Live Show Report: Hard Girls at Milk Bar, Viet Cong at Rickshaw Stop

Thursday, March 5th was one of those days when everything felt right with the world, the stars were aligned, the wind was at my back, etc. For a music fan, that means your efforts to see two excellent bands playing at two separate venues on the same night works out perfectly, and you even manage to have a beer with a member of one of the bands.

First up in my cosmically-aligned evening was Hard Girls from San Jose playing – conveniently enough – around the block from my house at The Milk Bar on Haight Street, at the very convenient time of 8:30pm as the openers of a four-band bill. I love this band’s latest album on Asian Man Records so much, I added them on to my Top Five Albums of 2014, happily crowding the list past capacity. Live and on album, they are my kind of punks: the ones that eschew convention, especially punk ones. Their anthemic songs brought out the rambunctious sing-alongs from the crowd from the beginning of the set and continued throughout, keeping the atmosphere packed with positive energy. The band – completely encapsulating the term “power trio” – was crammed on stage in between their awesome array of amps (SVT and Fender cab for the bass. VOX AC30, Marshall Half[?], and something else for ONE guitar player), gloriously hoisting their guitars and bashing their drums, playing the sweat out of every tune and most crowd members. They played the hits: basically all of A Thousand Surfaces to my delight, and a couple tracks from their other recordings.

After noticing that Mike the guitar player was wearing a Guided By Voices tee-shirt, and in consideration of the great show, I offered him my last, rare  Dogfish Head Brewing Company’s Beer Thousand tribute to the GBV’s landmark album. He accepted and I showed him all my GBV paraphernalia while drinking some beers around the block. My roommate tried to capture the moment. No comment on the framing.

All that and I still had ample time to grab a cab, a drink, and position myself in the crowd for Viet Cong at the Rickshaw Stop. Viet Cong’s self-titled post-punk masterpiece may stay up near the top of my favorite albums of 2015. It’s early, but I have faith this album will stay on top. Viet Cong’s album on JagJaguar makes such an impact with it’s impeccable, industrial-strength production, I did two contrary things at the same time: I attempted to manage my expectations f seeing them live, while utterly creating an image in my head of post-punk, slightly gothy dudes playing these tunes through fog lamps and minimal lighting. So when four normal-looking and -acting dudes got on stage and started playing, I have to admit to a tinge of disappointment.

Fortunately, the band underneath the production of that amazing album is tight as hell and charismatic to boot. Live, they embodied my thoughts about what I imagine a mind-blowing performance from Television in their prime would be like: Two guitars weaving hooks expertly in, out, around, and through each other. Rhythm players in lock-step on angular, head-bobbing beats. The singer/bass player [!!!] had a voice that wore some of the gravel from the road with grace, but there was also a baritone there I hadn’t picked up on the album – and reminded me in the best possible ways of Mark Lanegan.

While the first show of the night captured the youth and energy I was looking for out of both band and crowd, I felt like the crowd at The Rickshaw Stop didn’t know what to do themselves – and definitely weren’t into dancing or even aggressive head-bobbing, really. It was the only slightly disappointing aspect of the evening, but couldn’t come near crashing the pleasure of seeing both bands. And of course my wallet took a massive hit at the merch booths from both shows.

Forced to Look Ahead: Getting Back to Life in 2015

Recently, life has forced me to live in the present, enjoy the past, and completely postpone any thoughts, hopes or designs for the future. But all that is about to – supposed to – change. It’s exciting and terrifying.

In 2013, I spent 40 days and nights in hospitals, as well as a handful of months of full-time, “adult day care” in clinics. Through 2014, another 10 days and nights in hospital beds and innumerable clinic visits, I forgot what it was like to work and be productive, creative, and vital. My only saving grace was the energy I could put into my radio show: Cracked Machine on BFF.fm. Other than that, Doctor’s orders were to stay out of the work environment, stay out of crowds, avoid flying, and sit tight for life to start anew. I was grounded.

Despite some “hiccups”, 2015 looks to be the year I’m finally given my privileges back. Things are brewing and I am forced to look ahead:

  • I joined a gym and set up a physical trainer session for TOMORROW.
  • This week, I’m going to meet up with someone to see if we’re compatible to play music. Really, this is a test to see if I can shake off two years of rust and play bass at all like I used to.
  • I start a new job on January 21st – a job with the promise of upward mobility and personal growth.
  • I can’t stop thinking in jokes and stand-up comedy material, and need to find an outlet. For those who follow me on Twitter, I apologize already.
  • I’ve started to use a Jawbone UP24 to monitor and motivate myself to eat, sleep, and move in a healthy manor. A substitute for real discipline and inspiration, this wearable tech bit might just help pull me out of my slump.

