Thursday, April 30, 2020

Slippin' and slidin' with JFA's Brian Brannon

JFA live in 1982. (Photo by Alison "Mouse" Braunstein)

By Andy

Talk about giving the stage a proper workout. If those sturdy, bewildered slabs of wood could talk, well, they would be chattering non-stop with dazzling speech about a night that seemed plucked out of dreamland.

When JFA's rambunctious vocalist Brian Brannon zipped across the stage in the band's opening slot, we kept a firm eye on the teen mic-handler and smiled while the band belted out its raging, ragged punk fare.

We knew the tunes on JFA's debut "Blatant Localism" EP like the back of our hands and wedged our way up close like punk sardines in a combat-boot-crushed can for the quartet's set on March 12, 1982 at the Ukrainian Cultural Center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles opening for the mighty Bad Brains, Bad Religion and the Lewd.

Yes, that's me second from left in the crowd next to my brother Ed and friend John following Brannon's slippery stage antics in this classic photo by Alison "Mouse" Braunstein.

"I was 15 in the picture, wearing pinstripe trousers and wingtip shoes, because why the hell not?" Brannon told this blog recently about JFA's inaugural LA gig. "The thing I liked about those shoes was that they would really slide across the floor, so I would often get running on stage and just glide the slide for about 15 or 20 feet. That might’ve been how I ended up on the floor in that picture and knowing me, I may have stayed there when I fell, because what the hell?"

Brannon added that the Bad Brains' initial West Coast jaunt was a stunner for the locals and visitors from Phoenix (JFA) and San Francisco (Lewd).

"When they came on, nobody had ever seen anything like it before, a bunch of Rastafarians playing that tight, that fast and that powerful, blew people’s minds. And the energetic acrobatics of HR flying all around the stage was a thing to behold. West Coast punk rock was never the same again," Brannon said.

It was certainly a ferocious set complete with roaring vocals, guitars and drums -- all steamrolling toward us with finesse and vibrancy. I'm literally beginning to sweat all over again as I pen this entry, recalling my brother snagging a coveted spot side stage and Henry Rollins joining the band for the finale, "Pay to Cum." What a fucking crucial night, and I was glad to share it with our crew, which also included buddies Mike and Bob.

For Brannon, he spent some of his time off stage visiting with Dennis Danell of Social Distortion and witnessing the cops fuck with the punks outside.

On Danell, the JFA man noted: "He was a great guy. And I’m still sad to this day that he is no longer with us. One thing I remember about that first meeting, was we were standing there talking and he was drinking a beer, I think it was a Miller High Life. After he drained it, he took it and threw it on the floor, breaking it. I remember thinking it was the most punk rock thing I had ever seen!"

Following the Lewd's solid set in the two-spot, the cops crashed the party and threatened to pull the plug on the gig because of some alleged problems with the punks outside. After a long wait, and much worrying that we wouldn't get to see the Bad Brains, things were sorted out and the cops dispersed.

Bad Religion then ripped through its set of favorites -- I believe the brilliant "New Leaf" was in there -- but most of us were already leap-frogging the locals' time in the spotlight and eagerly awaiting the Bad Brains' appearance.

We'll let Brannon, fill us in about what he experienced outside:
"Somewhere in the middle of the show, I decided to take a walk outside to get some air. I turn the corner on Melrose, and there were cop cars lining both sides of the street with flashing lights on as far as the eye could see. Cops in riot gear were rounding up stray punkers and beating the shit out of them," he said.

Like any brazen 15-year-old punk would, Brannon felt the urge to stroll through the chaotic shit-show while smoking a clove cigarette. 

Brannon continues his narrative: "At some point, I think I figured out it wasn’t probably the best idea, and right then, a police officer came up to me and said, 'How old are you, boy?' 'Fifteen, sir.' 'What are you smoking there, boy?' 'A clove cigarette, sir.' 'Well you better put that damn thing out right now or I’ll shove it up your ass.' 'Yes, sir,'" he said.

"So I put the damn thing out and went back in to the club and went in to watch the rest of the gig. Good times."

It was for us as well, and I'm blown away by Alison's photo, which was recently unearthed after all these years. We're youngsters here -- ages 15-17 -- and holding our own right in the middle of the action. It was a packed auditorium and things got especially frenetic when the Bad Brains owned the stage, but we went with the flow -- much like the music's abrasion and melody that often snuck in there -- and endured some bumps and bruises while singing along and jostling for a prime spot to gain the full effect of the spectacle laid out in front of us.

