Tucson Weekly: A Stone’s Throw Away

On Rainer Ptacek and the Giant Sandworms first-ever gig


Tucson, AZ (July  20, 2017):  Recently, I found an old box of cassette tapes—things even I couldn’t destroy. I came upon a green TDK with the words “Giant Sandworms 1st Gig” scrolled on it. A neighbor still owned a tape deck—the old kind. I took it home and ran a pencil through the spools to loosen up 30-some years, sat down, switched off the light, pushed play, and for a second, I could almost make out the faces …

Tumbleweeds Bar down on Fourth Ave, ‘cross from Choo Choo’s, stamping hands, a crowd, Giant Sandworms. The first four or five songs—a schizoid mix, stuff we must have been practicing, fashioned by an estranged anger, so necessary at that time.

The stink of the joint, P.A. beating the walls with sheets of noise, bursts of protest, beer bottles, young bodies moving through each other. That long urinal packed high with ice, drenched in the ache of impersonal chatter.

We finished an extremely loud song. A kid is heaving up his guts, a girlfriend whistling on two fingers, driving energy toward the stage, when all of a sudden, the whole place goes silent. Like a shipwreck, all of the oxygen sucked right out. Rainer Ptacek steps up to the mic, “This is a tune by James Brown,” he says, “Has anybody heard of James Brown?”

It was not a rhetorical question or measured cool—it was just Rainer, excited and moved by the Godfather of Funk, urgently talking with the kids to vitalize the sincerity and reverence he held for The Man’s music. But hardly a sound emerged. Rainer moved up, stomping his boot in time as he began two measures on the guitar, splitting a slow, unhurried groove.

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