The Mummies come back to life at Pickwick Gardens
The late-1980s West Coast garage rock revival had a slow, smoldering start but once San Bruno’s band the Mummies began dragging their bandage wrapped carcasses onto club bandstands, the whole thing blew up in everybody’s face.
First ignited by shaggy psychsters like San Diego’s Morlocks and Portland’s Miracle Workers, the retrophonic trend provided a vigorous, much needed jolt to a fallow landscape dominated by post-punk drones and big hair metal screamers.
Long inactive, the Mummies, whose appearance Friday at Burbank’s Pickwick Gardens will be their first local show in 26 years, spearheaded an entire movement that quickly became a fractious, superheated community due in large part to their untamed presentation. Their audacious mix of confrontational impudence and howling, high velocity R&B-informed rock ‘n’ roll was loaded with appeal, and the fact that they broke up in less than three years only heightened their lowbrow mystique.
But much like silver screen menace Imhotep did, they sporadically reemerged from the void, establishing a pattern that kept repeating itself. Offstage, they are almost as mute as the famed Karloff character.
“We really have nothing to say about much of anything,” drummer Russell Quan recently stated. “Leave the world changing to other dummies.”
Their attitude is resolute, but their reputation is so strong that they not only sold out the Pickwick date within days, online scalper offers for tickets are going as high as $250. It’s a big deal.
“There really wasn’t any scene when they began, at least not one that I can remember,” promoter-musician Jorge “Real Boss Hoss” Ojeda said. “The thing about the Mummies that was so different from other so-called ‘garage’ bands was that they never took themselves too seriously and actually had fun. I mean, c’mon, they were dressed like Mummies!
“The Mummies created the ‘budget rock’ sound,” Ojeda added. “They recorded their own records on cheap, damaged gear and self-released them. They covered lots of ’60s garage bands like Tacoma’s the Wailers, the Pleasure Seekers, the Sonics and Sam the Sham.”
Vintage Mummies disks like “Stronger than Dirt” and “Out of Our Tree” exemplify that murky budget rock sound. Usually recorded after-hours in warehouses and manufacturing workshops, their primitive lo-fidelity sound, relentless drive and Rat Fink-style vocabulary (“Death by Unga-Bunga!”) eventually took them around the world.
Their on-and-off career path, which usually saw them touring coast-to-coast in a vintage ambulance, has always been as much about what they refuse to as it is what they actually achieve. For years, they refused to issue CDs, only vinyl. They completely avoid all social media. Nonetheless their international renown has generated global acclaim and they have undertaken several European tours.
“The last time they played L.A. was at the Shamrock in Hollywood way back in 1991,” Ojeda said. “The Mummies are old friends, like family to me, and this show is going to be pure insanity.”
Returning now from another long self-imposed hiatus in their budget rock sarcophagi, the band recently headlined the sold out Burger Boogaloo festival in Oakland, where they were introduced by none other than John Waters and hit the stage riding miniature motorbikes. At Pickwick, it’s certain to be a no-holds-barred barrage of gloriously sloppy big beat throwbacks. According to Quan, it’s best to let their music do the talking.
“Our intention is not to be elusive or mysterious,” he said. “but we really have not a thing on our mind, except the simplest minded fun, and we are appreciative of the fact there is enough interest in our old band to have a big party like this.”
Who: The Mummies, the Jinxes, OBS, Satan Cheerleaders, more.
Where: Pickwick Gardens, 1001 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank
When: Friday, Oct. 23, 8:30 p.m.
More info: 818) 845-5300, pickwickgardensconferencecenter.com
JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank and author of “Ramblin’ Rose: the Life & Career of Rose Maddox” and “Cry: the Johnnie Ray Story.”