Full Time Punks: Wax Idols, Terry Malts and Wimps at the Funhouse

Funhouse, Seattle, 10 November 2011:

One of the best punk albums to come out this year is Wax Idols‘ No Future.  The Oakland, California band’s debut is influenced by late 70’s early 80’s classic punk period bands like the Buzzcocks, and the Avengers. What makes it so great is that it isn’t just punk by numbers. The record is enhanced with a gothic influence that makes it not only rock, but haunt as well. It’s got punk style anthems with call response choruses, but it also has lighter side that is plain old classic pop. Wax Idols is band in name but really the moniker for the songs of the intense, passionate and always entertaining Heather Fortune.
Live Wax Idols are a four piece band with an all girl front line of guitars and bass and a guy on drums. Fortune demonstrated disaffected confidence as she and her band delivered punk their punk anthems fast and hard with barely a breath or word between songs. Even with a second guitarist, Fortune still played all the lead parts. Only putting down her guitar for their final song when the band was joined by Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham for a cover of Christian Death‘s Romeo’s Distress. This allowed her to become more animated, grabbing a bar across the top of the stage and lean out toward the audience. If there were more people packed close to the stage I bet she would have dove into them. Fortune obviously know her history. She has even taken a punk moniker in changing her last name from the given Fedewa to Fortune the way so many of  the legendary punks of the past. Wax Idols are a product of the rich west coast punk history that remains largely unexplored by today’s current scene and they  give good cause to keep those history books up to date.

stream: Wax Idols – Dead Like You (from No Future on Hozac)

Wax Idols are on tour with fellow Oaklanders the Terry Malts. Prior to becoming a punk trio they were the Magic Bullets. After some kind of catharsis they saw the punk light and haven’t looked back. They crashed through their highly melodic catchy Ramones like set. It was fun, but would have been more fun if there had been a pit of sweaty punks slamming. That goes for the Wax Idols set too. Hopefully if both bands keep at it they’ll start to draw enthusiastic crazy tatood punks the way the Spits and Thee Oh Sees do.

Stream: Terry Malts – Something About You (from the 7 inch on Slumberland)

The first band of the night was Seattle’s Wimps. Wimps are pretty new (so new they don’t even have a web site), but the band is made up of veterans. Singer and guitarist Rachel Ratner also fronts the duo Butts and is a member of Partman Parthorse. Bassist Matt Nyce is in Consignment who have just released their first album on GGNZLA. I don’t know if drummer Dave Ramm has another current band but he was a former drummer for the Intelligence, which is kind of like saying he was a former guitarist in the Fall. Wimps kind of sound like Ratner’s other band Butts mainly because she sings and plays guitar in both, but Wimps aren’t as jokey. Super catchy short punk songs with crisp guitar that sounds like it is influenced by early 80’s Dischord records. Good stuff.

I didn’t stick around for all of the final band Dude York. They’re from Seattle too. Their first song was called Fuck City and it occurred to me while they were playing it that Fuck City is a much better name for a band than Dude York.  They kind of reminded me of  Too Much Joy with their jokey banter and revved up power pop.

Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Jacuzzi Boys, TV Ghost & Love Tan at the Funhouse, Seattle | 7 October 2011

The second album from Miami, F-L-A’s Jacuzzi Boys is one of those records that demonstrates a band taking a giant leap from their previous record. Their first album No Seasons which came out Florida’s Dying back in 2009 was kind of all over the place. I mean that in a good way because the places that it was coming from were good places to originate. It just didn’t have a cohesiveness to it. It seemed like they knew what sounded good, but hadn’t yet gotten the three minute pop song thing down yet.
Sometime in between screws were tightened, chops were honed, and Buzzcocks albums were studied. Glazin’ is a record that owes much to that Manchester punk band whether it knows it or not. Singer and guitarist Gabriel Alcala even sounds like Pete Shelley, and their short sharp shards cut right to your skull’s pleasure center just like Singles Going Steady still does.

