On Jan. 9, 1978, Tim Parrish, future singer in the Baton Rouge underground rock band The Lower Chakras, witnessed The Sex Pistols in concert at local music club The Kingfish.
The Sex Pistols, an infamous punk-rock band from London, were on their first American tour. The group played seven U.S. shows before breaking up in San Francisco.
Despite The Sex Pistols’ pending demise, Parrish experienced a sort of religious conversion at The Kingfish. Before The Sex Pistols, he had liked conventional hard-rock bands Led Zeppelin, Slade and Deep Purple. He had never seen anything like The Pistols.
“They were so raw and authentic and, in a virtuosic kind of way, not incredibility talented,” Parrish said last week. “That made it accessible. And they were singing about working-class anger. I’d never heard that in music before. It shattered the rules of arena rock.”
A local underground rock scene existed in Baton Rouge before The Sex Pistols, Parrish said. After The Pistols and then The Ramones show at The Kingfish a few weeks later, the scene shifted to high gear.
Parrish, captivated by The Sex Pistols though he was, didn’t join a band until 1982. He and future Dash Rip Rock leader, Bill Davis, formed The Human Rayz. The first incarnation of The Lower Chakras, including Parrish and guitarist Boykin Short, emerged in 1985.
The Lower Chakras will perform for the first time in 21 years Saturday at Chelsea’s Café. The reunion will feature the Chakras lineup Parrish considers definitive — Parrish, Short, drummer George Brown and bassist Mike “Cornbread” Traylor.
Parrish is currently professor and director of creative writing at Southern Connecticut State University. He’s been on the university’s faculty for 21 years. Parish is also the author of the short story collection “Red Stick Men: Stories,” the memoir “Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist” and the novel “The Jumper.”
While Parish is home this weekend for The Lower Chakras reunion, he’ll also be conducting interviews for a forthcoming documentary about Baton Rouge’s 1980s underground rock scene, tentatively titled “Red Stick Punkumentary.”
Rebecca Hamilton, an ’80s music fan who is now chief librarian at the State Library of Louisiana, and filmmaker Bennet Rhodes asked Parrish to participate in the film. Hamilton also established a crowd-funding website and Facebook page for the project.
The punk-rock documentary, “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90),” inspired Hamilton to make “Red Stick Punkumentary.”
“[Salad Days] was really well done,” she said. “It isn’t elaborate. It just documents the scene. I thought, ‘We can do this.’”
In turn, the documentary led to The Lower Chakras reunion.
“I have been trying to get them back together, but it’s difficult to herd musicians from up in Connecticut,” Parrish said.
Parrish, knowing he would be in Baton Rouge to work on the film, realized his visit was an opportunity to make his dream of a Lower Chakras reunion reality.
The versatile Lower Chakras played more than punk rock. They also performed psychedelic rock, rockabilly and ballads. And the group’s songs often featured three-part vocal harmonies.
Lower Chakras lyrics tended to be political and campy. During the group’s 1985-1992 run, it released a self-titled album (on yellow vinyl) and one single, the Jimmy Swaggart-inspired “36 Flags Over Jesus.”
“We didn’t take ourselves too seriously,” Parrish said. “We tried to get everybody to have fun.”