This was just one vital stop on our journey, which continues to this day.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Revisiting Redd Kross' scorching debut EP with the McDonald brothers / Feature story

Redd Kross' debut EP will be reissued on Merge Records on June 26. (Courtesy of the Merge Records website)

By Andy 

It was fun, horrifying, exciting and nerve-racking.

With an infectious laugh, that's how Jeff McDonald describes the feelings that permeated the air when Red Cross (later changed to Redd Kross) invaded a pair of recording studios for the first time in 1979. During those sessions, the foursome banged out a handful of songs that soon inhabited the grooves of the band's debut EP and entered the punk-rock world nearly 40 years ago.

The musicians were young and bratty, and the tunes were killer.

Blazing into the studios' tape decks from the mouths and hands of Jeff McDonald (16, vocals), Steven McDonald (12, bass/vocals), Greg Hetson (18, guitar) and Ron Reyes (19, drums), the songs garnered the attention of Los Angeles-area tastemaker and KROQ deejay Rodney Bingenheimer and Robbie Fields, who released the six-song 12-inch stunner -- which clocks in at 6:22 -- in 1980 on his Posh Boy Records imprint.

On June 26, Merge Records will reissue the 40th anniversary edition of that landmark EP in all its raging glory with an additional four demos and a live track from the band's second gig at the infamous Black Flag Church in Hermosa Beach, CA. Along with the EP's six songs (which were originally released via "The Siren" compilation on Posh Boy in 1980), the collection features demos of "Rich Brat," "Cover Band," "Clorox Girls" and "Standing in Front of Poseur" and the live "Fun with Connie."

Within a roughly five-week span in the late summer to fall of 1979, the band changed its name from the Tourists to Red Cross, planted Reyes on the drummer's stool (replacing original skinsman John Stielow, age 13), gigged with Black Flag at the Hong Kong Cafe in Chinatown and recorded at Media Art Studio in Hermosa and Shelter Studios in Hollywood. The Spot/Joe Nolte sessions at Media Art came first and are the bonus demos on the Merge reissue, and the Jim Mankey/Roger Harris recordings at Shelter were chosen by Fields to represent the band on "The Siren" and subsequently the EP. Fans know the Nolte-produced "Rich Brat" as the 36-second leadoff track from the "Life is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself" compilation from 1982 on New Underground Records, and the remaining demos are from that initial session as well.

"The EP is just super fun. All those songs are written like almost instantaneously. It's almost as fast as it takes to listen to them," Jeff said over the phone from his Los Feliz home on a recent day.

"You know what's funny? Every once in a while, there's always like these little kids from Rock School doing 'Annette's Got the Hits' covers or stuff and it's hilarious. Kids who were our age or younger," he added.

Strangely and hilariously, it was the youngest guy in the band, Steven, who got the monetary ball rolling with the graveyard-hours Media Art session via his robust Daily Breeze paper route income. Steven recalls enduring a severe Sunday morning hangover -- after a night out at the Hong Kong Cafe that resulted in some serious barfing -- while folding papers with his dad in front of their Hawthorne home before heading out to deliver the news on his Strand Cruiser bike.

With the newsboy cash in hand, Jeff said they warily faced the huge mystique surrounding the recording studio back then, but they got their bearings and plowed through the sessions.

Jeff remembers everything whizzing by in one take and the studio guys going, "'OK do it, OK it's good,' and I'm like, 'Are you sure?' It was like being on live television or something. Especially being a teenager, 'cause you're so awkward and gawky and bizarre and self-conscious, so to have to kind of muster the courage to just kind of power through something like that was something you don't forget."

Steven's high-pitched backups on "Cover Band" and "I Hate My School" and lead vocals on "Poseur" led the band to dub him the Jimmy Osmond of Redd Kross, Jeff noted with a hilarity-punctuated comment. Jeff wishes that his little brother had sung lead on more songs, and he's amazed these days when Steven still sings in that original key when they unleash songs from the EP in a live setting.

Also via phone from his Los Feliz home recently, Steven added about his vocals: "I was going for it. I'm sure I probably had a little bit of insecurity, but also just was like empowered by my youth. Also I had my brother encouraging me, and Jeff was like, 'Amazing! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!' He loved my high screaming voice (laughs), and he's always encouraged me to approach the nether realms of my capabilities. To reach far beyond what I should be reaching for, particularly in a high vocal range."

