Tav Falco and Panther Burns bring the heat for the White Water Tavern set
Flamboyant psychobilly legend and multimedia artist Tav Falco, who grew up in Arkansas, returns with his band Panther Burns for a Friday set at White Water Tavern in Little Rock.
The stop is part of Falco’s 34-date “Rogue Male” tour which finds him and the Unapproachable Panther Burns – lead guitarist Mario Monterosso, bassist Giuseppe Sangirardi and drummer Walter Brunetti – criss-crossing America for the first time. since the pandemic. It’s safe to say that the charismatic leader is enthusiastic about the trek.
“I plan to sing, dance and celebrate like an Aztec sun worshiper,” Falco said in an email last month from Berkeley, Calif., where he had just arrived from his current home base of Bangkok.
Opening Falco will be provided by Little Rock DOT garage rock champions – Melanie King, Jordan Wolf and Correne Spero – and former Gossip member Nathan Howdeshell will spin “a shellac selection of archaic rumbas and tangos “Throughout the evening. Tickets are $15, the show is at 8 p.m. See whitewatertavern.com for details.
“We’re thrilled to have the DOT, or Daughters of the Newt, open for us,” Falco says. “We need more women in the music scene as we navigate. I had asked Matt White and Travis Hill at White Water Tavern to look for an outstanding female ensemble to appear with us and DOT came to mind.
Falco and Panther Burns are touring in support of their latest album, “Club Car Zodiac,” a five-song EP he says was kicked off by Mike Watt, the former Panther Burns bassist and founding member of the legendary punk trio. The Minutemen. The recording, produced and arranged by Monterosso, includes a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” and combines tango, cabaret and scuzzy roots rock. It’s a perfect example of Falco’s diverse interests, and he calls it his most personal recording.
“There’s screaming on these tracks – a howl,” he says. “’Dance Me to the River’, and in particular ‘La Brigantessa’ and ‘Tango Primavera’, are products of my past appearances in Rome.”
Falco was born Gustavo Antonio Falco in Philadelphia. His family moved to Arkansas when he was young and he grew up near Whelen Springs. He became interested in acting while in high school and attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He worked as a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific before moving to Memphis, where he immersed himself in the fertile underground music and arts scene.
He formed the non-profit art-action video group Televista and filmed blues musicians from Memphis and northern Mississippi. It was with Televista that Falco trained in photography and cinema with William Eggleston, the famous photographer and musician from Memphis.
“What I learned from Bill was not so much photography technique, because anyone can release the shutter on a camera,” he says. “I rather learned the sense of aesthetics. No intellectual aesthetics, but more practical. How a literal medium like photography can appeal to the subliminal instead of the sensational.
Panther Burns was formed in 1979 by Falco and former Box Tops member and Big Star Alex Chilton. Other members over the years have included Little Rock native Jim Dickinson and Jim Sclavunos, who played with Lydia Lunch and are members of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Panther Burns, who featured an ever-rotating cast of musicians, became known for his punk, edgy, art-damaged take on rockabilly and blues and would go on to influence like-minded outfits like The Gories, Southern Culture on Jon Spencer’s Skids and Blues Explosion.
Along with his musical activities, Falco appeared in the films “Great Balls of Fire”, “The Big Post Office Robbery”, “Wayne County Rambling” and others. He has also directed his own films, including the shorts “Love’s Last Warning”, “Born Too Late”, “Shadetree Mechanic” and more. His feature debut, 2016’s “Urbania Descending,” which he wrote, directed and starred in, was filmed in Little Rock and Vienna and played at the American Cinematheque theater in Los Angeles in 2017.
He collaborated with author Erik Morse on “Ghosts Behind the Sun: Splendor, Enigma, and Death, Mondo Memphis Vol. I,” a study of Memphis beginning with the Civil War through more recent times and a book by his photographs, “An Iconography of Chance: 99 Photographs of The Evanescent South,” was published in 2015 by Elsinore and distributed by the University of Chicago Press.
Falco was living in Austria when he decided to move to Bangkok in November after a trip to see his editor in Thailand.
“During my visit, I fell in love with this tropical paradise by the sea and decided to hang my hat here for a while,” he says. “It was time for a change.”
As for being back on the road and playing for his fans for the first time since 2020, Falco says his goal “is to bring the fun back to the concert halls we’ll be visiting in 34 cities. … We urge everyone to step out of their box and comfort zone to share in an evening of wild fun.