Houston proto-metal misfits Josefus make a rare trip to Chicago | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Houston proto-metal misfits Josefus make a rare trip to Chicago 

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click to enlarge Josefus

Josefus

courtesy the artist

I’ve never been to Houston, but I imagine it to be a place where the humidity is so omnipresent it can seep into your bones, cloud your vision, and permeate your art. Granted, my impression is informed by the languid thump of DJ Screw’s productions, the soupy drawl of the city’s prewar blues recordings, and the broiled, psych-soaked melodies of Josefus. Formed in 1968, Josefus foreshadowed heavy metal with the turgid riffs, brutal-but-sparse rhythms, and wild-man vocals across their 1970 debut, Dead Man. The album was financed by the father of drummer Doug Tull and self-released on the band’s Hookah label, but Josefus originally recorded the songs in 1969 in Phoenix with producer Jim Musil. According to a 2011 interview with guitarist Dave Mitchell on the blog It’s Psychedelic Baby, Musil wanted the band to change their name to Come in the hopes that Frank Zappa’s label would release the record—which he envisioned would be called "Come on Straight Records." But the sessions that became Dead Man were superior anyway, and they’re the strongest work in the band’s catalog (Numero reissued the album in 2014). Josefus’s musically scattershot self-titled 1970 follow-up for Mainstream Records lacks the magnetic heaviness that makes Dead Man a thrill, though self-admittedly the band churned out much of the material at the last minute; they broke up shortly thereafter. In the ensuing years, Josefus have reunited sporadically, though Tull died in 1991 and a few years ago bassist Ray Turner suffered a stroke that’s made it impossible for him to play. But ace guitarist Mitchell and feral vocalist Pete Bailey remain in the picture; tonight’s performance, which Reader contributor and Secret History of Chicago Music creator Steve Krakow booked, will be a rare opportunity to see this historic Houston band in person.   v

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