Friday, August 26, 2011

Zero Boys rock, Cro-Mags roll ... out the madness at Seattle Soundfest Day Three

Seattle crowd digs the Zero Boys. Cat Rose photo.
By Cat and Andy

Complete fucking mayhem.

As the Cro-Mags hit that first chord, the people scrambled immediately into the middle and onto the stage -- they looked like the scarab beetles from the movie "The Mummy" attacking in the "Goodbye Beni" scene.  It was insane, we jumped onto the seat that we were standing by, naively thinking we would be safe there as Cat was trying to take photos, but that was not to be.

Cro-Mags' John Joseph gets intense. Andy, Cro-Mags photos.
The people flying from the Vera Project stage last Sunday night came all the way to the edge and into us on the far right standing on the seat as if we had a target on our heads. Cat’s hand was wrenched, but luckily the camera was okay. Cat talked to a chick in the bathroom later that said she had been kicked in the head at least three times... we think everyone at the show was kicked or hammered in one way or another. Let’s just say that this will not go down as a bruise-free show, but that just means it will not be forgotten any time soon.

After it was all over, we talked to our friend Scott, who was actually volunteering and cleaning up at the gig -- he said that they only had two security people working, and that is why it was so out of hand. With only two security people in that scene, they probably ended up just joining in, as you definitely could not fight it -- so why not!

Zero Boys close out Soundfest in style

With an arm raised and a nod of the head, singer Paul Mahern signaled that it was Zero Boys time.
After a 29-year wait, Andy finally got to see the band again (it was Cat's first time), and it was like going back in a time machine to the glorious night the ZB's played with Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, MDC and the Detonators at the Barn at Alpine Village in Torrance, Calif., in July of '82. (If you look at that night's set list shown here, Sunday's was much of the same! Just like the T-shirt from the Day One entry, old is definitely the new young.)

Zero Boys vocalist Paul Mahern. Cat Rose, remaining ZB's photos.
Mahern and drummer Mark Cutsinger sport white hair these days, but the youthful energy, searing vocals and mighty drum chops are still there. Tufty still manhandles the bass with a grin on his face (he once told Andy at a Toxic Reasons gig that he got chills while recording the ZB's classic "Vicious Circle" record). And lefty guitarist Vess Ruhtenberg is a wiry man, stretching his arms and legs all over the place, hitting the notes like an all-star slugger while hamming it up for the crowd.

Vess Ruhtenberg.


When the Zero Boys played, the crowd sang, and the hardcore-punk-pop from the Indianapolis band ruled the evening. All was right in the world for awhile.

ZB's drummer Mark Cutsinger.

ZB's set list circa '82 ...

Crutches singer Adrien takes control earlier in the evening. Cat Rose photo.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dickies, Doe & Exene, Vandals --- not a bad Saturday night in Seattle at Soundfest Day Two

Exene Cervenka rocks out at Neumo's. (All Andy photos)

By Cat, Andy & Jaguar Bullet

One minute you've got Leonard Graves Phillips of the Dickies pointing his friend Stuart (a penis hand puppet) at the El Corazon crowd. About an hour later at Neumo's, John Doe and Exene Cervenka are harmonizing through X songs to a much mellower throng.

That's the Seattle Soundfest for you: a variety of stellar bands to have you bobbing your head and sweating ... and then kicking back and appreciating a punk duo performing their songs campfire style. Not a bad evening.

Dickies' Leonard Graves Phillips and his special friend.

Manny, Moe and us

To kick off the second night of Soundfest last Saturday, Cat and Andy chauffeured pal Diana to the Victory Lounge for some drinks and eats, and we soon hooked up with our crew of Pat, Nickle, Jeb, Angela and Bowie (not David). Tim and his daughter would round out the group later at El C.

Since we weren't able to enjoy songs like "The Murder of Liddle Towers" or "Last Night Another Soldier" by the Angelic Upstarts (who canceled due to Visa issues), we instead were treated to the Minutemen/Saccharine Trust-type tunes of San Pedro, CA's The Underground Railroad to Candyland. Hailing from the LA area ourselves, the old sounds with a new twist were right up our alley.

Stan Lee goes wild.

