I've been feeling my teenager roots the past couple weeks. Maybe it's the kick-ass rock 'n' roll high school birthday party that went down the night after dancing at an 18+ magazine bash, right after a couple 15-year-old punks opened a Budget Rock showcase .or maybe it's just that I still say things like "kick-ass." Either way, there was a lot to be stoked about musically since I last wrote ("stoked" being another word I still use from those underage years... there's a lot of them. What can you do?)
Speaking of the kids, I went to visit my younger sister Melissa in New York recently. This is someone I used to throw blocks of frozen food at when we fought as kids, but that's all bygones now. She's grown up into a very fine young lady -- a lady whose boyfriend lives on a street lined with giant bags of trash.
My sister and I both love and write about music, so it was only natural that we'd get sucked into the CMJ music showcases while I was out there. I'm kicking myself for not bringing a camera with me the first night I was in town - the Black Lips played the basement of a tiny café called the Cake Shop at like 3 in the morning. They went on an hour late -- during which time people got really smashed on Sparks and baby bottles of champagne and any personal space around the stage had completely evaporated. When the Black Lips actually played it was like uncorking a bottle that'd been shaking for 60 minutes straight. So much fun. But not caught on camera. Possibly for the best?
But I did have my camera out for the slightly tamer shows, like Melbourne's the Drones, who I've been spazzing out on for a couple months now.
Their songs can be kinda serious, lyric wise - there's a lot of gothic Nick Cave sensibilities in there, but the music is noisy as shit, like the Birthday Party meets Sonic Youth.
Live the Drones add a third layer, which is a wicked sense of humor. The few Australians I know are total wiseasses, and the Drones were no different. They cracked lines between every song, calling everything from their broken guitar strings (snapped one song into the set) to the unyielding mic stand a "cunt." When they play though, they're incredibly passionate.
By the third day in NY my sister and I were zombies. So we went on a dazed tour of the galleries in Chelsea. I wish I could remember the name of this one particular gallery, or even the name of the artist. But when it comes to proper nouns, my sister and I both inherited the memory bank of a goldfish. Anyway, the instillation was a sheer circus tent setup and you had to put this shower cap thingy on your feet to enter.
Once inside, everything was squishy and smelled like lavender. There were brightly colored, amoeba-shaped pillows everywhere. The pillows were filled with little balls and the floor had a bunch of foam underneath it. It was the cushiest piece of art I've ever been in. We stayed in there a long time.
Then it was back home to S.F., where I think I hit a personal maximum of five shows in two nights. Started off with a little reunion with some music buddies thanks to a show by Seattle's the Lights, who were in town at the Hemlock.
Imagine the Fall dropping the curmudgeonly bit and banging out some incredibly agitated post punk and you'd get close to the Lights. They're pretty unique in sound and style -- the singer has a deep baritone, an ominous bassline snakes through everything, and the drummer skillfully scatters the beats all over the place.
Then it was time for the first of many culture shifts, as we hit the Rickshaw for Gucci Time with Mesh Magazine. When we got there it was a jam-packed hip-hop party with DJs and local hyphy pro Trackademicks. Dude is super charismatic on stage.
From there things somehow segued into Lemonade, a hippie looking trio carrying masks and walking sticks who bang out ridiculously catchy dance jams in the style of Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance.
Lemonade is all beats/percussion and bass and echoing vocals that are so distorted the songs just smear into your ears and wiggle your legs into action. They're like a drum circle for people who hate drum circles a lot of banging on objects and getting the kids to flail across the dance floor.
Definitely psychedelic. I really dig these guys.
And then the DJs went right back into the hiphop, totally seamless -- you could dance to it all, all night long.
Saturday was day two of the annual local garage rockathon, Budget Rock, which was in Oakland this year at the always festive Stork Club.
So much fun - a marathon of music, a swap meet, a garage sale, a BBQ, and a hot dog eating contest. The consensus was that you could still catch a high rubbing the white dust off these mirrors, although I didn't see anyone quite make the effort.
Our Budget emcee was a sweet dude name Joe (he used to play in the Spits), shown here buddying up with Senior Hot Dog
The dog-shoveling was a little painful to watch. There were only a couple competitors committed to cramming as many fleshy rods of processed meat down the hatch as possible in five minutes.
So... Many... Hot... Dogs
But only one winner, the frontman for a band called the Touch Me Nots (they're a married duo, and I heard the wife cheer out when he won, "That's my husband! He ate seven hot dogs"... or whatever the final number came down to. It was really cute.
The absolute highlight of my Budget Rock experience, though, was seeing the Rock n Roll Adventure Kids
They're all about the woo-hoo'n, knee slapin', krazy punkrocknroll, and I totally and completely dug it. The RRAKs are a duo (two brothers) but the singer alone has enough manic energy to propel five bands combined. He was a jumpin' and a hoppin' and a hollerin' all over the stage with a lovely shit eating grin plastered all across his face. It's bands like this that made me fall for garage rock in the first place. If you're a fan of the Cheater Slicks, Bob Log III, the Coachwhips, Immortal Lee County Killers, and the like, these dudes are so up your alley.
And in case you have a hard time with song titles, as I always do, they keep the names short 'n' sweet. Songs are about "Boobies," "Orgasms," and "Chuck Berry" -- although "Panties in My Pocket" is definitely a crowd pleaser for a reason.
My instant enthusiasm meter for this band kinda high -- so when I hit a party back in S.F. late night and they were on stage there too, well, my weekend couldn't really get any better.
The party was at this amazing loft space downtown. I'm not sure how many stories it went up but it allegedly contained a hot tub and a huge bird cage on the upper floors. The ground floor alone was pretty sweet, though. The ex-punker who owned the place is a big collector of pennants and they were hanging everywhere.
The party was being thrown in honor of the daughter of the family who lived there. She was turning... 15? 16? One of those ages where I think for my birthday I was still renting scary movies and having makeover parties with my friends. I did not have a blowout bash with all the cool Birdman bands playing in my honor -- but then you take one look at this kid and you know both she and her mom rule the school. Really friendly as well.
The party was so much fun, people dancing to all kindsa rock n roll while the place was decorated like a prom for Rock n Roll High School
Gotta love the teenagers who rocked with the rest of us.
At the end of the night the Rock n Roll Adventure Kids got the birthday girl on stage, brought up a huge bag of spray confetti, passed out those cans of confetti, and played a song in her honor as the crowd shot streams of that goop into the air. It was insane. Spray confetti may have made a mess of my bed the next morning, but that night it was a pretty brilliant idea.
Happy birthday Lulu.
Upcoming show picks:
- Ezee Tiger, the Sic Alps (11/18, Hotel Utah)
- Luke Vibert (11/18, Boca)
- Hot Chip (11/17, Mezzanine)
- The Psychic Paramount (11/17 & 11/18, the Hemlock)
- Folk Yeah Fest in Big Sur (w/ Vetiver, Whalebones, tons more; Nov. 17 & 18 at the Fernwood)
- The Mall (w/ the Slits, etc., at Mezzanine, 11/18)
- Peter Walker (11/21, Hemlock)
- Lemonade (11/25, Bottom of the Hill)
- The Melvins (11/29, Great American Music Hall)
- No Doctors (11/29, the Hemlock)
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