Hal Shows
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Hal Shows

Tallahassee, Florida, United States

Tallahassee, Florida, United States
Band Alternative Rock


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"Presskit---Hal Shows"

Entertainment Weekly 11 July 2003

Native Dancer

Reviewed by Ken Tucker

From the easy-rollin' music that begins NATIVE DANCER
(Witching Stick), you might mistake HAL SHOWS for a
laid-back sort. But Shows, previously the leader of a
fine, loud, '80s agitprop rock band called Persian Gulf,
soon starts slipping some vinegar into this album's
sweet country rock. On ''Easy Street,'' he hears talk
about ''a war so far away'' and a national bravado that
promises ''foreign tongues will taste defeat.'' As
Native Dancer proceeds, the loping ditties, with their
skillful blend of bluegrass, honky-tonk, and pop-rock,
sneak in messages of dissent and doubt: ''Don't take it
on trust,'' he advises on ''Don't Blame It On Us!,'' and
he's downright protest-y on ''That Check's in the Mail''
and the saxophone-bleating ''Hung Jury.'' His pleasantly
hoarse voice and tunefulness may remind boomers of the
Lovin' Spoonful and younger listeners of...well, no one
on the contemporary scene.

Tallahassee Democrat
Fri, Jul. 18, 2003

Hal Shows puts Tallahassee on the Musical Map

By Mark Hinson

Tallahassee's Hal Shows got a nifty gift just in time for his 50th
birthday, which is Saturday.
His fine, new solo CD, "Native Dancer," was reviewed by noted critic
Ken Tucker in the July 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly. In a
highlighted corner of the mag's music section, Tucker gave the disc
an A- and said of Shows: "His pleasantly hoarse voice and
tunefulness may remind boomers of the Lovin' Spoonful and younger
listeners of ... well, no one on the contemporary scene."
Believe what you read. "Native Dancer" finds Shows in a musically
playful mood while he tosses off his lyrics with the usual biting,
literate flair we've come to expect. It's all done so seemingly
effortlessly it's no wonder Shows is often overlooked in his own
hometown. It costs to be an original.
Shows' musical legacy in these parts stretches back more than 20
years when he led a powder keg of a rock band called Persian Gulf.
This was in the pre-George Bush The First days when most Americans
couldn't find the real Persian Gulf on a map.
The three-piece group was aggressive, political, smart and
danceable. In the early '80s, you could stumble into a basement
party in your finer Tallahassee student ghetto and find Persian Gulf
set up in the corner by the bar. This was back in a time when there
was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.
In the mid-'80s, Persian Gulf packed up and headed off to
Philadelphia just in time to watch the police burn down a city block
in an attempt to eradicate a radical group called MOVE. Persian Gulf
kept moving and eventually ended up in New York City.
Persian Gulf always got raves from critics. The Village Voice and
Robert Christgau spilled much ink in its praises of the band's
albums ("Persian Gulf: The Movie" and "Changing the Weather"). If
there were such a thing as musical justice, Persian Gulf would've
become bigger than The Police. As we've all learned from watching
MTV and listening to corporate-run radio, there is no such thing as
musical justice.
Shows returned to Tallahassee by the early '90s and quietly began
working solo with discs such as "Lifeboat" and "Birthday Suit." If
you want to play catch-up, track down his excellent solo compilation
called "Whitman's Sampler: Tunes 1989-99."
When he's not holed up penning pithy pop tunes, Shows occasionally
sings lead and plays guitar in the group Kangaroo Court. You can
catch the 'Roo in a rare concert appearance on Aug. 2 at - I'm not
making this up - the Eighth Annual Rockin' The Pond gathering. It's
held at Jim Hollis' River Rendezvous at Convict Springs in Mayo. For
more information about how to find Convict Springs (don't you just
love Florida?) call (800) 533-5276. Mayo is south of Perry in
Lafayette County. It's not near anything.
In the meantime, the "Native Dancer" CD is available at all the
local CD Warehouses, at Vinyl Fever on Pensacola Street or by
visiting www.cdbaby.com.
Happy birthday, Hal.