Echoing Jeff's earlier sentiments, Steven said they were having a blast in an intimidating environment. And they fucking nailed it.

"All in all when I listen to it now, I'm proud of that fact that we were so tenacious," Steven said.

On a high note, Rodney was thrilled with the tunes and started blasting Redd Kross over the airwaves on his influential Rodney on the Roq show. Listeners dug the songs as well.

"So that was really exciting, and it wasn't lost on us how cool it was to actually have a record out," Jeff said.

Jeff, left, and Steven McDonald in 2017 at the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland, CA. (Andy photo)

With the Merge reissue of that eponymous EP, Steven has once again stepped up to the plate to put all the pieces into place with the help of Redd Kross webmaster and graphic designer Jon Krop. Jeff has been at the helm of the band's other reissues over the last five years.

While digging through his archives, Steven grasped onto Jeff's ancient address book, which is tiny in stature but massive in content. The red artifact contains phone numbers of musicians and club bookers from the band's earliest days.

So, bang, the reissue's front and back covers would feature that fortuitous find.

"You can thumb through it and it's crazy because it's all people who were our heroes or people that booked clubs," Steven said with enthusiasm. "And Jeff had all these phone numbers. He had the booker from the Hong Kong Cafe, the booker from Raji's, he had Belinda from the Go-Go's phone number, he had Lee Ving's phone number from FEAR, someone from the Avengers, someone from X probably, someone from the Dickies... all of our favorite bands."

Redd Kross was bent on playing gigs and Jeff would sidle up to those folks at clubs and rattle off information about the emerging band.

Steven said that Jeff would shoot forth something along the lines of, "Hey we have a band, my brother's in it, he's 12 years old' and then point to me. And then we'd be like, 'Can we play with you?'" (laughter)

After a few tries recently, Jeff mirrored his freehand writing from 40 years ago to list the titles of the songs that sit beside some names and phone numbers from the address book on the back cover.

(Courtesy of the Merge Records website)

Perhaps Steven's biggest accomplishment with the reissue was obtaining the rights to the record from Fields.

"That's one of the most grown-up things I've ever done in my life," said a chuckling Steven, who notes that he could have talked himself out of it, but pressed on to bring his idea to fruition and keep the music alive. Perhaps now owning that copyright can be worth some monetary value to pass on to his son in the future.

Speaking of the youth of Los Angeles, Steven frequented all-ages gigs about 15 years ago to scout bands to produce and witnessed musicians hammering out songs off the "Red Cross" EP. He was blown away and reacted with, "'Whoa! OK, wait, so kids know about this? Kids still get into this?'"

He labels the EP as a gateway record for a lot of kids to delve into underground music.

"That record probably has that super power beyond any of our other records. It's all the more reason why I'm really glad that we control it now," he said.

Jeff and wife Charlotte Caffey's daughter Astrid hits stages as the vocalist of the Side Eyes with bits and pieces surely inherited from the Redd Kross and Go-Go's tunesmiths. While 10-year-old Alfie, which is Steven and wife Anna Waronker of That Dog's son, is a sports kid -- especially basketball -- he can keep a tune way better than his father, the Redd Kross bassist noted.

"I don't really shove (Redd Kross tunes) in his face because I know that I had such a unique, weirdo experience, and I don't want it to be like, 'OK look kid, look what I was doing at 11, OK what are you doing? Chop, chop! Chop, chop! Let's get to it,'" Steven said while chuckling.

Steven added that perhaps Alfie could someday gravitate toward "I Hate My School" and encourage his friends to play that song with him.

On whether the EP songs still hold up today, Hetson said in an email: "I suppose they do, people are still interested in them after all these years, which is strange considering we were all in high school or junior high when we recorded these. Well, Ron was the exception being an old man of 19 years of age."

Hetson added that the band was having fun making music and meeting people during that formative time.

"Our goal was to get out of the garage, which was actually Jeff and Steve's parents living room and into a club and play a show somewhere," he said.

Reyes reached deep into his memory bank and said in a Messenger note: "Joining Red Cross was a trip. I just bought a drum set and didn't even touch it except to drive people out of my home (the Church) by playing the 'My Sharona' beat when it got late and I wanted to sleep."

