New York may get all the credit for being the birthplace of punk, but artists from other cities had crucial roles in shaping the subculture. One such figure was John Morton, a musician from Cleveland who laid the foundation for punk with his distorted guitar playing in the Electric Eels.
Although it didn't have its own CBGB's, Cleveland attracted boundary-pushing bands like the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart in the early '70s. Morton started the Electric Eels to give these bands a decent opener. The Electric Eels had an avant-garde approach but lacked technical chops; they sounded like the Stooges with the dissonance turned up to 11.
Over 40 years later, Morton has gained recognition for his contributions to punk, and is doing something he never did during those early days: touring. He plays his first shows in California this week, not with the Electric Eels but with X_X, his no wave band performing at San Francisco's Hemlock Tavern on May 12. Pronounced "Ex Blank Ex," the band is a perfect outlet for Morton's abrasive vision, especially with a rhythm section that includes no wave jazz drummer Weasel Walter and Craig Bell of Rocket from the Tombs.
This show will provide an intimate look at one of punk's originals, and it should not be missed.