"Falling somewhere in the middle of a musical Bermuda triangle (Dick Dale, the Talking Heads and Ennio Morricone being the three points) this track [Hal Shows' "Black, Black, No Trade Back," from the 1999 release Whitman's Sampler] manages to find its own voice. Twitchy organ vamps and a serious reverb on guitar mark a tune on which the emphasis is the structure rather than quick-picking. Great bridge and a strange David Byrne-sounding 'meep...meepmeep' make the four minutes fly by."
--Andrew Dansby, Rolling Stone, 2000 (Editors’ MP3 of the Day)
"Two minutes, ten seconds of souped-up, frantic, organ-driven psychedelic soul capped with a bloodcurdling primal scream, "Its Supernatural!" [also from Whitman's Sampler] wouldn't sound out of place at all on a choice garage rock compilation like 'Nuggets.' Or the next 'Austin Powers' soundtrack, for that matter."
Richard Skanse, Rolling Stone, 2000 (Editors’ MP3 of the Day)
"Hal Shows' songs are as rawboned as the best Creedence Clearwater Revival; they link personal frustration and political rage without wasting a word or a note."
--Jon Pareles, New York Times, 1986
"[Persian Gulf], led by the guitarist-singer Hal Shows, has applied the lessons of punk-rock --directness and economy-- to riffs inherited from soul, rockabilly and the blues . . . Mr. Shows sings in a raspy monotone recalling the Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten. But his message isn't punkish cynicism or anger; some songs are about falling in love --uneasily-- and some are surreal narratives or sidelong political statements . . . Although the music sounds workmanlike and rough-hewn, there's not a note out of place; the band tossed off a song in an odd meter, 7/4, as easily as a funk tune. Without making a fuss, Persian Gulf shows how much life is left in the rock and roll basics."
--Jon Pareles, New York Times, 1984
"Hal Shows writes and sings songs in a confiding croon. With close cropped hair, a tight smile, and round, rimless glasses, Shows looks like the kind of yuppie who takes pride in having outgrown rock and roll; instead he has grown into it, bending it to his will . . . the effect is exhilarating. This performance began with an acoustic version of his band, a quartet including guitars, a cello, and modulated vocal harmonies. Shows filled this set with love songs that used invigoratingly forthright, explicit languauge. The songs were beautifully arranged . . . High points included the most hard-rocking version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" I've ever heard."
--Ken Tucker, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1984
"Conscious rather than correct, without a hint of hard-cores parracidal/mysogynistic hysteria, this eight-song EP [Changing the Weather] is constricted and expansive, sour and ebullient all at once. Hal Shows understands his own anarchic/apocalyptic impulses, and his Lennonesque rhythm guitar provides the extra momentum he needs to stay on top of things."
--Robert Christgau, Village Voice, 1984
The Harvard Crimson Online :: Print Article
Originally published on Tuesday, October 16, 1984 in the News section of
The Harvard Crimson.