Next up were the legendary Dickies, who raced through their set, hammering out all the usual suspects like "Gigantor," "Manny, Moe and Jack," "If Stuart Could Talk," etc. Phillips is still the best dancer around and his vocals remain spot-on. Stan Lee's guitaristry should be studied by all who wish to master the six-string.

X-tra cool

After the Dickies and U.S. Bombs, we were torn on staying for the Vandals or heading to see John Doe & Exene at Neumos. Although I (Cat) did "Want to be a Cowboy" that night, we decided we had to go to see the members of X flaunting their kick-ass acoustic stylings. It did not disappoint and was a great ending to day 2 of Soundfest.

When we first got there, Sean y Zander were playing (featuring Wheeler of Throw Rag and hefty Circle Jerks guy Schloss and their scratchy voices via their folk/ragtime/bluegrass hybrid tunes). Andy and I sat in the empty merch-booth area for a quick rest before Doe & Exene started. While we were sitting there, we were approached by a couple wanting to know what we had for sale. When we explained that we had nothing to offer, they laughed, so we told them about this blog and Andy handed them an extremely mini flyer that he had made with our info on it. That seemed to satisfy them at the moment.

Doe gives it his all.

Anyway, once Doe & Exene started to play, we moved to the front of the stage and enjoyed it to the fullest. As they ramped through their set, including various X and Knitters songs ("Fourth of July," "True Love," "See How We Are" and "Wrecking Ball" to mention a few) there was someone else enjoying it maybe a bit too much. A drunken stumblebum female fan pushed forward to the front and started hanging on Andy as he was taking photos and also seemed to want to sing with anyone else that was singing along.

She seemed like she wanted to jump on the stage, but instead she reached down and threw something onto it. At first I did not see what it was, then saw that it was a random combat boot. Why she was throwing a potentially harmful object at them was beyond me, but what was really fascinating is that we saw her outside (after the security came and escorted her out of the gig for the way she was acting right after the chucking of footwear) and she was not wearing the companion to that boot. In fact, the shoes she had on were nothing like that boot, so we were left wondering where that boot came from. It was like those random detached feet that keep turning up in British Columbia -- we were left to ponder whose boot was it then? Had she stolen it off of someone or did she just bring an extra boot into the show for fun?

Exene in a pensive moment.

Either way -- glad we did not miss them and we had our trusty correspondent Tim (aka Jaguar Bullet) to cover the Vandals for us below...

The Vandals

The Vandals hit the stage just a little after 10 p.m., delivering their uncompromising song list to an eagerly anticipating and highly energized crowd. Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio) flew all the way from Florida that morning just to man the drums for the evening. Talk about cutting it close! Apparently they have not rehearsed in awhile, but they did indeed deliver their "street cred" as promised on their Web site. Vandals fans went nuts! The crowd included "bouncer dodging" stage divers, a tireless fun pit, and wallflowers rockin’ out.

The set list included an array of songs across the chronological timeline board; however, punks of all generations knew them all. There were punk parents with their young kids, old punks, tween punks…seriously, it seemed we had 3-4 generations turn out for this show.

The Vandal anthems "Anarchy Burger", "Pat Brown" and "Urban Struggle" stood the test of time. Other crowd favorites were "An Idea for a Movie", "My Girlfriend is Dead", "I’ve Got an Ape Drape" and "Live Fast, Diarrhea!" The Vandals ended their set with "Don’t Stop Me Now" from Queen. If you have never seen the video for this, look for it now. After a genuine demand from the audience for an encore, they came back on stage and performed "Happy Birthday to Me" and "America, Fuck Yeah!"

It was hotter than hell in El Corazon, literally. Even the Vandals complained "You paid $40 for a ticket, you would at least think they would turn on the fans…open a door or something!" By the end of the night, the sweat-drenched punks poured out into the street gasping for air.

On a personal note, The Vandals have been my family’s "unofficial" soundtrack band through the years. This was my daughter’s first punk show ever, and it could not have been any better than this. It was somewhat awkward, yet bonding, as we both threw our fists in the air along stage side screaming "Diarrhea!" to the chorus.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Avengers, Jello pair up for some vintage punk at Seattle Soundfest Day One

Penelope Houston leads the Avengers through its Seattle set. (All Cat Rose photos)

By Andy and Cat

Penelope Houston dug down deep to bring her voice and poignant Avengers lyrics to life.

