Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Never Drink With The Raggies

A place hysterically optimistic politicians call, the Borderplex"

So it is, that fate has drawn me back to Las Cruces, that sun baked, dust coated, smog hazed, uncouth southern burg.  Chinga Chavin got it half right, sure you can walk down the streets of El Paso knee deep in tacos. But, in Las Cruces those same tacos, bought from a Taco Wagon will cost you less and taste better. Sad thing about Texans, no matter how close to the border they get or how much goddamn border they butt up against, they still can't make decent Mexican food!  

I'm not here to mess with Texas, for I've heard tell of a band from Las Cruces that plays it "as loose as an old prozzie's flange" (Dom Daley, Uber Rock magazine) They refer to themselves as "Credence Clearwater Revival on Meth" and pay tribute to all the Taco Wagons around the world "slangin' that meat in the street"  Naturally, I'm talking 'bout The Raggies a band who's music was described as being "born from the fertile blackness at the heart of the world." (Charles Honeywell, Texas Gun Monthly)

Las Cruces does have an active music scene, and there is a distinct "Las Cruces Sound." One which is influenced by the musical tastes of the NMSU student body. Who for the most part, are the ones filling the venues and spending their hard earned student loan money getting sloppy drunk. During the previous decade they favored third wave ska music, which made Liquid Cheese (a large ska band with at least a dozen musicians on its roster) the darlings of the local scene. 

"Put the heat to the meat and I'll sling it in the street"

Music fans are fickle bedfellows and after a while they dumped the cheese stixs for other flavors.  Punk rock made a stab at hoisting the fallen banner, but when your punk scene boils down to just two bands (and one metamorphosed from the other) well... you begin to see the limitations. The emo critters tried to dig their black polished finger nails into the public conscience, but unlike El Paso (where they dominate the scene) they were soundly rejected (they thrive on rejection anyway)

A true "Las Cruces Sound" was there all along, just waiting for the locals to take notice. The music is retro southern-rock played with enthusiasm and without  a hint of phoniness. It's best described as music to get loud and plowed, ripe with scruffy charm and belching beer soaked attitude. It's a steamy cow pie of Rio Grande dirtabilly blues soaked to its core with the muddy effluence of  The J. Geils Band, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top, Commander Cody, Johnny Winter, Joe Ely etc. Several Las Cruces bands have steered down that dusty path, each with their unique take on the style. 

The Beat Cowboys, Feral Root, The Moonshiners, The Rawdogs & The Raggies have drawn local if not regional followings. Other Las Cruces bands & musicians are close enough in style and spirit to warrant mention: Space Truckers, New Mexican Erection, Wormhole, Dirty Clydes, Janos, C.W. Ayon, Blues Messiah, Dusty Low, Soulshine & Dirty Jones. It goes without saying, if gigs are hard to come by in Albuquerque, just imagine how it is in Las Cruces. Hell! half of the bands I just mentioned are nothing more than distant memories. 

"I've got no time... like that G.G. Allin... so I'm crying like a titty baby"

Perhaps this mob of Mesilla Valley zanies has always been too unserious, dirty, rude and politically uncool to give a fuck that the odds are against them. At their core The Raggies are Jack Kilpatrick, guitar- vocals Diamond Dave Lavetts, harmonica and Little Kim Foxxxe, vocalist & "super cute jail bait", the supporting cast of musicians tends to change. Ms. Foxxxe who hails from Torrington, Connecticut was responsible for the name "Raggies" which is a "New England slang term for rednecks or po' white trash." I'll admit my ignorance and state that I had no idea Connecticut had any poor whites at all, unless you count the Portuguese. Ms. Foxxxe was rumored to have been locked up or dead, but it turns out she was simply on a family vacation.  

The rest of the band's line-up is fluid, Ryan Lee and Chris Churchill were replaced by Jesse Gutierrez "The Slapbassfunker" (a veteran of numerous Las Cruces bands) and drummer Zeke Ramirez. Thus, fulfilling Jack's dream of having an "All Mexican rhythm section."  For a while, The Raggies also utilized a hand drummer, Rene Romo who plays a djembe or West African hand drum. Zeke would later leave the band, scared off by the decadence that surrounds the Raggies. He was replaced by Chuck Manson, a psych patient, Jack met while carrying out his day job duties as a social worker.

These bar band denizens rightly earned their reputation as a must see live act, thanks in large part to the antics of Jack Kilpatrick. With his larger than life persona, it doesn't matter if he's singing the praises of a roach coach or  belting out a rugged blues song about the murdered women of Juarez. Jack demonstrates a rare combination of social conscience and ironic satire, which he serves up  disguised as cowbunk storytelling. The Raggies can be a lowbrow hoot, but they also strike a balance between tomfoolery and sharp social commentary.

"Little Joe go back home for this old world is stranger than you know"

There's a definite method behind this inspired madness, it's rude & crude humor, but never wrongheaded and it'll leave you laughing. Reactionary times demand inspirational reactionary rebels like Jack Kilpatrick. "He's a walking contradiction partly truth and partly fiction", he leans towards the liberal side politically, yet he has a love for firearms that only a right winger could understand.  Jack is a serious gun collector, his collection includes a gold plated AR-15 once owned by Pablo Escobar.

Charles Honeywell is a journalist for Texas Gun Monthly, which he describes as "a far-right gun magazine that’s little more than a newsletter." He was lured to Las Cruces under the guise of helping Kilpatrick "dial in a new laser sight for his .357 magnum" Honeywell is not a music writer but he should be, as he explains: " I don’t know why these guys keep asking me to review their work. I don’t know whether this music is good or not." 

Armed with West Texas stoicism, Honeywell met up with The Raggies at the Las Cruces dive known as "El Patio."  By the break of dawn, Honeywell would find himself naked, shooting the .357 in a forest of pecan trees, wondering why there were no cops around. With his head throbbing from Cabron and cheap Mexican tequila, Honeywell staggered back to Texas, much the worse for wear. Nonetheless, he gave them his full endorsement, advising his readers that "The Raggies tour Texas from time to time. Check ‘em out, they’re our kind of people."

"Its really helpful in that, after you do it, you won't be afraid to die." 

Another journalist didn't fare much better, Chet Smith of DIY magazine jetted into El Paso with the intentions of  doing a serious piece on the band and their "mesmerizing music."  Picked up at the airport by Kilpatrick, he was immediately offered a can of "Cabron" a Mexican energy drink not approved for sale or consumption in this country. The drink which is illegally imported from Mexico is said to contain "semilla daturas" or hallucinogenic datura plant seeds, also known as Jimson weed.

After guzzling a few Cabrons and chasing it with tequila, Chet spirals into a bad trip. Which according to Kilpatrick forced the band "to duct tape him to a chair in the shed overnight to chill him out." Smith's recollection of what took place is fuzzy as he explains "Parts that I can recall lack what I would consider a natural narrative flow and seem to resemble what the aborigines call dreamtime." Afterwards, Jack was disdainful of Chet Smith "He flew out here from California, and tried to party with the Raggies, and got sucked into the undertow."   

Safe at home in California, and facing a deadline, Smith contacted Jack Kilpatrick to let him know that parts of his story may be "inaccurate or hallucinated" to which Jack replied "Cool man, go for it, but be sure and include the part where you pissed your pants." I would highly recommend that in the future anyone wishing to interview The Raggies, do so by telephone.