By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
I wish I could say that I was amazed that a band like Harry Pussy existed in an unlikely locale such as South Florida, but I wasn't. I was more amazed that they had been booked into the Cellblock. When the trio took the unlit stage, about fifteen or so people had gathered on the dance floor, staring curiously at the band. Less than a minute into their set -- as drummer Adris Hoyos and guitarists Bill Orcutt and Mark Feehan bashed furiously at their instruments, creating a dangerously loud racket -- the audience scattered. A few people laughed nervously after taking stools at the bar, but most took refuge out in the parking lot. After the first song, Orcutt said something like, "We're Harry Pussy from Miami," to which a liquored-up Southern boy in back shouted, "I'll take a hairy pussy from anywhere." Orcutt returned to the mike: "Welcome to Louisiana."
The band played for twelve or so minutes. The volume was painful. I drove home that night thinking it was the greatest aural spectacle I'd ever witnessed.
I think I will forever associate the music of Harry Pussy with the year or so I spent in Shreveport. It was a time of frustration, of displacement and isolation. At The Times I was unable to write anything close to what I wanted, and was unable to soften that blow in my usual fashion -- namely, to hit the local record stores and immerse myself in new music. Most of the stuff I bought while living there was through mail-order companies such as Ajax and Drunken Fish. Nearly all of it was harsh, noisy, grating -- the dense sound-collage creations of A Handful of Dust, the grinding rumble and distortion of the Dead C., and the dope-smoking fuzzball improv of Bardo Pond and A Temple of Bon Matin.
But it was Harry Pussy that spent the most time on my turntable. Their music for me was sheer catharsis, an ideal soundtrack for a mental unraveling, a means of emotional release like nothing I had heard since my preteen exposure to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Harry Pussy's music was more than punk rock. I heard in it a sense of daring and exploration that connected it in my mind and ears to the free-jazz cacophony of Cecil Taylor; to the early industrial roar of White House; to the chaotic shriek and alternate guitar tunings of Glenn Branca, early Sonic Youth, and the New York No Wavers who preceded them; to the feedback howl of Masonna and Merzbow; and even the playful noise of Boredoms (although there was nothing silly in Harry Pussy's noise).
When it looked like I would be moving from Shreveport to Miami, I was thrilled at the thought of leaving behind the depression and claustrophobia of small-town life. But I think I was just as thrilled at the thought of seeing Harry Pussy again.
And now Harry Pussy is no more. Or rather, it won't be after May 4, when the band takes the stage at Churchill's for what they claim will be the last time. (There's talk of a European tour before it's all officially kaput, but the Churchill's gig will be their parting local shot.) Harry Pussy is currently on a U.S. tour in support of its third album, an untitled, self-released collection issued for now on vinyl; it is the first waxing featuring new guitarist Dan Hosker (Holy Terrors), who replaced Feehan last year. A flu-bitten Orcutt, on the phone last week during a tour stop in Boston, explained the Harry Pussy breakup in typically succinct fashion: "We've been playing together five years. It feels like it's been long enough."
Maybe, but given the aural evidence on the new album, Harry Pussy has chosen to hang it up at their creative apex. Without compromising their eccentricities -- which range from Orcutt's inventive guitar playing to Hoyos's scary, wailing vocals -- the band is working closer to traditional compositional forms than ever before. An untitled song near the end of side one has a gloriously loopy riff that sounds for all the world like it was picked up from Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica; the funk-splattered "Chuck!" proves once and for all that Harry Pussy is -- was -- a groove band; and "Drop the Bomb" and "Sex Problem" are almost straightforward punk songs powered by, rather than simply enhanced by, Hoyos's ranting.
For a lot of people in these parts the dissolution of Harry Pussy probably won't mean much. I don't think I've spoken to more than ten people down here who gave a damn about Harry Pussy's music or the impact it had on a handful of noise-obsessed writers and record-buyers. And considering the infrequency of their club gigs around town, Harry Pussy's absence won't be felt at the few places here that would have them. Soon, though, they will be gone. Living in Miami just won't be the same.
Harry Pussy performs Sunday, May 4, at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE 2nd Ave; 757-1807. The 18-and-over show starts at 9:00 p.m. Cover charge is $3.