You could tell that her throat was hurting, but the veteran vocalist soldiered on. And with the help of backup singers Jello Biafra and Roxy Epoxy on stage and fans in the crowd, Houston was all smiles as the band rolled through its set last Friday night at Neumo's during the Seattle Soundfest.

Guitarist Greg Ingraham, Houston and bassist Joel Reader.

"We Are the One," "Second to None," "The American in Me," etc... Avengers fans know the drill and gladly welcome every second of these 34-year-old anthems that still give us a boost of confidence and energy rush today.

This is the second time in two years we've seen the band go full-bore in Seattle -- Houston's hometown -- and it's a far cry from Andy and friend Wayne playfully slam dancing to Houston's acoustic version of "Corpus Christi" at a festival in Mountain View, Calif., many years ago. We (Cat and Andy) also caught her acoustic set at Rough Trade Records on Haight Street in San Francisco around the same time.


Reader checks out the Neumo's scene.
 Jello time

With a slight limp in one leg, Biafra then took the stage with his Guantanamo School of Medicine and gave the slammers and stage divers free reign during the frenzied set. Songs like "Panic Land," "Victory Stinks" and "Dot Com Monte Carlo" were Biafra to a full in the politics/social commentary zone, and fit nicely with a few old Dead Kennedys tunes like "California Uber Alles" and more.

Jello Biafra goes for the crowd.

And forget that bum leg -- Biafra pogoed, twisted and turned all over the stage, and even dove into the sweating mass of fans during one song. Like back in '82 at the Barn (Alpine Village) in Torrance, Calif., the man with the mic didn't miss a word as he made his way through the pit for awhile and then back up on stage to finish the tune.
Biafra may have been a man of many garments -- first wearing a surgeon's smock with fake blood on it, then an American flag shirt, then a black shirt emblazoned with the word "Democracy" -- but he's the same old Jello, rocking with the band and talking current events, including praise for the freed West Memphis 3.

After Biafra, we headed over to the Funhouse to check out "punktry" band Drag the River, which featured just two fellows this go 'round: Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price. (We deemed the band Drag the Pond on this night because only half the band was present.) After a beer and Jello shot (not Biafra) for Carrie, a few tunes and greeting our friend Shawn and his wife, this exhausted duo was getting ready to leave, but were drawn back in by the top-notch "Medicine."

The mellow strains of Drag the River would be a massive contrast to what we experienced later during the three-day Soundfest. More to come, so hang tight.

Snodgrass and Price of Drag the River.

Reagan Youth rolled on before the Avengers.

Reagan Youth bassist Dave Manzullo.

This T-shirt at the Neumo's gig says it all!

Monday, August 15, 2011

'I Don't Want to Grow Up': Descendents Bloggage

Descendents: Frank, Bill, Milo and Tony -- beach boys. (Brian Walsby art-blog exclusive)

"Will I do myself proud? Or only what's allowed?" -- From "When I Get Old"

Perfect lyrics from a band that never wanted to grow up or give in to what society "expects from us." We're just regular dudes, we wanna rock and there's nothing you can do about it -- move aside or join us for the ride, they seemed to say.

That's the Descendents, and here's what some longtime fans and friends have to say about the blazing punk band with a tacklebox full of pop hooks:


In Black Flag's "Wasted," the lyrics go: "I was a surfer, I had a skateboard, I was so heavy, man, I lived on the Strand." I could relate. Although, I was a body-surfer and Boogieboarder and resided about a mile from the Strand (beachfront homes), it was close enough for me.

Anyway, one Saturday early evening in the summer of '82, the Strand in Manhattan Beach was the ideal setting for a Descendents gig. Imagine rolling up to the house on your skateboard and seeing four wavy-haired surf punks blaring away on the front deck while a small group of those in the know and some confused beach bums watched. "Hey, Hey," "Mr. Bass," etc... my summer, toes-in-the-sand songs, for sure.

Milo in action earlier this year. (Chris Shary photo)


Although I never got to see them, the Descendents had no less of an impact on me. "Milo Goes to College" was the soundtrack for my junior and senior years of high school. They were there for "ALL" the best parties and gatherings. I remember listening to them in my old blue Fiat, drinking at "Rocket Ship Park" in Palos Verdes and then rolling down that hill with one of my good friends at the time, Robin -- don't ask me how we happened to roll down that hill, I do not believe it was intentional though.

