Book Review // Some New Kind Of Kick
Alt-rock guitar god Kid Congo Powers could be your cousin or your friend
Magazines like Creem told us it was all about the sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Aspiring rock journalist Brian Tristan (soon to be known as Kid Congo Powers) wanted to be near it all — a young, artistic Mexican-American boy sneaking out to glam rock nights at L.A. nightclubs, losing his mind over punk 45s, scratching together fanzines, and watching monster movies at drive-in theaters all while helming the Ramones' Los Angeles fan club. During the '70s, many rock journalists were nearly rock stars themselves. Why not be something more? Wading in deeper — Tristan snuck off to a punk show during a senior trip to London, crashed in strange squats during whirlwind trips to New York City on acid, and formed the groundbreaking band The Gun Club with Jeffrey Lee Pierce while in line at a Pere Ubu show. Never having played guitar before didn't slow him down one bit.
Entranced by his serpentine moves, painterly strumming, and youthful malleability, icons Lux Interior and Poison Ivy recruited Tristan into the cult of The Cramps. Induction was complete after they taught him more guitar chords and changed his name to Kid Congo Powers. After leaving The Cramps and while weaving in and out of The Gun Club, Kid joined forces with The Bad Seeds. Opportunities unfolded and Kid grabbed them. He shared that he didn't know how it all happened, it just happened.
Rock memoirs appeal to our sense of voyeurism. We want stories to make us feel the heat of steamy-windowed backseat sex. We enjoy feeling filthy, sucked into the black hole of heroin addiction in Berlin. Our hearts pound over thoughts of getting arrested for shoplifting and spending a night trashed in jail. We would rather party than worry about paying rent. Yet these aren't just Kid's stories. They are those of any '70s-80s punk kid who was looking for and finding their own tribes and thrills. His just had bigger names. Suffering a hangover while at an amusement park (Siouxsie Sioux). Massacring Kiss covers to fight off boredom (Lydia Lunch). Watching helplessly while friends painfully kick drugs and find sobriety (Nick Cave and Anita Lane).
Smarmy, name-dropping tales aren't what pulls the reader into Kid's story. He is self-effacing and genuine. His successes startle him as much as the reader. He realizes the absurdity of it all. His sublime, easy humor carries one through his trauma and confusion. Kid's family appears to accept him when he comes out. His closest friends embrace him. Although he finds his troop of outsiders, he still feels like an outsider among them as a gay man. Even when he dives into a decadent scene, he dampens his expression of sexuality. Sadly, meaningful relationships don't come as easily as his other opportunities, but somehow he still shines brightly on the other side of dark times, loneliness, and addiction to find a better place. By the end of this book, he is a close life-long friend. If one is lucky, one already has and loves a Kid Congo Powers in their own life.
Omnibus Press/ 272 pages/ Biography, Music, LGBTQ