After the untimely passing of Sun City Girls drummer Charles Gocher in 2007, remaining members Alan and Rick Bishop vowed to never again perform under that band name. Now performing the SCG catalog as an acoustic duo, they're technically true to their word, calling themselves "The Brothers Unconnected."
If you're encountering the SCG oeuvre for the first time, the Bishops have an awful lot of material to draw from. Meeting Gocher on the open-stage circuit in Phoenix in the early '80s, the band began as hippie-damaged jam-punk in the vein of the Meat Puppets. The trio soon went beyond mere punk rock to incorporate all kinds of influences (something bands on SST Records were also doing to a lesser extent), including beat poetry, free jazz and snatches of indigenous music from around the globe. SCG shows became performative, ritual events with costumes, makeup and audience mayhem, and the lyrics and song titles reflected their interests in Eastern mysticism, paranormal phenomena and the occult.
With their Cloaven label, Sun City Girls were also part of the important American "cassette culture" scene, a community which completely bypassed the conventional music industry to create a thickly knit DIY network more intrinsically "punk" than every band on this year's Warped Tour combined. With imprints like Majora and Abduction, they were able to disseminate ornately packaged vinyl and CDs to a cult audience whose members never knew exactly what they were going to get, but it was usually exciting and off-the-wall enough to take the listener on an unexpected aural journey.
The Bishops, both of whom now live in Seattle, also did considerable traveling on their own. "Sir Richard" toured regularly with his acoustic guitar, honing a unique style that fused Appalachian fingerpicking with raga-like scales, like John Fahey on a Buddhist bender. Besides going solo under the moniker Alvarius B, Alan scoured the backroads of the world to issue volumes of world music -- the kind you'd buy from street cassette vendors in Bangkok or Algiers -- as the Sublime Frequencies series.
The SCG always incorporated visual elements (its latest release is a soundtrack to Harmony Korine's weirdo film Mister Lonely, a task split with J. Spaceman of Spiritualized). The Brothers show at The Andy Warhol Museum on Tue., June 24, partly a tribute to the prolific Gocher, includes one of his long-form video works, The Handsome Stranger, described by the Bishops as "demented, brilliant, hilarious, and inventive." And just like other offbeat American originals such as Zappa, Beefheart and Sun Ra, the same can be said for the band itself, may it rest in the higher levels of enlightenment.
The Brothers Unconnected: A Tribute to Sun City Girls and Charles Gocher, with Centipede E'est. 7:30 p.m. Tue., June 24. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $12. All ages. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org