Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dazed and Refused: Talent-show hopes broken -- they didn't deserve us

Courtesy photo
[As I rummaged through some boxes in the garage recently, I found an old letter that I gave to one of my high-school administrators regarding a talent-show debacle. Initially, I didn't want to run this, because it's long-ago, high-school stuff, you know? The reason why I'm offering up this story is because I feel there's some things in here that we can all relate to on a daily basis. A short intro sets the scene.]

By Andy

It was our time to shine, rock, shred, rage -- you get the picture.

But we were denied by our high-school administration to participate in the senior "talent show" in 1984 in Torrance, Calif.

Greg, John, Phil and myself practiced hard for a few weeks to master our tunes: an original, "How We Rock," and our revved-up take on "Louie Louie."

We sweated it out in the SST practice space on Artesia Boulevard in Redondo Beach, the same spot where Black Flag, SWA and, later, the Descendents rehearsed. We were ready.

(We even had a name, Minas Tirith, since we had been reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "Return of the King" in class. It was a killer band name, of course.)

On "tryout" day, we packed some of the Flag PA into my dad's truck and drove over to the school. We didn't even make it in the door, we were banned. (We had already been told we couldn't play, but we showed up anyway -- just to show we were serious about our craft.)

Greg did loan his snare drum to some of our buddies doing a Van Halen "act," and he made sure to crack that drum hard before he exited the building.

We weren't included in the show because one of our members -- Phil -- didn't attend the school. True, but in the past, other bands (yes, punk/rock, like us; see previous entry) featured members not enrolled there, either. Not fair.

Anyway, here's the letter:

"I would just like to say that we are deeply upset with your judgement concerning acts to participate in the Talent Show.

It would appear that your understanding and fairness were not present during our meeting. In our school, and in today's society, open-mindedness and fair judgement are placed very highly in our set of values -- and it would seem that both of these (among others) were neglected all together.

First of all, when rules are cited to be linked with a certain function -- they should usually be stated from the start (not two weeks later -- after everyone had already begun rehearsal). I know what your rebuttal is, though, but there have always been participants from other schools in this show year after year -- and it would seem not to be as major of a deal as you have made it.

Another thing which really hit me hard was when you laughed in our faces when we stated that we've been looking forward to this event for 4 years. Haven't you ever had dreams or goals that really meant a lot to you -- that you wanted to accomplish? This was one of ours, and I feel that we have been deprived of this in a very "cheap" way.

But the real question is -- are you using the "non-school participant" as the actual reason for not letting us perform?

I have pieced this situation together very carefully, and have come to a conclusion. Is it that you don't particularly like us, or perhaps the music we were going to perform?

For your information, our act had originality in it. It wasn't a remake of a TV show or a pantomime of a popular song. It was us -- and I think that is most important in a "talent show." Who has the real talent? What is real talent?

[Editor's note: Yes, we were covering "Louie Louie," but we weren't lip-syncing it.]

In closing, I feel that the people we associate with or the music we listen to or play is no way to decide if we should perform or not.

If this is how you came to your conclusion, I think that it is very atrocious, ludicrous and a travesty to the BMHS or any other type of justice system."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

As the band raged, cops swooped in to break up party

A familiar situation: cop vs. punk. Courtesy photo from
By Andy

Back in 1983, a band of high-schoolers, The Boys Club, tore up the local party circuit, playing punk and new-wave cover tunes. (They even played the Our Lady of Guadalupe school hall in Hermosa Beach, Calif., once; a flier for the gig had a drawing of a guy with a pink Mohawk on it, but the band's name was misspelled as The Boix Club.)

Led by vocalist Jim Lindberg of Pennywise and Black Pacific fame, the band also featured my buddy Mike Filce on guitar, among others. I once sang part of the Misfits' "We Are 138" with them at a school talent show in Torrance.

Anyway, one evening, the band played a house party in Hermosa. During their second set, the cops crashed the rager, everyone was booted and a scuffle broke out between some partygoers and the fuzz.

Here's some lyrics I wrote back then about the incident:

"Cops in the Pool"

Men in blue -- got nothing to do
They don't wanna get bored -- so they hassle some youth
Gig that is chosen -- is raging something cool
We feel we're getting screwed -- cops in the pool!

