Key: (SSR: Scott Soriano)(RK: Rich Kroneiss) (with special apperance by Steve Beat)

SPITS, BUSY SIGNALS, MOTO, MANDY AND THE TWINS @ Subterranean, Chicago, IL, Jan. 7
Note Billiams w/headband, lower left

I had to write this review about two weeks after I returned from the Windy City completely broke, exhausted, loaded down with records and stuffed to the brim with hot dogs, Italian beef and pizza, beer and illicit plants. My whirlwind vacation to Chicago was contemplated for a few months, and then finally put into action when I saw that my flight would cost about ninety-six bones. I saved up for a few weeks then took off, with the crux of my trip being this show at the SubT. I would not regret finally jumping out of the unseasonably warm Pittsburgh winter and right into the blustery January Chicago had to offer.

The entire weekend was great, but this show was definitely the highlight (considering the rest of the time was spent with degenerates like Cecil, Russ Romance, Coppens, Karlic, Dan and Doug from the Twins, Darius, and the Busy Signals, who were all gracious friends and/or hosts) of the trip. By the time I had left Lastname’s house to meet good ol’ Tony Valone (a college buddy now making his way through med school in Chi-town), he had convinced me to take a stroll down the street and purchase some 40’s to drink in the alley. We put the slam on those and waited for the doors to at least sorta/kinda/little-bit open up so we could get out of the cold. Inside we trudged up the domineering stairs to the second floor where MOTO was going through their soundcheck. I hadn’t seen MOTO at this point and time and expected only the best, and I got that from a quick burst of a couple hits from the past two full-lengths. I was colored quite impressed and moved on back to a regrouping at Lastname’s house where we tossed back a few more and got ready to make our way back the couple blocks to the gig.

By this time I was working on the culmination of my three-day buzz and was in the mood to get this shindig started. Mandy and the Twins (featuring the lovely Amanda from the Krunchies and the titular duo of Dan and Doug) got the show started in a fine fashion. Dan’s guitar and vocals started to shred through the Old Style I had been pounding previously, and the rhythm section definitely had a locked groove that I was feeling in my nether-regions. The songs definitely had a nice ripping effect and I am excited to hear a recording when one becomes available. Thankfully, while they were a great start to the night, they kept it short and sweet, which is the only complaint I had about MOTO, who was next on the bill. SKINNY LEGS PUNK

MOTO is a damn fine band. I have nothing bad to say about ‘em, and I can only praise the recordings I own. However, one small tip...no band should play fourteen to sixteen tunes during the second slot of a four-band bill. Honestly, yes, I DID want you to open with “All Set”, and I DID want you to play the hot jamz from your new record, but I did not want to hear sixteen songs when I had to do the following: see two more bands, get drunk, smoke a pipe, and go home the next morning at 11 AM. But despite this minor quibble, every song MOTO did play was a joyous racket to my ears. The hooks just kept coming and while I found myself grabbing a Pabst from the bar twice, luckily each time I came back I was treated to some more great punk-pop which kept me bouncing around the shiftless folk who probably get to see this kind of stuff all the time. I don’t, so you can forgive my finger-pointing and beer-raising this once, I think. Caporino was looking sleazy as ever, and the band behind him (with fill-in from the “MOTO Drum Corps Reserve, Matt Williams”) was tight as could be. However, Billiams, it may be time to lose the headband, brah.

The Busy Signals were up next, and I must say, this was probably the main reason I chose to attend this show. The single is great: we all know that. The band is pulling out the Rezillos-style magical pop chemistry that is rarely replicated as well as this gang of five has done in the past few months. Ana’s vocals were dead-on and Jeremy’s back-ups mesh extremely well with hers. Since I’ve only heard five songs from this band total, the extra three I was treated too were hot shit of the highest caliber. Lastname and Kevin had their tasty lixx on lockdown and Frankie hit the skins like we all know he can from his Tyrades freakouts. I told those nogoodniks to play that B-side we all know and love, and of course they did for me, I was runnin’ the town this weekend, motherfuckers! Goddamn right you’ll listen to ol’ Steve-O this once! Anywho, eight songs of pure bliss - I couldn’t ask for anything more. Well, of course I was gonna ask for the Spits in Chicago...