They have been there throughout scenes in my life, including playing "Hope" with Andy and our friends in our makeshift band, Trenchsweeper, that we formed about a month before our friend's Santa Clara University Law School talent show. When we played that, the crowd of about 400 went crazy --I think some of them might have actually thought we were doing original songs. But, for some reason, we could never get some of the parts exactly down. Either way, the spirit was there and it has always been with me.

Greg Cameron (drummer, Descendents friend):

I heard the Descendents for the first time in the Summer of 1981 at the house of my then new high-school best friend, Ray Cooper. Ray introduced me to punk rock. He played me the Descendents "Fat E.P.", DK’s "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables," Black Flag’s "Jealous Again," and "Nervous Breakdown" recordings, along with a plethora of other stuff by the Minutemen, Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Residents and many others.

It was life changing for me. But the Descendents in general stood out for me for some reason. Even more life changing was seeing the Descendents perform for the first time at "The Barn" in Torrance’s Alpine Village. They opened for the Circle Jerks that evening. I was absolutely floored by the power and intensity of the band. And so was Ray.

Ray, Bill, Milo and Doug (Naomi Peterson photo)

We saw them again a week or two after that opening for China White at a weeknight show in San Pedro at the Dancing Waters. Attendance was mild since it was a weeknight, but that didn’t stop the band from giving everything they had to those that were present. I watched Bill Stevenson warming up on a drum practice pad off to the side of stage in total fascination as I had just started playing drums myself and had never seen anyone play like him before. When the Descendents hit the stage, Frank Navetta, the guitarist, came out wearing pajamas and a beanie hat. They launched into a blazing set. Bill, Frank, Tony and Milo gave it all they had. Frank was playing his guitar so hard that his pajama pants fell down during their tune "Russianage." It was hilarious, but also showed that guitar wasn’t a non-physical instrument for this genre. Ray and I were blown away.

It happened the following year that Ray and I would get introduced to Bill and the band. A mutual high-school friend, Christian Matjais, attended college with Bill at El Camino College in Torrance. Bill was looking for some band management. He was also looking for a replacement lead singer as Milo was getting ready to go off to college at U.C. San Diego. Ray was about to graduate from our high school, Bishop Montgomery, in Torrance. Christian knew Ray was well versed in many instruments such as guitar, bass, horns, etc, as they had played together for Christian’s senior talent show at Bishop. They played the Sex Pistols tunes "Anarchy in the U.K." and "Bodies." It caused the principal to shut down the show mid set. It was awesome. Several years later, I would not be able to play the talent show because of that performance. The school was skittish about bands, especially with outside members in it.

Anyhow, Ray was introduced to Bill. Bill immediately took a liking to Ray and wanted him to try out for the band. He was immediately hired. From that moment forward, I started attending every single Descendents practice possible at their practice room in Lomita. In fact, I started going to more practices than Ray. I couldn’t resist. These guys were nerds just like me, doing something insanely powerful. And to be in the same room night after night watching my drum mentor go at it was something most people don’t get to experience in life. And I learned a lot by watching Bill play.

Ray finally got to sing with the band for their first live performance at Coleen Pancake’s house in Redondo Beach. It was a house party with the Nip Drivers opening. That was my introduction to Mike Webber of the Nip Drivers, who I would later on become good friends with, as well as bandmates up until his death several years ago. Ray was stressed before the performance. But he gave it his all. His next performance with the Descendents would be opening for Black Flag and DOA at the Variety Arts Center in L.A. Once again, it was a valiant effort. But it wasn’t the same as Milo. Ray’s place was behind the guitar.

Milo decided he would come back to do some shows. So the Descendents debuted their new lineup with Ray and Frank on guitar with Milo back on vocals at Mi Casita in Torrance. That was quite a show with Black Flag headlining along with Husker Du, St. Vitus (and Redd Kross). It was also a transitional period for Bill as he was now doing double drum duty with both the Descendents and Black Flag.

Stephen Egerton on fire (Chris Shary photo)

At this time, there was also tension within the Descendents because Bill was now doing double duty as drummer for both Black Flag and the Descendents. This didn’t sit well with Tony and Frank. It also didn’t last long. A short time after the Mi Casita gig, Bill announced that he would be touring and recording with Black Flag. At that time, Tony, Ray and Frank thought they would keep going and look for a drummer. I thought I could step up to the plate and do it. So I started jamming with them. But in reality, I was not up to the task at that time. I had only been playing drums for a year. I was 15 years old and recovering from a broken leg caused by a motorcycle accident on my way to school. I tried to do it, but I simply did not yet have the chops or the strength.