Since Reyes possessed a kit, the band assumed that he must know how to play it, the drummer joked. Rehearsing at the Church for free was also on their minds, Reyes added.
A few weeks later, the band was gigging and recording the two sessions.

"Trouble was that I still was not a good drummer and the (EP) producer was some big shot who recorded all these classic rock bands. He did not like my drumming, so he came in the studio and took away, I think, my hi-hat and some other cymbals and some toms so all I had left was kick, snare, ride and floor tom. Then I proceeded to play the songs with variations of the only beat I knew, the 'My Sharona' beat," Reyes said.

Reyes dug the songs and the musicianship of the McDonalds and Hetson, who received exactly what they asked for from the man behind the kit.

"I think the songs hold up 'cause they are like punk rock 'American Graffiti,' Reyes said. "Best band I was ever in. It was all downhill from there."


Punk rock blistered its way onto Jeff's radar when the Ramones performed on Don Kirshners Rock Concert TV show in 1977 and via Rodney's radio show.

"I was always into kind of rock and roll that other kids in my neighborhood didn't listen to. I loved Slade and we liked David Bowie and weird shit like that. That was all very culty underground, so the next step from most of those bands was punk rock," he said.

So Jeff grabbed a guitar at age 14 and tried to get a handle on Ramones and Runaways tunes, but found it easier to just write his own songs. About a year later, 11-year-old Steven brought his bass out of the Dana Middle School jazz orchestra room and into the punk-rock realm.

"We started writing songs and then once we got a few songs together, I was out to try to find other musicians. It was hard. I found Greg Hetson. We were in (Hawthorne High) photography class together and he had taken pictures of the Dickies at the Whisky. He was the only other person I knew at school at the time who even knew about those bands," said Jeff, adding that Hetson balked at joining the band at first because of the little-kid factor (drummer Stielow had also made the move from the Dana jazz orchestra).

With some prodding, Jeff got Hetson over to their house and he was impressed with the songs they had on tap. Hetson was in and the Tourists were a go.

"Once we were able to rehearse with the four of us in one of our garages, it was just a classic garage band situation. I'd say eight out of 10 times, the police would be called, and the garage door would open and there would be cops telling us we had to stop," Jeff laughed. "It was difficult to rehearse. We really got the most of it when we were actually able to get together. It was fun."

Steven, top, and Jeff in Oakland. (Andy photos)

The quartet soon befriended other punks in the South Bay and caught a raging Black Flag gig in Redondo Beach. Jeff contacted Greg Ginn via the address on the back of the band's "Nervous Breakdown" EP and the Tourists were eventually invited to hang out at the infamous Church in Hermosa Beach.

With about 10 other "punk-rock sympathizers" on hand, Jeff remembers, "We performed our set for everyone in the little scene there and everyone was really into it, so it was kind of confirmation that we actually had something that was kind of cool."

After being welcomed into the Church scene, the Tourists began rehearsing there and soon met future drummer Reyes.

Speaking of the Church in connection with the Merge reissue, the irreverent song "Fun With Connie" about Connie Francis was remastered from a cassette that Steven unearthed from an early live show at the Black Flag gritty abode. The tape incorrectly noted that it was the band's first gig, but Steven clarifies that their foray into the live realm was at an eighth-grade graduation party with Black Flag in Hawthorne. They tugged no fans into their fold on that occasion.

"It was not that show (the mislabeled tape). It was because we got booed the entire time by the eighth-graders. They were really not having us and the didn't like us," he said. "The reaction on this cassette was people clapping. It was like a smattering of applause, which made me realize that the only place this could have been from would have been at one of the parties at the Church."

Another nugget of punk history was revealed while listening to that live tape: Steven noted that the Circle Jerks heisted one of his riffs for themselves and never gave him credit. He laughed and jokingly said to cue the violins.

Perhaps the most discussed early Tourists gig was the raucous Polliwog Park affair in Manhattan Beach while manning the opening slot for Black Flag. From Jeff's standpoint, the boys held their own pretty well before things became unhinged when Black Flag hit the stage in front of copious unwelcoming families out for a pleasant afternoon lunch and some supposedly mellow tunes.

"I remember being terrified and there was a lot of people there. Some of our friends had shown up, a small group of punk rockers were there. We went on first, so it was just families and people who were watching us. (They) were just kind of looking at us with a strange look on their face, but they were polite. No one was throwing anything at us, not until Black Flag played, and then all the families started throwing watermelon rinds, beer cans, everything at them," Jeff recalled.