IN MANY ways, Persian Gulf, a little-know band from Philadelphia, could
serve as an American answer to bands like U2 or Big Country. Here's a band
deeply rooted in the traditions and values of the United States, who can
make political anthems without sounding preachy.
On their new EP, Changing the Weather, Persian Gulf comes across as
sardonic rather than cynical, concerned rather than overbearing, slangy
rather than sloppy. Persian Gulf is also one of the very few groups who
not only manage to come out of a political sing-along number ("It's a Good
Thing") in one piece, but, in the process, create a biting social chant
("that's the right thing to know too late.")
That's the only slow song on the album, though. The rest of the songs, led
by Hal Shows's twangy guitar licks, are hard-edged rockers, firmly molded
in traditional American rock'n roll (note, for instance, the main riff in
"Kate Lit a Fire.") Although parts of the songs might sound like country
rock, 1950s rock or ever 1960s psychedelic (the slightly distorted vocals
in "Race Wars"), Persian Gulf is impossible to pigeonhole. Their music
goes beyond its influences; they have their own unique sensibility.
Unlike U2, Persian Gulf also manages to blend the surreal and the
political, without sounding artsy. "Eclipse of the Moon" is an apocalyptic
vision of social disintegration that strays from reality into fantasy with
no resulting loss in intensity: "all the women are banding
together/they're running free in the woods tonight/in my sleep I can hear
them chanting."
(Copyright © 2004, The Harvard Crimson Inc. All rights reserved).
"This seven song EP [Changing the Weather] is startling in its pared down musical simplicity and cynical vision that always looks askance. Composer/vocalist/guitarist Hal Shows wants more from modern relationships (like conversation) and distrusts state socialism as much as he loathes corporate capitalism. In fact, in both song and deed, Persian Gulf recaptures rocks essentially anarchistic core: a refusal to subordinate integrity to the debilitating superstate . . ."
--Michael Kimmel, The Livingston Medium, 1984
"Pure, straightforward, unadulterated rock and roll. No posing, no cute little gimmicks or fashion statements. Persian Gulf represents the best that rock has to offer. Hal Shows is an artist with a vision; it isn't a pretty one. Frustration, betrayal, the search for love, and the failure of Christianity are themes running through his work. Influenced by Dylan and Byrne, as well as by traditional folk music, Shows shows as much breadth as he does depth. Persian Gulf: The Movie . . . deserves a place in the collections of those who know what rock and roll is all about."
--Steve Hecox, Option Magazine, 1986
" Persian Gulf's first full length LP has it all. Following up the critically acclaimed 1984 Changing the Weather, The Movie incorporates all that the earlier work suggested and doubles it. Hal Shows must be a man who takes his time crafting his work . . . everything here is perfectly in place without being precious, not an extraneous lick or word in sight, not an inappropriate harmony or misplaced modulation. With little fanfare, Persian Gulf has arrived to announce that there's life left in this American rock 'n' roll thing . . ."
--Jeff Tamarkin, CMJ New Music Report, 1986
"This solo debut [Birthday Suit] displays Shows' expansive knowledge of rock and roll history . . . filtered through his intelligent songwriting. He manages to evoke the past without sounding retro, a neat trick. He is also literate and witty in his songs without being pompous or condescending . . . The record's underpinning is a steady flow of percussion instruments adding a non-rock texture to the mostly roots rock and roll songs . . . The album is diverse in sound but unified in theme and feeling."
--Steve Macqueen, Tallahassee Democrat, 1990
"On Birthday Suit, his solo debut, Shows uses B-52's bass lines, Buddy Holly's reverb drenched guitars, Leon Redbone's blues form and vocal chorales that combine R.E.M. freneticism with the sweetness of the Beatles to enhance his straightforward songwriting. "Supernatural" is a terse blues essay, "Evelyn Anderson" a Nick Drake-like folk fantasy, and "Morales Died" a charged, indirectly political rocker."
--Tom Moon, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1989
"[Birthday Suit] is the most consistently solid, low-budget rock album to pass my way in ages. When he rocks, Shows has a bite similar to Elvis Costello, though more muted, complete with cheesy keyboards. Some of the strongest tracks are in a more acoustic, folk-rock vein, tuneful and somewhat wearily sung, with an unusual absence of the self-pity that other performers would usually inject into them. With a narrative, slightly whimsical flavor, they often recall vintage Ray Davies."
--Richie Unterberger, Option Magazine, 1990
"Persian Gulf is a three man rock band that makes some of the most intelligent and quirkily original music in Philadelphia, with songs full of mature, complex emotions, couched in inviting melodies and powered by rough, aggressive guitar playing."
--Ken Tucker, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1985
"Music from the heart, gut and head. Persian Gulf isn't pretentious, isn't trendy, isn't even particularly timely, (though you can't get much more up-to-the-minute than their 'Free South Africa')-- just a basic, attuned trio standing alone on their own six feet. The Movie, their first full-length LP, showcases honed to the bone pop . . . [and] restrained acoustic ballads. Either style (and the host of others they flirt with on this cut-packed album) is delivered with sincerity and know-how." --CMJ Editorial Staff Jackpot,1986
" . . . this straightforwardly muscular, unabashedly intelligent Philly-based band will perform originals you'll remember instantly, even if you haven't been able to find their EP, and a version of 'Not Fade Away' that turns it into the anti-trendie anthem."
--Robert Christgau, Village Voice, 1984
"Mixing topical, politically sophisticated lyrics with garage rock licks, Persian Gulf achieves the elusive goal of meaningful music that's fun to dance to . . . "
--Marc Brown, Tallahassee Democrat, 1985
" . . . songs with catchy melodies and tart lyrics are played with slashing intensity. The final effect is one of the best rock-and-roll paradoxes: tight music that sounds tossed off." --Ken Tucker, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1985
"Music from a trouble zone: The United States of America."
--Robert Christgau, Village Voice. 1985
"Lifeboat reveals a songwriter who knows how to manipulate his audience by balancing seamy imagery with catchy, often playful melodies . . . the bleak philosophical outlook that informs Lifeboat is belied by Shows' deadpan delivery and a grab bag of musical styles that make the CD easy to digest . . . Appropriately, his most disturbing tale here is also, in a way, his funniest . . . Throughout Lifeboat, Shows' rage is never so far below the surface that it goes unnoticed."
--Jim Murphy, Miami New Times, 1996
"[Lifeboat] affirms once again Shows' artistic strengths-- a gift for melody, thoughful lyrics, clever arrangements, and a bare-bones rock and roll approach that manages to incorporate a variety of sounds and styles . . . and, for a work spread over so much time and so many places, Lifeboat works as a coherent whole."
--Steve Macqueen, Tallahassee Democrat, 1995
"Hal Shows is a natural born poet and a rock and roll mastermind all in one extremely talented package. As leader of former Tallahassee band Persian Gulf, shows specialized in wonderfully melodic, devilishly clever punk-pop that packed local dance floors in the early eighties . . . This delicious sampler of Shows' oeuvre [Whitman's Sampler, 1999] surveys the post-gulf years, but the band's raw power hums under the surface of these tunes."
--Kati Schardl, Tallahassee Democrat, 2000
Hal Shows releases are available on the web at CDStreet and CDBaby, or from witchingstick@comcast.net.
Mr. Shows, who turned 52 this summer, lives near Chaires, Florida,
with his family and a catdog.