A few days later, Frank came by the practice pad and announced he wasn’t into playing anymore and left. It was just myself, Tony and Ray now. We kept jamming. Tony was still writing songs. He was also resentful of Bill and the situation. It’s not widely known that the song "Descendents" on "I Don’t Want to Grow Up" was a burn on Bill and Black Flag by Tony. And I used to play that song with that in mind. But I had no ill will as I was just along for the ride. Bill was still my friend and mentor. He was pursuing his dream.

After a couple of weeks of jamming, I wasn’t called to practice on the usual day. So I had my mom give me a ride to the practice pad to find that Tony and Ray were trying out a new drummer. I was super bummed, devastated actually. I just sat there and watched them try out this drummer in an uncomfortable room. I called Bill’s mom the next day and asked if she could contact him out on the road with Flag to get permission for me to take Bill’s practice kit to my grandmother’s so I could practice on my own. She gave me the go ahead. So I took Bill’s drums and started practicing every day by myself for a year. I had the fuel of resentment and the drums of my mentor to motivate me to become the drummer I thought I could be. I kept in touch with Bill. When he returned from the ’83 Flag tour, he actually came by a few times to jam on his old kit at my grandmother’s house just to be alone for while away from Flag.

In 1985, Bill left Black Flag and reformed the Descendents. This meant that Ray, who was currently playing in Swa with myself and Chuck Dukowski, would be leaving Swa right after recording our first album. The Descendents lineup was Bill, Tony, Ray and Milo. They immediately recorded "I Don’t Want to Grow Up." It was a blast having the old crew back together as it was apparent Bill wasn’t all that happy towards the end of his tenure in Black Flag. His demeanor improved considerably. I spent nearly every day in the studio with the Descendents at Music Lab in Silverlake while they tracked and mixed that album. I was a quasi-engineer doing tape-reel changes on the 24-track machine and whatever else I could to assist. I was just happy to be there and enjoy Mexican food on the breaks with my friends.

The Descendents will always be my favorite band of all time. To have been so directly involved with them was truly an honor, as cliché as that sounds. They were a life-changing influence for me and took me in directions I would have never gone both in music and life. They and all the people that I was introduced to through them are family to me. My second family that took care of me, kept me out of trouble, and sent me along my way in life.

Stephen, Bill, Milo and Karl (Courtesy of Epitaph Records)

Brian Walsby (drummer, artist):

It must have been the end of 1982 or probably the start of 1983 when I bought "Milo Goes to College." Whatever the influences, whatever they were going for, I have rarely (looking back) heard a debut album that so already had defined a sound so well...snappy and aggressive hardcore punk rock with great melodies and amazing playing. Drummer Bill Stevenson was truly one of my first drum heroes to come out of SoCal punk rock. How old was he when he recorded this anyways? seventeen? eighteen? It is truly a remarkable display of precise drumming with style. Late guitarist Frank Navetta had the guitar sound of a buzzsaw, and when countered with bassist Tony Lombardo and his super-melodic yet busy-without-overplaying bass work, you had three guys doing their own thing. Add the everyman distinct vocals of college-bound myopic singer Milo Aukerman and you have one of the greatest bands to ever come out of punk rock, the Descendents.

I never saw the band with this lineup, much to my dismay (but I could have seen them...a sad story for another time), but I eventually sort of knew these guys and became friendly with them. And after that, there was the time I filled in for Milo, who was at the time in San Diego going to school and making frequent drives up to Los Angeles for band-related stuff. There was a show going on that I was at and Milo was going to be running late. The show must go on. I don't know how, but I think I was asked by Bill to sort of "fill in" for Milo. I guess he must have known that I knew all of the songs and could do it. I am sure I told him I could, so I did.

For about six or seven songs, I was Milo. Talk about a thrill! When I was just getting into it, a finger tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and there was Milo. Sheepishly, I handed the microphone to him and scurried off into a corner of the stage...I felt I somehow had earned with my heroic efforts. It was quite a rush!

