired Damn the Torpedoes-era Petty, with even better lead guitar. This past Sunday he had a brilliant band – who call themselves the Slaw Dogs – featuring Teter’s old Austin pal Grant Gardner on lead guitar. That guy is the real deal, a phenomenal, Jim Campilongo/Bill Frisell class player who takes Teter’s jangly, catchy songs to the next level.
One of the best tunes in the set was Plywood and Plaster, a brooding kiss-off anthem: Gardner was in chill mode on this one, adding judicious slide licks to Teter’s bitter, brooding brokendown house metaphors. They picked up the pace with the next one, building from Teter’s skeletallly funky guitar hook that Gardner fleshed out with burning, sustained chords that crescendoed to a wickedly catchy, minor-key chorus: “Don’t go looking for me, sometimes I don’t wanna be found,” Teter warned, deadpan and casual as the band jangled and clanged, nonchalant but energetic. They did one cover, a western swing tune that Gardner lit up with jaunty pieces of jazz chords and Chet Atkins licks and then an original that grew from a laid-back, folky hook to a western swing-tinged slink. After a catchy detour into oldschool 60s soul, Teter switched to piano and mixed the soul with Britpop on a number whose catchiness played down the wrath of the lyric: “I’d rather die than fall in love with you again,” Teter mused, Gardner casually firing off a richly jangling, clanging,, jazz-fueled solo. The set went out on a high note with I Get High, a bouncy, biting minor-key gypsy-rock number where Teter finally cut loose and sparred periodically with Gardner, whose ferocious flurries of Django chords alternated with spiraling, prowling nocturnal runs. The rhythm section of bassist Mike Noordzy and drummer Mark Crowley felt the room. When Noordzy finally got a solo at the end of the set, it was slinky and fluid and cool. Crowley kept the groove going artfully with his brushes: Zirzamin is a deliciously intimate venue, and he made things intimate to the point of suspense. A lot of rock drummers won’t or can’t do that. If you like the idea of Zach Brown – or Petty – but need more substance, Rob Teter and his band will sustain you. Teter is playing solo this coming Sunday the 15th; he’ll have the band, or at least some of them, back on the 22nd and 29th.