'Twas quite a happy discovery I made when I stumbled across the amazing Grandaddy at the 1996 South by Southwest fest and confab, on a bill with their buddies Giant Sand. It was one of those wonderful, revelatory, gimme-a-thesaurus moments, when you come across a band so stunning you want to invent new adjectives. Surprised the hell out of me, that's for sure—not only do they hail from the never-will-be-a-rock-mecca of Modesto, but their scraggly mugs and flannel shirts also make them look like they should be janitors or truckers or cult members, almost anything but a sweet indie-rock band that dabbles in dreamy lo-fi as filtered through old electronic gadgetry. They've put out three albums: 1997's glorious Under the Western Freeway, a 1995 EP with the says-it-all moniker A Pretty Mess by This One Band, and this year's The Sophtware Slump—all of them collections of gorgeously moody songs with such terrifically oddball titles as "Kim, You Bore Me to Death," "Nonphenomenal Lineage," "Collective Dreamwish of Upperclass Elegance," "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot," "Broken Household Appliance National Forest" and "Poisoned at Hartsy Thai Food" (which is basically a song about a refreshing after-dinner hurl). What they create on plastic is an aural soundscape of great beauty, like Harvest-era Neil Young, squashing minimalist electronic and classical textures with some of that old "shoegazer" drone, pulled together with the lazy, paranoid, just-got-kicked-in-the-balls falsetto of singer/band architect Jason Lytle. Some have branded Grandaddy, both positively and derisively, as "deconstructed ELO." But it's a fitting term, one backed up by the images on The SophtwareSlump's CD booklet of old computer keyboards ground into the dirt. Out of all the swell bands playing this year's Picnic, Grandaddy may be the one that's the most honestly, genuinely moving. (Rich Kane)
GRANDADDY PLAYS THIS AIN'T NO PICNIC AT OAK CANYON RANCH AT IRVINE LAKE, 5305 SANTIAGO CANYON RD., IRVINE, (714) 740-2000. SUN., NOON (DOORS OPEN AT 11 A.M.). $32.50. FOR THE FULL FEST LINEUP, SEE THE POP & ROCK CALENDAR LISTINGS.