Like many of the musicians, scholars, carnies and flaneurs that inspired him, Tav Falco is a
Southern provocateur grifting his audience with the ol’ song and dance act before shuffling out the
back door with a wink and a nod. His historico-musico revue, The Unapproachable Panther Burns,
originated in 1979 at the nadir of Memphis’ postmodern, post-Beale, post-Sun, post-Stax era, when the
Mississippi River town had seemingly disappeared from the cultural map and shriveled into an
obsolescent landmark. Only groups like the Dixie Flyers, Mud Boy and the Neutrons, Big Star and Panther
Burns were intent to keep the fires burning with or without commercial success, and their contribution
to experimental pop music, dirty rock ‘n roll and the blues revival have been incalculable.
Falco spent his formative years in the country near Whelen Springs, Arkansas, before landing in
Memphis in the late 1960s. Co-founding with decadent poet Randall Lyon, the art action group TeleVista
in which he worked alongside renowned photographer William Eggleston, Falco spent the next decade
filming and photographing the city’s legendary cadre of country blues and rockabilly musicians,
artists, and politicians, expanding his lens to the outer realms of the Mississippi hill country and
the Delta. In his travels he documented Sam Phillips, R.L. Burnside, Phineas Newborn, Jr., James Carr,
Cordell Jackson and Jessie Mae Hemphill. Throughout his career in photography, video, film and music,
Falco has merged the grainy portraiture of a gonzo documentarian with the spellbinding mythos of a
backwoods raconteur. None is more illustrative of this raison d’etre than the band he founded with fellow
musician and Memphian enfant terrible Alex Chilton – The Unapproachable Panther Burns. A reference to
an ol’ Mississippi tall tale, Panther Burn was a large 19th century plantation outside of Greenville where
legend had it a cunning panther stalked and terrorized the local population until it was corralled into a cane
break and set aflame. According to witnesses, the screams coming from the panther were an unholy
amalgam of animal lust and divine transubstantiation, which continue to curse the plantation.
Playing in the Memphis cotton lofts - wood-lined structures Falco likened to a guitar sounding
box - Panther Burns developed their own tone science and gut-bucket approach to musical forms. The
unbridled Panther Burns shows, which often featured guests like Charlie Feathers and Jim Dickinson,
became monumental, renegade events. Ever-committed to preserving indigenous music and furthering new
and daring expression, in 1985 Falco and the Panther Burns founded Counter Fest, an annual festival
showcasing the best and the worst of the Memphis arts underground. The band quickly became a favorite
in New York City, as well, where No Wave was emerging at the time. Rough Trade Records enthused over
the band and released Panther Burns' debut album Behind The Magnolia Curtain in 1981.
Later Falco expatriated to Europe, where he found his most embracing audiences along the Seine and Danube rivers. The lure of the Mississippi was not far from his mind when he finally chose the river towns of Paris and Vienna as outposts of mother Memphis. The dramatic flair of his music has always colluded with cinema, and Falco was destined to step foot in its dream-factory. In addition to his own expressionist-inspired films including "Masque of Hotel Orient" (with Kenneth Anger, 1996), he appeared in By the Ways, a documentary film about color photographer William Eggleston, and enjoyed a retrospective of his own short films in April 2006, at the Cinémathèque Française. In 2014 Lamplighter Films/Frenzi Films co-released first feature film directorial effort of Falco entitled, Urania Descending, which has premiered in London and Vienna.
Falco developed ardor for Argentine tango. Becoming a tango dancer himself, Falco is regularly gliding in baroque ballrooms of Vienna’s many palaces and in milongas of Paris and Buenos Aires. The profound influence of tango is evident in Falco’s albums. As The New York Times has declared of unorthodox preservationist Falco, “(He is) a singer, guitarist and researcher of musical arcane who hasn’t let his increasingly technical expertise and idiomatic mastery compromise the clarity of his vision.” A new FRENZI re-Issue series of the Panther Burns catalog is now underway with LTM records in the UK in 2015 beginning with the introductory release, HIP FLASK.
Falco continues to perform with Panther Burns,appearing at The Barbican Centre in London in 2005. ArthurNIGHTS Festival at the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles, Fondation Cartier in Paris, the Byron Bay International Blues Festival in Australia,and i n2015 at Silencio - the private club of David Lynch in Paris.
Recorded in Rome, the new studio album, COMMAND PERFORMANCE, was released in March 2015 by UK label TSB Records. The lineup includes guitarist Mario Monterosso, Giovanna Pizzorno, anand keyboardist Raffaele Santoro. Falco's exceptional voice, described by one journalist, as sounding like Marlene Dietrich under torture, evokes the phenomenal fires of the Panther Burns. This new album is a real statement of intent from a man and his band who hit new peaks of performance - showcasing not only stunningly varied selections of the obscure and the well known, but an amazingly broad selection of new original material as well.
Equal parts primal, early rock'n'roll, deviant hill country blues & avant-garde art - TAV FALCO's PANTHER BURNS are ramshackle, raw, unholy & utterly amazing. Panther Burns is not just Music... it is a state of mind. Tav Falco is one of the truly original and romantic forces in American music - the voice that America lost and found. He is tender and virile, flamboyant, witty and dangerous. brings daggers back to the stage. HE is the one who always holds out a hand to the enemy.