I have been listening to the Descendents (and their sister band, ALL) for over a quarter of a century as I type this.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eugene n' Dukowski: Black Face is ready to spray paint the walls Black Flag-style

Eugene Robinson. (Courtesy photo)

By Andy

Black Flag shoved an album called "Damaged" in punks' faces. It's a non-stop pummel-fest that should have been the official sponsor -- if there was such a thing -- for tinnitus.

Oxbow offered us a beauty titled "Fuckfest." The band handed it over on a vinyl platter that might as well have been smeared with blood and reeking of animal carcasses.

Chuck Dukowski and Eugene Robinson are partially responsible for bringing these walls of noise to life with strangling bass lines and hissing and howling vocals -- and now they're architects supreme of Black Face. The newly formed band has Flag's Duk on bass, Oxbow's Robinson on vocals, Insect vs. Robots' Milo Gonzalez (Duk's son) on guitar and Oxbow alum Tom Dobrov on drums. Dukowski-penned Flag songs are on a pedestal here, as well as a quartet of Duk blasts from the "My War" era that have escaped Flag listeners' ears until now. Bring on the noise -- and fuck ear plugs.

Black Face's 29-song setlist includes the new/old ones, "Monster," "Leave Me Out to Rot," "Where Will We Run" and "I Want to Kill You," along with classics like "Padded Cell," "Modern Man," "No Values" and many more. (Actually, Duk's old bands SWA and Wurm performed "Monster" and "Where Will We Run," respectively.) Word has it that two 7-inch singles are in the works plus some live dates.

Black Face: Gonzalez, Robinson, Dobrov and Dukowski. (Courtesy photo)

I first encountered Robinson when I saw a picture of him -- bald, muscled and badass looking -- in Ripper magazine in the early '80s. I just had to buy a demo tape from this man's hardcore-punk band, Whipping Boy. After it arrived in the mail from Palo Alto, Calif. -- where Robinson attended Stanford University -- I soon counted songs like "Roach Motel," "Distemper" and "Fukked Up" as some of my favorites.

I exchanged letters with Robinson and spoke with him on the phone once in those early years, and we've maintained a friendship to this day. When I moved to San Jose, we met up several times (once he came to my workplace to hand off some Oxbow stuff, and I'm sure he intimidated my boss with his hulking appearance, but he was a gentleman ... ha ha). Recently in Seattle, Cat, our friend Diana and myself attended one of his intense readings of his crime novel, "A Long Slow Screw." ("The dogs were like whipsaws of frantic action" ... an unforgettable line when describing a gun-wielding confrontation between Joe Baggo and Lester while penned dogs want some man meat to chew on.)

As for Dukowski, one distinct memory was when my friend Greg Cameron (SWA drummer), Duk and myself ripped apart a plywood section of a desk with our bare hands -- we may have had some tools, but I'd like to think we didn't -- at the Redondo Beach, Calif., SST office on Artesia Boulevard back in the day. While we toiled away under the hot sun, a wild-eyed Henry Rollins shot fireworks in our direction, grinning and cackling away before he headed inside for another grueling Flag practice with Greg Ginn, Bill Stevenson and Kira Roessler.

Dukowski plays the bass much like attacking that piece of wood ... hands furiously digging into the strings as if he despises them, but cherishes them all the same. (He warmed up those bass fingers while playing some Flag songs alongside Keith Morris and No Age in LA recently.)

So, now we've got Black Face ... and here's what Robinson has to say about his new venture:

Popeye and owner last October. (Andy photo)

How did it all come down?

Well, I kept asking. Like I keep asking John Joseph and Harley Flanagan to kiss and make up and re-form the Cro-Mags proper. There are certain things I'd like to see, and I keep asking to see them and eventually I will either die or I will see them. In any case, I will ask until one or the other happens, and this is one of those things.

I've been asking Chuck for years....Not to do this specifically, but to make music together. Chuck's a genius. If you have a favorite Black Flag song, it's probably one that he's written. I mean do you remember anything off of "Who's got the 10.5?" In any case, it was not so much to do Black Flag that got me, but making music with him since it seems to me that he still had it. And we'd be on tour with Oxbow and would see him at Dour (Festival) where he'd be playing with CD6 (Chuck Dukowski Sextet) and he's got this crazy guitarist...this kid Milo who is a real idiot savant without the idiot part, and I just wanted to do SOMEthing. And as luck would have it, it ended up being this.