The band is blasting -- piercing leads, plus more
Ears are buzzing -- spewing blood on the floor
Really happening party -- if you're not there, you're a fool
Cops show up -- fuckin' throw 'em in the pool!

[The cops never hit the water, but it was fun imagining it.]

Lindberg, left, and Filce, right, with the band at the school talent show. (BMHS yearbook photo)

Friday, July 20, 2012

A blast from the past: San Jose's Lifeline

Lifeline artwork by Pete McDonnell
By Andy

"Who are these guys?" I asked myself. Not just once or twice, but three times over the course of a two-year period from 1987-89.

First, they were called Frontline. An energetic, punk-metal outfit from San Jose, Calif., opening for Corrosion of Conformity at the Farm in San Francisco.

Then, as Lifeline (they had to change their name because another Frontline claimed rights to the moniker), I saw them open for Stiff Little Fingers and the Ramones at the Variety Arts Center and Roxy, respectively, in Los Angeles.

Then came the topper.

One afternoon, as I walked into the San Jose law office I was messengering for, there sat new courier Joe Sib -- Lifeline's singer.

"It's him," I said to myself. He looked up at me, commended me for wearing an SSD T-shirt and asked, "What's up?"

I told Sib I had seen his band open again and again for some of my favorite groups, and he quipped, "Does that bum you out?" I replied: "Not at all," since I dug their tunes.

Thus began a several-year friendship between the band and I. We hung out, I roadied for them a few times and wrote the following story for their press pack.

From left to right, Bill Fraenza, Joe Sib, Dave Conrad and Kevin Morrissey. (Photo by Paulette Denis-Rees)


For some bands, playing music is a hobby. Simply an excuse to waste away the grueling hours faced each day. For San Jose's Lifeline, being in a band is a way of life.

"The band is our lifeline," says sharp-tongued singer Joe Sib. "Without this, we wouldn't be happy."

Formed in 1984 under the moniker Frontline, the band has come a long way and are finally starting to make some noise.

The name change was crucial in establishing its current musical standing. While Frontline, the band jarred Bay Area audiences with an energetic punk-rock attack. The band has since cleaned up and tightened its sound into a pounding, and often melodic, hardcore-rock-n'-roll style, reminiscent of early Clash and DOA.

"We grew from Frontline to Lifeline," says Sib. "But in my eyes, we've just begun."

Also consisting of guitarist Bill Fraenza, bassist Kevin Morrissey and drummer Dave Conrad, Lifeline is intent at taking its music as far as possible.

"The four of us have always known that this is what we want to do," says Sib. "No one in this band would ever quit."

Quite a strong statement from someone deeply caught up in the ever-changing world that is the music business. However, one member of Lifeline gives ample evidence as to why his involvement with the band is permanent.

"Playing live is everything," says the soft-spoken Morrissey.

Imagine this: A stocky lad, arms flailing, hair flying -- set behind his drum kit. A virtuoso guitarist and bassist flanking stage right and left. A manic frontman jumping every which way, while giving his vocal chords a serious workout. And lastly, most important, the crowd with fists raised -- shouting out lyrics as if they personally wrote them.

This is Lifeline in its most comfortable and meaningful setting.

And whether the band is rocking to thousands (as shown in its opening slots for the Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers, Danzig and Jane's Addiction) or just a few friends, one can bet on having their ear drums assaulted to the hilt each time.

"'That Feeling Inside' is my song to the crowd," says Sib. "It's like giving back something -- basically, we'll get you off for the money you paid to see us."

That process of returning the favor is often reversed at Lifeline shows, especially in San Jose.
The crowd can usually be seen thrashing about and piling onto the stage as soon as Fraenza lets that first chord wail.

"Playing in San Jose is my nightmare," says Sib, while shaking his head. "I get really nervous -- but when we start, and the crowd's into it, it's great."

"Or even if they're just smiling," adds Morrissey.

While the live atmosphere is necessary to Lifeline's existence, things behind the scenes are just as vital. The way songs are generated is especially unique.

"If a song isn't written or completed in one night, it's aced," says Fraenza.

Sib further states that if the feeling isn't in the song when first played, it most likely won't be a mainstay in the Lifeline repertoire.