For what they’re worth, the following excerpts are from interviews over the years.

"The music industry is now run by market analysts, rather than lovers of music. They worry about demographics first and inspiration last, if at all. They compulsively underestimate the capacity of people to respond to anything new . . ."

"The fact that rock is now selling beer and sports is telling, I think . . . rock is about independence, not about selling beer . . ."

" . . . our basic approach is pretty much garage; we don't have much use for solos or virtuosic parts. We like to leave it while the interest is high . . ."

"I feel that all good music is essentially unclassifiable in its own time . . . now they try to force music into strict categories, but its bullshit. Rock and Roll has always encompassed many different things . . . rock can go anywhere you can think . . ."

" . . .I mean, rock and roll can't be 'raised' to the level of 'high art,' or anything like that, because it's already there . . ."

"I'm lucky, in a way . . . I owe no-one anything for Lifeboat, so I can do what I want with it . . . I can sling it off rooftops if I want. There's a certain beauty to that . . ."

- New York Times, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer, Rolling Stone, et al .


Changing the Weather, EP, 1984
Persian Gulf: the Movie, LP, 1986
Trailer, EP, 1987
Birthday Suit, LP, 1990
Lifeboat, CD, 1995
Whitman's Sampler, CD, 1999
Cave Art Collective, CD, 2000
Kitty's Collection (Various Artists), CD, 2001
Psychedelics, CD, 2001
Native Dancer, CD, 2003



In 1980, after some years living in Italy, Hal Shows founded the celebrated post-punk rock band Persian Gulf, whose Changing the Weather was named Best EP recording of 1984, by dean of American rock critics Robert Christgau, in The Village Voice. Persian Gulf's unclassifiable brand of rock garnered acclaim in national papers of musical record such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Option, High Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and elsewhere, and the band toured consistently throughout the 1980's. Subsequent work with the band included Persian Gulf:The Movie (1986), and Trailer, released in the UK in 1987. In 1989, Persian Gulf disbanded in New York City. Mr. Shows has since released Birthday Suit (1990), a roots- rock record with international flavorings, and Lifeboat (1995), a song-cycle which was named one of The Top Ten Recordings of 1995 in The Tallahassee Democrat. Two compilations of his recordings, Whitman's Sampler and Cave Art Collective, were released in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Kitty's Collection, a benefit CD for a friend in need, and Psychedelics, a collection of experimental pieces, were released in 2001. Native Dancer, his latest work, issued in May 2003. Hal Shows lives near Chaires, Florida, with his family and a catdog.