Their set last night at the Funhouse was blistering and glazin’. Right from the start people were slamming and jamming. The Funhouse is a punk rock dive bar, but more often than not people don’t seem to treat it that way. Last night they did, and it wasn’t just guys. The pit was half girls rocking out to the band. Adhering to rule number 10 in Robert Forsters‘ 10 Rules of Rock and Roll: “The three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression”, the Jacuzzi Boys were tight making every song cut to the quick. Friday night they were real life proof that executed properly rule number 10 is no lie. There ain’t no studio trickery behind the curtain on Glazin’. These guys are the real deal. Alcala has a funny Ramones/Comic book guy persona where he has something weird he says after each song. Nothing hilarious, just weird-isms that make it obvious that this guys is operating at a different frequency than the rest of us. I hope the Jacuzzi Boys keep it tuned to that frequency because they are dialing in something special. Go see ’em if they’re in your town.

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Automatic Jail

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Cool Vapors

If you haven’t got their new album yet, Hardly Art has it for sale.

Lafayette, Indiana’s TV Ghost got revved up everyone into a stupor with their unhinged Cramps/Scientists/Birthday Party cave stomp. Singer Tim Gick with his Gene Vincent hairdo has this thing where he rolls his eyes back when he sings making himself look possessed by some demon or other. He also displays uncanny cat-like balance. He has the ability to concoct his lanky frame in ways that most humans would fall flat on their backs trying. I found myself transfixed with these abilities and sometimes forgot about the music wondering how he was defying gravity. Eventually gravity did get him when he careened into the drum set, but that only happened once. It obviously took a lot out of him, because after their set he crouched in a corner, exhausted trying to recover.

mp3: TV Ghost – Doppleganger (from Mass Dream)

Seattle’s Love Tan preceded TV Ghost. It had been a while since I’d seen them, but they have gotten better. I recognized a lot of the songs from their album Miscellaneous Night Feelings which came out a few years ago. The songs seemed to have had time to gel or they’ve just had more time to practice. In any case, their set left me hoping that there’s more to come from them.

Sonny and the Sunsets at the Funhouse

Sonny and the Sunsets, The Sandwiches and Seapony at the Funhouse, Seattle | 28 June 2011

I’m not sure if it was the music or the people, the Funhouse last Tuesday night was steamy as San Francisco’s Sonny and the Sunsets blew through their Buddy Holly/Everly Brothers/Modern Lovers inspired set. On record the songs are more subtle and less rocking, but live the band are downright rollicking. This came as a surprise when I first saw them a year and half ago, but I was ready for their power-pop alter ego’s this time. The guitars and bass are turned up causing you not to hear some of Tahlia Harbour’s harmonies but when you’re in a dive bar swilling Rainier tallboys, harmonies are not foremost in your head.
The band were tight. Sonny Smith, looking a little like Lars Finberg’s older brother, with his hollow-body guitar dealt out the riffs and the words. The rhythm section was solid. Kelley Stoltz on a break from making his own records played drums and made goofy faces. Smith is prolific songwriter having done a music/art exhibit he called 100 Records which he wrote and recorded 100 songs. So they had a lot of material to choose from, but the latest album Hit After Hit got the most attention. Smith’s amiable stage presence and solid band  made for a lot of fun, although the Sunsets may have been having the most fun. Their encore, which almost wasn’t until Stoltz coaxed Sonny back out, was lengthy. They played for another 20 minutes nearly clearing out the Funhouse as a lot of us had to get up Wedneday morning for our day jobs.

mp3: Sonny and the Sunsets – Home and Exile (from Hit After Hit on Fat Possum)