Scary, sure, but the McDonalds and their cohorts couldn't get enough of the punk scene. They embraced every moment, from the Church to the Hong Kong Cafe to the Whisky in Hollywood and beyond. The McDonald parents were fine with their sons' activities, said Jeff, and they even drove the boys to and from their first punk gig featuring X and the Avengers at the Whisky. There was much begging involved to get the parents and kids into the car for that Whisky excursion, Jeff laughed.

"We were very serious about (the band), and they were OK, they were reasonably supportive. We didn't have these aspirations of a career in music, we just were doing things in the moment," said Jeff, adding that when they rehearsed at home, they plugged in when their dad was at work since they didn't want to bother him. "They were cool, but we didn't really want them coming to any of our shows, 'cause we were horrified if they saw some of the conditions that we were playing in that it would be shut down, and rightfully so. We had a few friends that were older like Keith Morris and my friend Ella who drove, so they were OK with those people being kind of chaperones, but what would they know? (laughs)"

The McDonalds always loved music and started going to concerts in the 1970s at the nearby Forum in Inglewood, where they saw the likes of Elton John, KISS, Led Zeppelin, the Faces and much more. Much like the Whisky gig, their parents ushered them to the shows and retrieved them at the House of Pies across the street from the Forum afterward. Technically, Jeff's first concert was the Beatles in San Diego when the 3-year-old accompanied his mom, aunt and grandmother to the show. He remembers an abundance of screaming and chaos within the massive crowd.

Approximately 12 years after that Paul, John, George and Ringo show, Jeff began his own musical journey with his brother by his side.

Looking back on the "Red Cross" EP nowadays, "Annette's Got the Hits" is a standout track for Jeff because it's the first riff-based song the band penned. It's a McDonald brothers collaboration and features a riff that Steven came up with after digesting Henry Mancini orchestral songs like "Pink Panther" and "Peter Gunn" in middle school. It's sort of Pink and Peter punkified, if you will.

"That one still really holds up. People really seem to dig it," said Jeff, adding that it's cool to have those initial songs at the ready during current gigs. "It's weird, for so many years we just didn't play those songs because we just couldn't relate to them on any level (laughs). In recent years, we always add them to our set. They've just become these strange, psychedelic, weird, time-machine moments for us. They're really fun to play now."

From left, Steven, Ron, Greg and Jeff in the old days. (Courtesy of Posh Boy's website; Birrer photo)

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Henry Rollins experience long before he unleashed 'The Cool Quarantine'

Henry Rollins sifts through his record collection. Photo: Heidi May; Rollins website

By Andy

Let's go back in time and complete a sort-of full-circle experience.

While listening to Henry Rollins' four-hour "The Cool Quarantine" hangout session the last two days on the KCRW site, I was reverted back to February of 1982 when my brother and I first entered the SST Records office on Phelan Avenue in Redondo Beach, CA, and began what I'll dub our "No Quarantine" visits with the Black Flag singer.

Music and stories about the Washington, DC, scene would soon literally bounce off those four walls of the ratty office via Rollins' passion and intensity and keep us coming back for more over the next few months or so.

A few days before that initial visit, brother Ed befriended Rollins, who was standing alone near the back of the Hollywood Palladium during the BYO's Youth Movement '82 Thursday night gig that featured TSOL, Adolescents, Wasted Youth, Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, Blades and AKA.

I remember them chatting for a while and Ed coming back over with a phone number to SST in hand and echoing this energetic message from Rollins, "You gotta listen to the Necros! You gotta listen to the Necros!" The band's recent EP from Dischord/Touch & Go Records was already on our radar, but we now knew that we had to get on board with the Maumee, OH, outfit's tunes post haste.

With Rollins already pointing us in the direction of more crucial music to add to our collection, we figured we would start cracking open the man's vault and get him sharing his experiences paired with tunes when we skateboarded toward SST that first day.


Much like Rollins does on his inaugural installment of "The Cool Quarantine" (which features some DC stories and songs wedged in between tunes and info from all across the music spectrum), he set forth a cavalcade of music knowledge in our direction and possessed heaps of rare tunes that had us shaking our heads in amazement.

