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FFF review: Television

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 10, 2013

First, a personal note: I have a couple of playlists on ye olde iPod that are just different live versions of the same song or songs: The Velvet Underground playing “Sister Ray” and “What Goes On,” for examples. U2 expanding on “Bad.” Fugazi’s “Shut the Door,” “Reprovisional” and “Glue Man.” There are a few others.

But none of them are entirely like Television’s “Marquee Moon,” a grooving double-helix of tiny, twitchy notes, clean Fender guitar meshing together and pulling apart, while a mysterious man picks you up in his Cadillac and tells you the meaning of life. It’s been a touchstone for a certain type of qausi-punk/alt-rock/guitar doofus for decades, so it was genuinely thrilling to hear the band calling itself Television fire it up Saturday night, the obvious finale to a solid-if-extremely-mellow six song, 47 minute set.

The caveat about the name: The band that played last night contained founding members guitarist/singer/prime mover Tom Verlaine, bassist Fred Smith and drummer Billy Ficca. Noted session guitarist Jimmy Rip, who had played in Verlaine’s solo act, replaced founding guitarist Richard Lloyd in 2007. It is the sort of thing that hardcore music nerds joked about, serious Television fans joked about and a lot of people watching the performance were likely totally unaware of.

Opening with “Venus de Milo,” the quartet, barely moving save for Ficca, elegantly set up and tore down each song, the sound of total pros working over riffs they know in their sleep. Songs such as “Prove It,” “Elevation” and the sprawlingly weird “Little Johnny Jewel” were expertly executed. Only the less known “1880 or So” wasn’t met with mumbles and claps of recognition from the crowd.

It was lovely to hear Television’s guitar splendor, so associated with New York City, against the Austin skyline. They play a very particular kind of urban music, perhaps better suited to the club or ballroom to the festival stage (louder would have been better, quite frankly) but calmly glorious to behold under a Texas sky nonetheless.

And, yeah, anyone who recorded this show, you know where to find me.