Fellow Bay area band the Sandwiches accompanied Sonny and the Sunsets up to Emerald city. They had a really cool look about them and their sound is definitely unique. I’m still not sure what I think of their album Mr. Jones Cookies, sometimes it tickles and other times it scratches. I couldn’t stop thinking they sounded like an Appalachian soul band if there were such a thing. Seattle’s Seapony also played and it’s always a pleasure seeing them. Their twee sounded good in Funhouse punk environs.

mp3: The Sandwiches – In the Garden (from Mrs. Jones’ Cookies on Empty Cellar)

Here are the remaining Sonny and Sunsets summer tour dates:

July 7, 2011 Soda Bar San Diego, CA w/ Wounded Lion*
July 8, 2011 Echo Los Angeles, CA w/ Wounded Lion*
July 22, 2011 The Empty Bottle Chicago, IL
July 23, 2011 Pike Room Pontiac, MI
July 24, 2011 Sneaky Dees Toronto, ON, Canada
July 26, 2011 Divan Orange Montreal, QC, Canada
July 27, 2011 North Star Bar Philadelphia, PA
July 28, 2011 DC9 Washington, DC
July 29, 2011 Mercury Lounge New York, NY
July 30, 2011 Tix Glasslands Gallery Brooklyn, NY
August 5, 2011 Pickathon Roots Musicfest Happy Valley, OR

Lights Out

A while ago I noticed that the Funhouse Concert Calendar stated:  The Lights Say “See you later… probably much later.”  I figured that could either mean they were going off on a long tour or they were calling it quits.  Unfortunately the later turned out to be the case when I got the email from the band that said while they were not officially breaking up the band, they were going an indefinite hiatus. Their album Failed Graves from last year was number 20 in my year end countdown and what I wrote seems apropos for enticing you to head down to the Funhouse one last time to see them live:

The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while.  Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far.  There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now.  Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson fiercely clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums.

The Lights can truly conjure cathartic energy at will with their songs and they will be missed. If you are in Seattle you should turn up at the Funhouse this Friday, 25 February to partake in their going away party.  Their demise seems to have been precipitated by drummer PJ Rogalski moving to Montana.  Albertson will still be around with his new band Summer Babes and Chambers has both Love Tan and Le Sang Song to him busy, but Friday night for one last time  it’s all about the Lights.  They’re planning an extra long set and are still taking requests over at their Facbook page. So hit them up for your favorite song and then be there on Friday to hear it.

Here are a handful of Lights favorites:

mp3: The Lights – Gingerella (from Failed Graves)

mp3: The Lights – Icy Run (from Diamonds and Dirt)

mp3: The Lights – Victims of the Pleasure of the Sense of Hearing (from Beautiful Bird)

Buy some Lights records from their label Wantage.

Baby, Baby, Babies

The Babies at the Funhouse, Seattle | 5 January 2011

So the Vivian Girls broke up right? I know they haven’t but at this point it almost seems like a foregon conclusion.  Usually when a band calls it quits and they start individual projects you hope that each of the new bands will be equal to or greater than the original band.  That never seems to happen, but with the Vivian Girls that definitely seems to be the case.  The evidence so far: Frankie Rose‘s album from last year was excellent.  Katy Goodman’s La Sera project put out a winning single and Cassie Ramone’s new band the Babies had two great singles and now they’ve got an album waiting in the wings due on the Shrimper label early next month.

Wednesday night at the Funhouse the Babies brought their Appalachian tinged indiepop to town. The Babies are fronted by Ramone and Kevin Morby who plays bass in Woods.  They both play guitar and share vocal duties. Ramone’s singing showed a confidence that is somewhat lacking in Vivian Girls. In fact she sounded downright inspired and her version of the woman down a holler belting out songs may be one of my favorite parts of the Babies’ songs. The other favorite part was Morby’s guitar playing. His adept picking style added to the rollicking mountain sound the band have.

