That they weren’t in tune was expected, and even if they wanted to, the four unkempt, frumpy middle-aged dudes making up the Fort Worth metal band Complete could not have corralled one another into the same zip code of the rhythm with prime rib, beer, and the Dallas Stars Ice Girls as bait. And even though quasi-trained musicians would have had a hard time approximating the enormity of suckitude flaring up from the stage, Complete frontman Curtis Low, bassist Creecher, and their guitarist and drummer of the moment were performing at a prime time on a prime night on 6th Street in Austin during 2009’s South by Southwest.
Though unquestionably and objectively horrible, Complete had beaten out thousands of other artists from all over the world for a coveted sanctioned showcase at the annual March festival and conference.
And Complete continued besting the competition every year –– until this past March.
“We did not get asked to play,” the Complete guys recently posted on their Facebook page in response to a true fan’s inquiry, “would have loved to have played for 8 YEARS in a row. Would love it because Octagrage” –– who? –– “lost there [sic] Drummer and the tour we were set to go on got pushed back till [sic] latter [sic] in the year.”
What may be interpreted, rightfully, as an appropriate utilization of a highly prized slot, ostensibly to a band whose members have the audacity to stay in tune and keep a beat, was also sort of a minor tragedy.
The Complete guys suck, and in no universe are they anything but sucky, but they are honest –– painfully and embarrassingly honest but genuine and guileless nonetheless.
Go ahead and laugh at the videos for “Hoogie Boogie Land” (more than 650,000 views), “Dream-Ing” (more than 98,000 views), and “Hot as Hell” (more than 166,000 views). And giggle and throw your hands up in stunned bewilderment at Complete’s one and only recording, the 2014 album Beginning of a New Era. But in the context of a festival –– and an entire industry –– in which the commercial and the purely artful are nearly wholly integrated, Complete represents the perfect antidote. The handiwork of Curtis Low, Creecher, and new drummer Helix is just as vital to our overall cultural enlightenment as that of Henry Darger, Grandma Moses, and the mere handful of outré musical artists who apparently constitute the entirety of the Art Brut section of rock ’n’ roll (Wesley Willis, Jandek, Daniel Johnston, and two or three others –– and that’s it). Experiencing a song –– or a painting or a movie or a ballet –– by someone with a different genetic disposition from you (or a different gender, skin color, or background) can only open you to new ways of thinking, which can only be civilizing. Enlightenment equals peace. Or so some smart guys have said.
Suggesting Complete wasn’t invited to SXSW for being irrelevant is, frankly, ludicrous.
“We are in a day of [sic] two going to put a show we did yesterday up,” the Complete dudes continued on Facebook recently. “The song’s [sic] they tell me we hit gold. Two new song’s [sic].”
You hear that? “Gold.” Sorry. That was mean. But sarcasm seems to force itself into your mouth when talk turns to “Hoogie Boogie Land” –– and “Dream-Ing” and “Hot as Hell” and “Beautiful Sunrises” and “Into the Night” and the rest of Complete’s incredibly small yet enormously ear-wrenching catalog. For a music project that started in the 1990s, putting out only one album, and only recently, and playing only a handful of non-SXSW-affiliated shows per year seem to indicate that Curtis and Creecher might be punking us. If only we were so unlucky. Sarcasm forces us to protect our oh-so-preciously detached aesthetic sensibilities, ones that could afford to go a couple of rounds with Complete’s particular brand of dissonant genuineness.
Why the band has not been installed into the Outsider Music Canon is just wrong. Maybe that, like the Jazz Canon, there are too many great/“great” songs and not enough tastemakers to be able to argue for additions to it. Complete’s dis-invitation to Austin probably owes to new SXSW leadership. And a changing festival landscape. Festivals –– and there appears to be a major one every month –– now constitute most mid-level acts’ chief source of income, courtesy of the splintering of listening media. South by Southwest has to compete with dozens of other, comparable fests. And as wondrously awful as Complete is, Curtis and Creecher’s brainchild isn’t going to attract the moneyed beautiful people. Their loss.
Sat, May 28, w/Beauty Killed the Beast, Born & Raised, and Beware at 1912 Nite-Club, 1912 Hemphill St, FW. $7-10. 817-217-1241.[/box_info]