Sunday, January 15, 2017

House of Freaks - "Cactusland" (forgotten song)

Today's Virginian Pilot has a retrospective article on the murders of the Harvey family in 2006 in Richmond because their killer is scheduled for execution this week.  I recall when this happened, although I don't remember this being part of a larger crime spree, including other murders. 

Bryan Harvey (guitar, vocals) was one of the two members (Johnny
Hott was the percussionist) of Richmond's House of Freaks, who were notable for being the first (one of the first?) bands that achieved a really "full" sound with only two musicians and no overdubs.  We now have The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Matt and Kim, Wye Oak, and surely others with similar approaches, but I'm pretty sure House of Freaks lead the way.

I believe it was late 1991 when I first learned of this band.  I had graduated but Terry was in his final year at JMU and living in the attic of the house on Old South High (pictured above, with Terry's 1990's selfie), which he had arranged in his own indomitable style -- there was surely not a finer attic bachelor pad in all of Harrisonburg.  On one of my visits we were either about to go out or had just gotten back (the details are hazy at this point), and Terry put on a tape and said something like "check this out -- it's just two guys."  I remember being blown away by the sound of their 1987 LP "Monkey on a Chain Gang", especially the song "Cactusland".  For whatever reason, that song crystallized that moment in time.

House of Freaks would break up in the early 90s (not long after that visit to JMU), coming close to "making it" but just missing.  Both Harvey and Hott would continue recording and collaborating in various other local bands and projects.  In fact it was Hott who first discovered the crime scene when he arrived with his daughter for a New Year's Day family party at Harvey's house.

Whatever happens this week, there will surely be more discussion of graphic details of that day in 2006.  I'll try to tune it out and remember the first time I heard "Cactusland" at Terry's place.

House of Freaks - "Cactusland"

But there ain't no gold in cactusland....

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