Songs like Meet Me In the City and Breakin’ the Law were unabashedly fun and evoked something between Lee & Nancy and Kenny & Dolly and John & Exene.  The duo were backed with a more than adequate rhythm section that included Justin Sullivan on drums (he played with Ramone in Bossy) and the Funhouse soundsystem must have had its tubes cleaned out over the holidays because it all sounded really good.  Don’t let the country and Appalachian references scare you off, the Babies have their feet firmly planted in rock even though Ramone has temporarily foresaken girl groups and C-86. This collaboration between members of Woods and Vivian Girls teeters slightly more towards Woods territory and is all the better for it.

mp3: The Babies – Run Me Over (from their album due 8 February on Shrimper)

Here is a video I shot of the song Wild 2:

Here are the remaining Babies tour dates:

01/07 Reno, NV – Holland Show Space
01/08 Sacramento, CA – TBA
01/09 San Francisco, CA – The Hemlock
01/10 Oakland, CA – TBA
01/13 Los Angeles, CA – The Women House
01/14 Los Angeles, CA – The Smell
01/15 San Diego, CA Tin Can Ale House

Gentleman Jesse With the Radio On

Gentleman Jesse & His Men at the Funhouse, Seattle | 22 August 2010

Sunday night Gentleman Jesse & His Men brought their adrenaline fueled pop to Seattle’s Funhouse. Jesse Smith, the former bassist of Atlanta’s Carbonas, writes songs that are both immediate and infectious. His album Introducing Gentleman Jesse from 2008 is a study in classic post-punk powerpop From its Elvis Costello inspired cover to its nods to everyone from the Kinks to the Nerves to Joe Jackson to Jonathon Richman Smith has done his homework.

Sporting a flashy red Rickenbacker, and a gaggle of girls in front of the stage dressed in their Joan Jett-West Side Story-girl gone bad clothes, Jesse and his Men banged through most of the Introducing album as well as some new ones including both sides of their upcoming single on Douchemaster. His band has both changed and expanded since recording the album. Drummer Dave Rahn appears to be the one only remaining from that period. The remainder of the band was made up of guys from The Barreracudas who played the openers with their take on the Ramones. Most of the band was already warmed up, but it didn’t take long for Smith to break a sweat blasting through the set at breakneck pace. The songs were delivered machine gun style with one ending and the next beginning without a breath, break, nor thank you. We weren’t there for dialog, we were there to rock and Smith’s short sharp and jagged songs more than supplied the goods.

mp3: Gentleman Jesse & His Men – She’s a Trap (from the upcoming Douchemaster single)


Gentleman Jesse & His Men tour dates:
Aug 24 Compound, Provo, UT
Aug 25 Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
Aug 27 Hi Tone, Memphis, TN
Aug 28 Discoteca, Chattanooga, TN
Sep 2 Saturn Bar, New Orleans, LA
Sep 3 Club Downunder, Tallahassee, FL
Sep 4 New World Brewery, Tampa, FL
Sep 7 The Atlantic, Gainesville, FL
Sep 8 Bottletree, Birmingham, AL
Sep 9 The Earl, Atlanta, GA
Sep 10 The Earl, Atlanta, GA
Sep 11 The Grey Eagle w/The Strange Boys, Asheville, NC
Sep 12 Glenn Danzig’s House, Nashville, TN
Sep 14 Local 506 w/The Strange Boys, Chapel Hill, NC
Sep 14 Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC
Sep 15 Black Cat, Washington, DC
Sep 16 Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Sep 17 TT the Bear’s, Boston, MA
Sep 19 Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 19 Kung Fu Necktie w/ The Strange Boys, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 19 Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 20 The Shop, Ithaca, NY
Sep 21 Casa del Popolo, Montréal, QC
Sep 22 The Garrison, Toronto, ON
Sep 23 PJ’s LAGER HOUSE, Detroit, MI
Sep 24 Now That’s Class, Cleveland, OH
Sep 25 Main Event, Cincinnati, OH
Sep 26 The Summit, Columbus, Ohio
Sep 27 The Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, IN
Sep 28 Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
Sep 29 Cactus Club, Milwaukee, WI
Sep 30 Turf Club, St Paul, MN