That sense of spontaneity is also evident when the singer is faced with writing lyrics.

"I don't force it," says Sib. "I wait for an idea to hit -- something has to happen to me."

Some of the most important songs on Lifeline's new releases are "Nothing to Lose," "Words to Live By," "Forgotten Friend" and "My Secret."

Sib went into detail on the first two:

"'Nothing to Lose' is about the band. It's my story of playing music. We've got nothing to lose when we go out and play a show. I like what I'm doing, and there's a couple that like it -- these are my friends or just people there. So let's go balls out."

"'Words to Live By' is what I feel about certain things. Why I do certain things. Sometimes, I get bummed about things I did, but it's done. I've listened to so many bands, writers and laws. I've learned to live for now."

Although Sib is outspoken on Lifeline's lyrical and philosophical stance, the rest of the band have a great amount of input, also.

"We're trying to get the music that we like out there," says Conrad. "Instead of always having to compromise and listen to stuff we don't like."

However, the main thing for Lifeline is to get out on the road and play to some people. But it knows from experience that touring in a crowded van with barely enough gas money isn't always the best of times. Despite this, the boys manage to get by.

"Our motto is, 'When it's shitty -- we'll still have a good time at it,'" says Sib.

Definitely words to live by.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

A ton of rock at West Seattle Summerfest

Tom Price brings the rock with his band on Saturday in West Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos)
Aaah, West Seattle Summerfest. Three years ago -- Mudhoney. Last year -- the Fastbacks.

This time out, we were stoked to see Alcohol Funnycar, The Tom Price Desert Classic, Pierced Arrows and the DT's. Some rock, soul, pop, surf and punk -- all present.

Check out Saturday's action via Cat Rose's lens:

The DT's:

Singer Diana Young-Blanchard; below, bassist Matt Z and drummer, Mike VanBuskirk.

The Tom Price Desert Classic:

Price with guitarist Don Blackstone.

Blackstone with bassist Joe Kilbourne.

Alcohol Funnycar:

Ben London, top; Tommy Bonehead, center; and Rob Dent.

Pierced Arrows:

Toody Cole, above; Fred Cole, center; and Kelly Halliburton.

In closing ...

Cat suggested these two guys start a slam pit during Alcohol Funnycar --- they did; a two-dude pit.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bay Area punk explosion: Verbal Abuse, Society Dog and D'Jelly Brains

Verbal Abuse's Nicki Sicki. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Cat and Andy

"Oh my God ... Stop 'em now."

Society Dog vocalist/drummer Glen Campbell jokingly said this as they played last Thursday night at Eli's Mile High Club in Oakland.

He was mimicking what he thought an outsider might say while watching his band, but all the musicians involved on this triple-bill punk gig might have heard those words before. We say, screw the naysayers!

D'Jelly Brains, featuring guitarist John Binkov (from fromer SF stalwarts the VKTMS), Janine Arnold on drums and Tim Behary on bass kicked things off with a blazing set.

Society Dog's Joe Dirt, above, and D'Jelly Brains' John Binkov.

Next up were Society Dog, who played both that band's classic tunes plus some choice numbers from the Fuck-Ups' songbook. Former FU and past and present SD-er Joe Dirt manned the guitar, our pal Erin Mountain hammered the bass and Campbell drummed and sang like a madman.

Verbal Abuse headlined the affair with their rippin' early tunes. Original members Nicki Sicki on vocals and Dave "Koko" Chavez on bass, along with Ed "Shred" on guitar and Geza on drums, showed the folks how it's done.

The past rammed head-on into the present on this evening with punk tunes and Campbell shout-outs to Jonithin Christ and Bob Noxious, former SD and FU singers who have passed on into the punk afterlife. 

Eli's is legendary in its own right, clanging open its doors in 1974 to blues bands, as well as James Brown, Etta James and others. Add Verbal Abuse, Society Dog and D'Jelly Brains to that list, please.





Verbal Abuse: Oops, we did it again (rocked hard, that is!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seattle's Alcohol Funnycar revs up the rock at reunion

Alcohol Funnycar's Ben London. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Alcohol Funnycar had been parked in the back of the garage for 16 years, gathering dust and cobwebs and sitting there alongside the busted skateboard, rusty golf clubs and boxes of once-fitting clothes.

