"If we didn't understand what [those bands] were saying," Karafiát says, "we kind of felt what those guys were talking about."
PPU's untamed shenanigans led to, for example, the jailing of freejazz sax player Vratislav Brabenec for a year. As he states via translator by e-mail, "Most of our adventures were crazy, as you can imagine. After the arrests in 1977, most of our concerts were suicidal. We didn't know if the secret police would come and kill us or put us back in jail. But we had a lot of support from [future President] Havel and the underground culture. Trying to record albums in Havel's barn under our situation no real power source, police lurking around it was all an adventure." Eventually, Brabenec was forced to flee to Canada.
It's remarkable to think that PPU and their compelling skronk still persists, years after the Czechoslovakian government tried to grind them down and despite their continued underground status in their homeland. "We are on the edge," says the guitarist with a chortle. "Most Czechs are consumers. They consume TV, McDonald's, and there's just small group of people looking for something different." Those unusual suspects could find it at the slew of PPU sets before and after Rock 'n' Roll performances in the Czech Republic.
But perhaps that's another reason we're feeling that Old World sound: maybe we're looking for the type of resilience integral to powerful, affecting art forged during tough times. With those survival skills, slipping onto the bill of bluegrass and country at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8 is a cinch. "Speed metal bills, jazz bills, traditional Egyptian music bills," Hütz says. "We're entirely inappropriate everywhere!"
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Sun/5, 4:15 p.m., free
Star Stage, Speedway Meadow
Golden Gate Park, SF
Also benefit for Muttville
Sun/5, 9 p.m., $30
333 11th St., SF
PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE
Reception and CD signing Oct. 9, 7 p.m., free admission for Slim's ticket holders and past and future holders of Rock 'n' Roll tickets
American Conservatory Theater
405 Geary, SF
Performance Oct. 9, 9 p.m., $15$20, Slim's