A Frames: Transgenic But Not Transmogrified

X and A Frames at the Funhouse, Seattle | 21 May 2010

The A Frames came out of their self-imposed hiatus, hibernation, AFCGT detour, or whatever you want to call it, and have regrouped sort of.  Singer and guitarist Erin Sullivan, and bassist Min Yee are back but original drummer Lars Finberg is missing (actually he’s kind of busy with the Intelligence).  Tommy Northcut replaced Finberg when he left the band to concentrate on the Intelligence after Black Forest, the third A Frames album.  Northcut has been the drummer since, fits the A Frames genotype and is so good that you don’t really miss Finberg.  On record, A Frames can come across heavy, dense, doom laden, and a bit sterile at times. Live, the blood pulses through the veins in Sullivan’s forehead as he grits the words through his teeth.  He’s an imposing figure on stage, with his robot gray Rickenbacker and bleak subject matter, but the Funhouse was filled with too many friends this night for anyone to walk away thinking that the A Frames are all gloom and doom.

The band bantered back and forth with the audience, throwing out dedications, graciously accepting drinks and generally appearing to have a blast.  The barren and bleak gave way to a more human and organic sound.  Sullivan’s vocals were warmer sounding and Yee’s bass at times sounded like a Mack truck while at others as nimble as deer. Songs like Hostage Crisis, Nuclear, and Test Tube Baby showed their punk roots, slow burners like Abstract and Surveillance showed more of a looser side to the band and Calculate was just downright poppy.  At times you could hear dub like sounds or surf guitar riffs that the band were careful to obscure in the darkness of their laboratory.  I never had the opportunity to see A Frames in their heyday, I blame it on circumstance and ignorance, but after Friday’s gig at the Funhouse, my regrets of missing them the first time around were allayed by the tight white-hot set  the played.  The place was packed, and Seattle, or at least this subset of Seattle was glad to have them back.

Old (and I do mean old) Australian punks X were the headliners this night, but their set seemed uninspired.  Admittedly I was never really a fan, but they didn’t do much to change my mind.  They looked and sounded their age.  The bassist played with his skull shirt wide open displaying his sixty-year old flab while guzzling beer from girls in the audience.  Antics like that probably go over great on the Vans tours where 20 year old bands play to 20 year old punters, but this kind of display wasn’t going to win over a sober jaded old guy like myself.

mp3: A Frames – Surveillance (from the first A Frames album)

mp3: A Frames – Search and Rescue (from A Frames album #2)

mp3: A Frames – Experiment (from Black Forest)

The loosely followed set list:

A couple videos I shot:

The triple album 333 will be out soon on S-S Records, or go to one of these west coast tour dates to procure your copy:

05.20  Olympia @ Northern w/ Gun Out
05.21  Seattle @ the Funhouse w/ Walls
05.22  Portland @ Slabtown w/ the Estranged, Arctic Flowers
05.23  Davis @ KDVS’s Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom IX Fest
05.24  San Francisco @ the Hemlock w/ Hank IV
05.25  Los Angeles @ the Five Star Bar w/ the Lamps
05.28* Austin @ Chaos in Tejas Fest w/ the Ponys, Woven Bones, etc.
05.29  Denton @ Rubber Gloves w/ Video
05.30  Las Cruces @ the Trainyard w/ Far Corners, Real Blood
05.31  Phoenix @ the Rhythm Room w/ Earthmen & Strangers, Pigeon Religion
06.01  San Diego @ the Soda Bar w/ Christmas Island
06.02   Long Beach @ Alex’s Bar w/ Audacity
06.03* Los Angeles @ the Smell w/ Wounded Lion, Dunes
06.04  San Francisco @ the Bottom of the Hill w/ the Mantles
06.05  Oakland @ the Stork Club

with X (Australia) except where noted*