When we entered the office, he turned our way, gave a "Hey, what's up, guys?" and we took seats near the desk he was sitting at. After some chatter about the Palladium gig and what Black Flag had on tap, Rollins whipped his chair around and reached into his belongings for a box of cassette tapes emblazoned with the names Bad Brains, SOA, Faith, Void, Youth Brigade, Deadline and much more. The names were written in black marker, but they might as well have been scrawled in heavenly golden ink.

Rollins had us in the palm of his hand as he grinned and plunked one tape after another into now what seemed like a magical music box to our eyes and ears. Live Bad Brains? What the fuck? It went on and on.

Former SST office (bottom corner) on Phelan in Redondo, taken in recent years. (TSHIT photo)

He took the excitement level up even further by vividly describing some of the gigs that took place in DC, all the while shaking his head and swinging his arm when a critical part of a song would arrive. The man's a true entertainer, for sure.

When we saw him let loose with Black Flag on stage, we felt like we were already privy to what was pulsating through his being.

Rollins loaned us a few demo tapes to dub back home and those are still a key part of our collection. He also trusted me with a copy of the "Flex Your Head" DC compilation, and later scolded me for keeping it too long since he wanted to tape it for a friend.

Perhaps he'll dig into some of those cassettes or "Flex Your Head" on a future episode of "The Cool Quarantine." If he does, I'll raise my fist and sing along, just like I did in my bedroom in 1982.

Check out "The Cool Quarantine" at

Monday, April 6, 2020

Musicians discuss life during quarantine

Richard Thompson live stream concert. (TSHIT photo)

By Andy

While we're stuck at home during these trying times, those domains have become our clubs to watch online gigs, grow closer as families, work on projects that once sizzled slowly on the back burner and create more music than ever before. This is the way it's going to be for a while, and things will advance in a new direction for all of us after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Our hearts are torn for those who have lost loved ones. We're trying to support as many local businesses as possible and help out in our local community the best we can while staying safe.

Things suck right now, but there is hope.

"I think when things get back to 'normal,' they won't be the same. I'm OK with that and I'm not sure I honestly want to go back to the way some things were but more move ahead into the future and make things better," said Vanessa Silberman, an international touring DIY singer/guitarist, producer, engineer, mixer and indie A&R with an artist development label, A Diamond Heart Production.

Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Silberman said she's been wrapped up in music by working on new tunes, releases, live streaming and other artists' projects while spreading positive vibes. Her usual remote projects of mixing/production and mastering are still on target. She had planned to hit the open road once again on a pair of tours and had recording sessions on her docket in New York City and California.

"The entertainment industry as a whole has been massively affected and is going through many changes, but also some things are very much still going and evolving," she said. "People are still listening to so much music, reading blogs, releasing songs, live streaming and watching videos."

All the while, there are emotional struggles in our daily lives and we don't know what's on the horizon. Each day is a mental journey like never before.

"I know the whole COVID-19 issue is foremost on everyone’s minds right now. My heart goes out to everyone in solidarity. Be strong. Don’t give in to fear. It will get worse before it gets better, but it will get better," said Fullerton, CA's Alfie Agnew of Professor and the Madman, which has a new album in the works and also features Sean Elliott and former Damned members Rat Scabies and Paul Gray.

Agnew and his crew have been spending their time molding the record into shape and getting the word out about its release. They're thrilled about what they've got on their hands with this recent collection of tunes, which once again are story-driven and tread an eclectic musical path.

"'Séance' is a trip; we want everyone to go on it with us and sonically relive the '60s, '70s and '80s through our lenses," he said. "Hopefully 'Séance' can provide a healthy escape for some from their temporary isolation."

During the quarantine, we are drawn toward tough conversations with family and friends and are also forced to look within ourselves for answers about how to deal with things on a personal level.

Agnew said it's a wake-up call and we need to rise to the challenge. Here's a few of his thoughts:

"Maybe people will learn to grow their own food once again, cook simply for themselves, and regain their health. Maybe people will learn how not to be so dependent on services and disposables and learn to do and repair things for themselves once again. Maybe some can reinvent themselves as the strong, kind, self-sufficient, mentally and physically healthy people they grew up admiring."

Our instruments waiting for a jam session. (TSHIT photo)

Checking in from the UK, Andy Cairns of Therapy? gave a huge thank you on Instagram to all the National Health Service Workers for their vital work during these times.

The band's European tour was pulled and some festival dates have been cancelled as well, Cairns noted, adding in a more important vein, "All of this is nothing, of course, when compared to what people are facing right now."