How does it feel to be involved with this?

Well it didn't really feel real until the studio, and then it felt real in the same way a gun in the back feels like the most real thing you have ever felt if you have ever felt this. And once it felt REAL, well it spread out on front of me like this crazy wonderful thing and it dawned on me in a lot of ways that it happened at exactly the right time. And I don't like to sleep anyway, so doing both Oxbow AND Black the books and other side projects? Well, fuck, you know....death awaits us all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big Drill Car: A Driving Force of Melody

Big Drill Car's Frank Daly and fan in Chicago. (Andy photo)

By Cat and Andy

Andy's celebrated winter/spring/summer of Big Drill Car gigs took place in 1990. He went to six shows in the Los Angeles area and all of them featured the Newport Beach-based jack-of-all-trades (punk/pop/rock/whatever) band that has stuck with us over the years. From gigs in LA to San Jose to Chicago, they never failed to keep us singing, smiling and stompin'.

Highlights of those hot LA nights, were driving to Cal State Irvine to watch BDC open for Dread Zeppelin, leaving before the headliner played; and sweating it out at Al's Bar, the Anti-Club, Raji's and the Rat Trap in Costa Mesa. After moving to San Jose the day after one of those Raji's gigs, Andy caught the band at Marsugi's in SJ and then Gilman Street in Berkeley with G-Whiz (whose van broke down and who stayed with Andy and roommate, Phil, for about a week).

One San Jose gig stood out:

For some reason, which would happen quite often in San Jose back in the '90s, out-of-town bands like Big Drill Car would just not get a good draw. One night at the Cactus Club, about eight of us made up most of the crowd. We didn't care, we got in a line and banged our heads -- Andy's sister, Kristin, even threw her scrunchie on stage, and smirking singer Frank Daly picked it up, twirled it on one finger and tossed it back at us. The band was on fire that night and seemed to enjoy themselves just as much as our crew.

Bob Thomson does Chicago. (Cat photo)

After the band broke up in 1995 -- leaving us with one of its best, powerhouse tunes, "Friend of Mine," on the "No Worse for the Wear" LP -- Daly and guitarist Mark Arnold hooked up with John Kastner of the Doughboys to form All Systems Go! ... Big Drill Car-Doughboys -- you can't go wrong with that one!

So, 13 years after the breakup, Big Drill Car reformed with Daly, Arnold and original bassist Bob Thomson and drummer Danny Marcroft for some shows in southern California and then at the Riot Fest in Chicago in October of 2008. (They also played two SoCal gigs in 2009.)

We attended those Chicago gigs at the Double Door and the Congress Theater and they gave us a jolt of energy that we shared with the band all those years ago. We knew it was a good sign when old pal Arnold spotted us in front of the Double Door and we talked it up like not a day had passed.

Old-school Drill Car.

Inside the club, we just hoped that our travels to Chicago would translate into another fine gig. However, we would not be without a snag in this endeavor:

As opening band the Pavers blared away, Cat had a comfortable spot at the bar with the perfect view of the band. Then came along "Princess Cowboy Hat" (PCH), who tried to squirm her way in front of Cat -- where there was absolutely no room. Cat refused to budge and PCH continued to push. By the time Andy came over, it was close to blows. Andy was distraught, afraid that Cat would get us kicked out of the club before Big Drill Car even started. Luckily, "Cowboy Hat's" boyfriend was cool and asked the "Princess" to calm down. By the end of it all, Cat and the boyfriend gave each other a hug, while PCH scoffed and looked away. 

Before Big Drill Car took the stage, a younger guy with spectacles had a discerning look on his face and asked us what they were about. During the set, as he pogoed and became extremely sweaty, he turned to us and blurted out, "How did I not know about this band!?"

Well, he does now, and hopefully he's a happier man because of it.

We haven't seen Big Drill Car since, but we ran into Arnold again at an X gig in Seattle about a year later. He was doing sound for X, and beforehand, grabbed Andy by the shirt, saying, "What the hell are you doing here?" Andy asked him the same thing. He offered to put us on the guest list for the second night, but we had a wedding to attend. 

But we've got a feeling the Big Drill Car stories are not through (we hope anyway!).