Downtown Boys at Black Lodge, Seattle | 7 July 2015
Providence, Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys rolled through town last night with their white hot dual saxophone hardcore. This band has a two pronged agenda and it is to bring their political message and to get down and make some noise. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge hardcore fan. I was intrigued when Fucked Up covered twee pop songs and teenage me owned a Cro-Mags cassette, but that’s about it. Two things set Downtown Boys apart from rest of the hardcore masses. Two saxophones that recall Dexy’s Geno but sometimes feel like they could venture into Coletrane’s Meditations and front woman Victoria Ruiz who is both a teacher and a rager.
Live, each song has a prologue in which she passionately teaches and informs about social injustice, police brutality, misogyny and racism. Previously I had wondered why they covered Bruce Springsteen‘s Dancing In the Dark besides the obvious saxophone connection. Last night, in a matter of 60 seconds she redefined that song on her terms talking about how the word dark is equated to evil, bad and mal-intentioned in so much of today’s journalism and literature and how difficult it is to overcome those kinds of connotations of when you are dark skinned.
The room was packed and sweaty and Downtown Boys were on fire which of course increased the temperature of the room. The saxophone players Adrienne Berry and Emmett Fitzgerald stoked the fires continuously during the set. Both wielding their big tenor saxophones like weapons of peace and justice. Future Police raged bigger and louder than the recorded version and Monstro was anthemic, but the highlight of the set was Poder Eligir. Ruiz sang in Spanish while the band created a cacophony that surged and surged and continued to surge. It was fucking amazing! It was one of those out of body moments when you feel like the whole room is on the same existential plane and all is right with the world. And it was for one brief moment.
There have been some great punk rock reissues this year. The Big Boys and 100 Flowers come to immediate mind, but up to now there hadn’t been a great new punk rock record this year. You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.
I love the colicky delivery and the high pitched nasal vocals and the adrenaline fueled guitars. Tektonix Girls is the easy highlight of this set. There are two versions of it on the record, the hyper version that leads off and then a slightly restrained version that concludes it. In between are 6 more songs that will leave you no desire to go back and revisit punk rock history because all you need is right here.
Depression Is the New Gay. What was the old gay? The Lasters new single (four songs) Minumum Viable Product is just out. It’s single number three from the Los Angeles band for those of you keeping score at home. The afore mentioned Depression Is the New Gay is song number one. Song number two is called Ivory Tower of Beer…’nuff said. The B-side starts with The Lasters Lose the Power of Speech which appropriately contains an incoherent chorus which makes no sense and total sense. Last song Let’s Get Along doesn’t let up the adrenaline rush, though it seems a little less crazy and more coherent than the other three. Three out of four ain’t bad.
Every once in a while a punk record like this comes along and kicks me out of a rut (Spray Paint did the same thing a few months ago). This single is a total blast, and for this I give thanks.
I saw Wimps back in November open for Wax Idols and the Terry Malts. They rocked like they already knew what the hell they were doing even though I think that it was only their first or second show. Wimps are a trio. Rachel Ratner plays guitar, sings and makes cool maps. Matt Nyce plays bass and draws. Dave Ramm plays drums and makes pizzas. Wimps are raw power with nothing in the way. It’s punk rock the way it use to be; short, sharp and loud. Oh yeah, and they’ve got some good songs too, which you don’t have to take my word for any longer since they’ve put up a six song demo for you to download. Wimps play this Friday at Black Lodge with Unnatural Helpers, Spurm and Uzi Rash.
Spray Paint are two guitars and drums from Austin, Texas that have apparently been abducted from Dikes of Holland, Expensive Shit, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Their debut single has just been issued by Sacramento, California’s S-S Records. It’s a limited pressing of 200, and I just saw that there are only 20 copies left of it (so the 20 of you people that read this blog have been warned). This record fucking kicks ass (note: I only use the f-word when reviewing punk records that kick butt). If you are a fan of the A-Frames and the Intelligence then you will not be able to live without it. It sounds like a tempest in a garbage can, intensely dissonant yet strangely catchy. Single of the month and maybe the year.
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.
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.
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.
Whether by coincidence, folly or serendipity this weekend brought two classic acts to Seattle. Both west coast micro phenomenons from way back, one wonders would they get any attention given today’s clogged internet arteries of bands. Like elephants, old people never forget, and they tell the youngsters about how the music from back in the day was so much better. Some of the youngster must actually listen to their elders, or maybe they just find out for themselves?
It had been ten years since Seattle’s very own Fastbacks called it a day. They were not only one of the first purveyors of punk rock in the jet city, but they also outlived all of their contemporaries (not that they had many). By some stroke of good fortune, the West Seattle Summer Fest organizers convinced the band to reunite. Kurt Bloch, Kim Warnick, Lulu Gargiulo along with drummer Mike Mussburger decked out in a clown costume hit the stage a little older, but no less enthusiastic. The crowd was mostly older and enthusiastic too. There were lots of old timers in attendance. Many of them sporting Fastbacks t-shirts and kids.
It’s two days later and I’m still kind of buzzing from this show. It was like a peak back into Seattle’s storied rock past through nostalgia tinged glasses. Yeah, some of the singing was a little off, but the Fastbacks pushed so many of the right buttons that it didn’t matter. Hearing those song after such a long time was such a blast you could overlook the little things. Bloch looked a little weathered, but he was a madman, running around the stage, poggoing while playing guitar, posing with is rock-star poses, and generally hamming it up. He ribbed Lulu about the state of her battered guitar that he remembered picking up in Buffalo for $3.98. Warnick’s red and white bass was not weathered Brand new more like, as she thanked the maker during her previous set with her new band the Cali Giraffes. Not being in our prime anymore either, the crowd seemed to take a little time to get into it, but finally near the end of the set with They Don’t Care, K Street and Set Me Free it got rowdy. A mini-mosh pit developed right beside me and some old crazy drunk guy in a Damned shirt tried to kiss me. It was a time.
Formed a year or two earlier than the Fastbacks and out of the ashes of the Nerves and the Breakwawys, the Beat and later the Paul Collins Beat released their first self-titled album in 1979. It’s a classic powerpop record and seems to have garnered more respect in the day than it ever got when it came out 32 years ago (Current fans can be heard on Under the Covers Vol. 2, A Tribute to Paul Collins, Peter Case and Jack Lee record). Fans old and new turned out to the Funhouse Saturday night to hear some classic powerpop from Paul Collins, and Collins did not disappoint.
In recent years Collins returned to his powerpop roots after a temporary sojourn into alt-country during part of the 90’s. He recently released a new album called the King of Powerpop of new material, making no bones about how he sees himself in a historical context. He played a handful of songs from King but the meat of the set was the classic Nerves/Beat material. Collin’s voice is a little worse for wear, scratchy and rough where it used to glide, but the songs are timeless and he and his band more than delivered. They were loud and on it. They played all the best ones from the first Beat record and saved the really classic Nerves songs to the very end. Working Too Hard and Hanging on a Telephone Wire were delivered for the encore and then just when you thought they couldn’t play anything else they pulled out Paper Doll at the very end. I should have felt really old this weekend seeing and hearing all this ‘classic rock’, but it was just the opposite. It felt vital and timeless, especially knowing that bands still look to their elders for inspiration.
Florida’s Garbo’s Daughter opened for Collins. Their take on the classic powerpop of days gone by sounded great, and Collins is an unabashed fan. He ran up on stage to egg them on to play one more song at the end of their set not wanting it to end. Thankfully, it never does.