Last week, Cairns reached out to fans on Instagram by sharing Marshall Records' PMA Playlist via Discovered Magazine: a positive playlist featuring positive people; and a guess-the-riff challenge, which spotlighted Inspiral Carpets' "This is How it Feels," The Chameleons' "Up the Down Escalator" and fittingly, Therapy?'s version of Joy Division's "Isolation."

"I’m trying to play guitar and write every day. Before this happened, we had started writing new material with the intention of recording it later this year and releasing it early next year, and in-between we would play a ton of shows celebrating our 30th anniversary. With most of that now on hold and everyone house-bound, I’m trying to give my days structure," Cairns said.

After rising from sleep in the morning, he'll set off on a run and then return home to immerse himself in guitar playing, bits of lyric writing ("Nothing dates new music like the present day," he said) and arranging in a converted garage at the side of his house that is brimming with an arsenal of amps, guitars, pedals and more.

"If I get stuck, I take a rest and maybe throw on someone else’s music and try and play along to see if I get shake off the slump," said Cairns, who finished off one afternoon session figuring out the guitar solo on the Cars' "Just What I Needed."

Books take over during the evenings, and currently Cairns finds himself in a Manson Family phase after enjoying the blockbuster film "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Current albums he's clawing into are Bruxa Maria's "The Maddening," Casual Nun's "Resort for Dead Desires," Eye Flys' "Tubba Lard" and Rainbow Grave's "No You."

Over in East Palo Alto, CA, OXBOW's Eugene Robinson said he's been social distancing since 1962, the year of his birth.

While writing in his house, in his underwear while listening to Leadbelly (LOUD), Robinson notes that his isolation explanation might seem strange since he clomps onto the public terrain to unleash his music and art.

"I've always identified primarily as a writer and this is a solitary pursuit and I've been bedeviled by, while it's cool finding people who would pay me to do what I do, that they insisted I do it AWAY from my house. This has been a constant and continual battle and one that I stopped fighting 20 years ago. You want my ass at a desk so you can watch your investment in my contribution? OK. I got you. Small price to pay for what you pay me," he said.

The OXBOW howler now has more time to ponder his vocal delivery on the unit's 17 recently recorded songs, which were set to be Robinson-ized in April. That part of Robinson's world will be pushed back until we're given the all-clear, as will any cherished time spent in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dojo where he's trained since 2012.

Robinson's heaviest sorrow is only being able to visit his kids and grandson outside.

"And my kids? Lights of my life. I miss them with a certain intensity. But two are in their 20s and one is soon to be 18 so they have their own stuff going on anyway. Doesn't mean I miss them any less though," he said.

In the meantime, "I can run, do body weight exercises, jump rope....and for amusement I grow vegetables, load guns...wait for 'the signal.' And do my podcast The Eugene S. Robinson Show Stomper!"

Some of our reading material. (TSHIT photo)

Los Angeles-based drummer and writer Bob Lee -- who's married to my old schoolmate and Los Angeles Beat editor-in-chief Elise Thompson -- has been working full time from home and feels incredibly lucky to have his gig to focus on during the quarantine.

"I entertain myself however possible and try not to get mired in bad feelings," said Lee, who beats the skins for FITTED (with Mike Watt and two Wire members), Kurt Stifle & The Swing Shift, Santa Sabbath and Claw Hammer. "I'm listening to music. Rediscovering classics, getting into old jazz records. If I do watch TV, it's stupid comedy for the most part. I should start getting more into classic cinema; just saw 'The Holy Mountain' a couple weeks ago and loved it. 'El Topo' tonight? Hahaha, it could happen."

Seattle-based Stag guitarist/songwriter Ben London -- Lee's old schoolmate from Antioch College in Ohio -- has delved into his project, Quarantine Songs, where people submit lyrics and he writes and records a song with them in a few hours. Check out one of the tunes at

Heading back to Silberman to put a mental and health perspective on tackling life during the pandemic, she's trying to exercise, stay peaceful, meditate, read and FaceTime with friends, family and loved ones.

"I still feel busy but I feel like I'm trying to take things easy and make sure my well-being is good/calm," she said. "I used to do EVERYTHING at once, which I love, staying busy and just multi-task like crazy. But I would not make a lot of time to check in with my well-being, so I have been doing that and giving myself quiet time."

** The Recording Academy and its affiliated charitable foundation MusiCares have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help artists in the music community affected by the coronavirus pandemic.