On Friday night, original members Ben London (vocals/guitar) and Tommy Bonehead (bass) brought newcomer Rob Dent (drums) along for a blazing musical reunion ride at the Funhouse in Seattle. The gig took a handful of twisting pop, punk and rock turns along the trek, and the band raised a proverbial victory flag in the end.

Cat and I had seen the band just once before: June 22, 1994, at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. We were primed for some AFC action and got it in the form of songs like "Aggravation," "Get it Right," "Objects," "Red Wine," "Tumble Down" and other tunes from the band's "Burn" EP and "Time to Make the Donuts" and "Weasels" LPs.

Tommy Bonehead.

"16 years pass, and you listen to it and you play it and rediscover it -- in this case, I'm pretty proud of it, I really love it," Bonehead (Simpson) said after the gig. "My whole skateboard team came here. They're pretty critical, they like real things, and they seem to like it, get something out of it ... as did we."

Speaking of the Jak's skateboard team, its Absolute Music Fest was an ideal event to get AFC rolling again, said London, noting that the band played a Jak's reunion on its first tour in Petaluma, Calif., in '91 or '92. Local Jak's member, Bruce, and Bonehead put the gig together and AFC were on board.

"It was great, it was fun. I feel lucky, I'm 45 years old, I played in bands almost my whole life, and the fact that we can get together and do this and anybody even cares is like the greatest thing in the world," London said. "The fact that anybody wants to hear it is awesome."

The AFC lead man was stoked to see some old friends at the the gig... and revisit some old tunes.
"I was talking to my wife and a couple other people, and I forget sometimes the life these (songs) have in other people's lives, not just in mine," London said.

"(It's a) really weird sensation, going back and learning songs you wrote that you don't remember the lyrics or the chords to," London added. "I write a lot of songs -- or try to -- and so they kind of get pushed to the back of bus. It's kind of like looking at pictures of yourself from high school or from college or something like that, where you're sort of like, 'What was I thinking? Was that haircut really a good move at that time?'

Bonehead flashed a smile -- with one missing tooth -- often during the gig and he and London were clearly connecting musically and personally the whole way.

It's always been that way, said Bonehead, who also plucked the bass in Love Battery, Crisis Party, the Crotchrockets and the Miserables.

"Ben and I, early on in our relationship, had sort of an immediate connection. I can remember the moment, the first time we strummed guitars together, there was something there," he added.
"When we decided to dissolve this, I think we expected to do some more stuff once in a while, and we just exploded off into parenting and other lives. But with all great relationships, when we came back, it just feels like you're right back there again. You look at your homeboy, and say, 'Are we doing this? ... then we're doing it' felt really good."

Rob Dent.

As for Dent, he takes over for former drummers Buzz Crocker ('91-'93) and Joel Trueblood ('93-'96) and is fitting in with the AFC guys quite nicely. His old band, Jackie on Acid, played with AFC back in the day and he has drummed in London bands Sanford Arms and Burning Rivers and currently bangs the kit in Stag.

"I'm riding the coattails," Dent joked about playing with AFC, which recorded a session for Seattle's KEXP 90.3 FM and will play the West Seattle Summerfest on July 14.

"The thing for me that's really interesting about it is that I've been playing with Ben for so long now, since '98. It was really fun for me to dig into this music because I felt like it was kind of like getting to know Ben all over again, from this time before I knew him," Dent said. "This whole group of songs (are) so different than what we've been playing for so long, and on top of that, it's really, really fun to play-- just balls-out rock, great tunes. It's always great to discover a new band, right? And I felt like I was doing that, and on top of that, I got to play in it."

As AFC's set neared its end, London took a minute to honor his friends Mia Zapata and Stefanie Sargent, who are no longer with us. Zapata of The Gits was murdered in '93 and "Sarg" of 7 Year Bitch died of a heroin overdose in '92.

"What struck me about getting back together and doing this music is it's been fun to do, but it struck me a little bit about all my friends and people from the past that didn't have that option," London said after the show. "So, The Gits can't get back together, 7 Year Bitch can't get back together, those would be bands that people would be really fired up to wanna see.

"But we're happy to be here and I feel like it's important to acknowledge how great it would be if those people were still here, too."