Crabbing, fishing, camping, travelling, skiing, hiking… drawing, scuba diving, making ceramics, grilling, smoking meats, playing piano, writing words… There’s so much I want to do – so many things I’ve had to purposefully forget just to focus on surviving the last two years. And now the flood gates are barely cracking open, with me on the the other side. It’s impossible to deny the terror I feel that these hopes and ambitions I’ve already given wing to might up and disappear – that they might be taken away from me and I will be grounded once again.

People make resolutions around specific issues they have with their weight, behavior, careers, and aspirations. My needs reach broader than that – and I’ve never put stock in New Year’s resolutions. But I can say that I will be resolute in facing my fears of being grounded once again. I won’t stop in the name of fear, although it does haunt every step forward I will take. I will try to make the most of the opportunities afforded me. These are as close to resolutions I can muster.

It’s time to get back to life in 2015. The show is going to be great. The physical training is going to require much patience to get back to my former physical stature. Someone is going to laugh at my jokes or at me trying to tell them. Join me. Invite me. I’m looking forward now.

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We’ll Eat Anything – A Brainiac Reunion Show For a Good Cause

On Saturday, December 6th, the four surviving members of Dayton, Ohio’s rock band Brainiac took to the stage for the first time in seventeen years since the death of Tim Taylor, guitarist and frontman of the the band. They played as We’ll Eat Anything – an early name the band once took the stage under. From the inital responses, the night looked like it fulfilled everyone’s hopes of a sweaty, noisey, cathartic mess of glitched-out rock and roll.

The core group was joined onstage by local musicians from notable bands to perform a full set of the legendary band’s material. Other local Dayton bands also performed selected tracks from Brainiac’s discography, as well as the work of Jeremy Frederick – a dear friend of the band and a major contributor to the Dayton rock scene who passed away in 2012.

While the excitement and nostalgia generated by the Brainiac reunion is understandable, it was motivated as part of a fundraiser for the Izzy Frederick Education Fund, the daughter survived by Jeremy Frederick.

If you enjoy the video below – and any/all of the videos to follow – please, consider making purchases or donations via Jeremy’s Human Reunion bandcamp page. [Please note: I have no skin in this game. I just want to see funds raised for the reason the band reunited.]

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Photo pulled from Brainiac fan page on Facebook.

SHOW ARCHIVE – CULTURE COLLIDE – Level & Tyson

I had a couple too many mezcals during the “Spirits of the World” Culture Collide San Francisco Creative Summit panel and… yadda yadda yadda… I invited Norwegian indie pop band Level & Tyson to come on to the show! Their debut album “Even Faster Still” is a fantastic display of skill and restraint – crafting melodic, layered choruses from quirky walls of guitar and synth. If this band and their album was being promoted in the United States, you’d already know about it.

Once in the studio, the band was as charming and disarming as their music. We talked about their impending trek down to LA. I begged them to stop in Big Sur, and taught them how to order at In n’ Out. We took some time to preview more of the bands playing Culture Collide: Nervous Nellie, Popstrangers, Gossling, The Oaths, Sleep Thieves, Monokino, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

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SHOW ARCHIVE – White Reaper Interview

The guys from White Reaper call into the show and we have a bunch of fun talking about the Louisville (straightedge?) scene, their recent US tour, our shared love for Polyvinyl Records, and a whole lot more. It’s these types of moments that make radio worth while!

Also, I play a bunch of tunes per usual and it rocks.

 

2014-06-18 SHOW ARCHIVE: PUP Interview

Recent 2014 Polaris Music Prize long-listers and Toronto punk rockers PUP called into the show to discuss their current tour with The Menzingers. Stefan (vox/guitar) was great – giving us the scoop on the energy and vitality of the Toronto scene.

They play Slim’s on Friday, June 20th with The Menzingers. Check ’em out!

Photo from VICE/Noisey and Rebecca Reed:

PUP - Rebecca Reed for Noisey

Also, check out their sweaty, gory video for ‘Reservoir’

Show Archive: Their/They’re/There Interview

I talk to Evan from Their/They’re/There about sounding like a basement from the ’90s and post-apocalyptic eye-patches. I also spin yarns about the second-to-last Rodan show and Todd Trainer’s disdain for yours truly.

The interview with Evan came as a surprise – it was something I had talked to the wonderful people at Polyvinyl Records about, but we weren’t able to confirm until I was on the air, doing my show that day. I’m so glad I did it.

Much like the interview, their show took me completely off guard, smacking me upside the head and turning me into a giddy, hoodied emo kid from the 90s. Aside from playing their entire catalog Their/They’re/There treated the crowd to a Superdrag (remember them?!?) cover, and closed out the show (and secured my love forever) with a cover of Superchunk’s “Detroit Has a Skyline”. Did I turn into the idiot at the front of the crowd screaming along? Of course I did. Old man’s gotta teach these kids how it’s done, right?!?