The Brothers Wood (sans keyboard player for some odd reason) took to the stage shortly before 1:00 AM, I believe. By now, this place was filled to the brim with assorted hipness-brokers, trampy broads in striped shirts lookin’ for some action from whatever yutz in a Dirtbombs shirt spilled a beer on ‘em, and true rock n’ rollers looking for the dumbest time possible. They got it. The Spits, another band I had never seen up to this point (yet once again, enjoyed thoroughly beforehand), took the stage in wizard beards and Unabomber hoodies and glasses and belted out hit after hit for us kids. By this time I had been indulging in some greenery and I was into it AND feelin’ it AND lookin’ good (see my Spits photos for a good example of my eyesight by this point), and the band just kept pounding. The Tinman songs sounded great, the earlier records were well-represented, and everyone jumped up and down and had a blast. Of course, right before their last two songs I couldn’t handle being crowded in anymore, so I went upstairs to the band room and promptly came back down and fell down the stairs. That was it, show’s over. But of course I managed to hobble off to Nick’s Beer Garden with the Chicago crew where I mingled with some stunning babes and generally yelled and had the time of my life.

I can’t say enough good things about this show. Every band ripped it apart; I made new friends, saw my old ones, and took a city by storm in my own special way (as I always do, nahmean?!). Thanks to everyone who made my trip comfy, kept me fed, drunk, entertained, and in a state of near-imminent ejaculatory explosion due to the high quantity of Big City Muff I saw strutting around this show. I’ll be back, Chicago. -Steve Beat


Walking into the Amnesia did not result in memory loss. Nah, this dark, Valencia Street, shotgun flat style bar used to be the Chameleon, a sleazy speed infested dive, and before that the Chatterbox, home to bad late 80s Frisco long hair "punk." I missed the Chatterbox days but was introduced to the Chameleon when Los Huevos played a Sunday afternoon show to the bartender, a friend, and a pool table. Through the 90s, I visited the place a few more times. The only show that sticks in my mind is a broken glass, blood splattered, equipment trashed Motards set, which follow a pretty damn great Scared of Chaka run through. Unfortunately, this Kyozin Youni Dekai show was not to equal or even come halfway close to that Motards show.

Since nothing ever starts on time in this city, I showed up at 9:45 thinking I'd be standing around for 15 minutes before the opener started. Nope. I walked through the door as the band was finishing up it's last song. I can't tell you anything about Aerobic King other than: 1. The band consisted of three guys in arty masks standing behind their instruments, not making a sound, and a small Japanese woman singer clad in a silver jump suit, topped with a blond wig; 2. Their set closer was the singer doing some kind of slow spider dance while singing My Bonnie; 3. When the band broke down their equipment, the singer to fired a toy gun at the audience and flopped around on stage, while the second band impatiently watched, wanting to get their shit set up; 4. For the rest of the night, the singer, dressed down and bored, sucked down plenty o' booze, getting more and more sullen with each drink and as each band commanded more attention than hers. During Kyozin Youni Dekai's set she's had enough and throws a beer in her boyfriend's face, I think because he was enjoying Kyozin a little too much. Let's just say that her off stage act was way more entertaining than the brief moment of interpretive dance I saw on stage.

Next up was Yikes, advertised as John Dwyer's newest band. For some folks, the name John Dwyer means something special. To me, it has come to mean musical bullshit artist. I never understood the appeal of Pink & Brown. At best they are a footnote in the Fort Thunder dress in costumes and make noise scene, somehow considered special because they wound up west. The Coachwhips made one good garage punk album which the ex-white belt crowd went yah yah over but those who had lived and played through the third rail of punk rock (ie the 1990s underground punk thing) gave it a polite nod and said, "Let's see what else you have." That what else was nothing worth jumping up or even getting up for. Soulless would be the key word. The Coachwhips last album was garage by numbers, despite a nice Woodhouse production job. So now we have Dwyer's newest, a band appropriately called Yikes. Dwyer has tossed the straight garageism for the avant garage noise that emanates from labels like In the Red. Straight off I heard an A Frames/Karate Party thing happening, which is understandable considering Dwyer did some of his last work with Woodhouse on the board. As the set wore on, it was pretty obvious that Dwyer's newest path is one already trod down by the Hospitals, who have since staggering off the road into the woods, knocking shit down as they go along. To stretch this road metaphor a bit thinner, Yikes shows Dwyer as a buzzard circling the highway for roadkill, not freshkill, but dried out crispy corpse that only the starved would touch. Sure, he makes what he does sound good but at this point who cares? The dude might be able to sell this stuff to the clueless and to what a friend call the "Hey John, fuck my girlfriend" mob, but I am a little too wisend for baked goods. WEIRD JAPANESE PUNK

Speaking of old, when Hank IV was setting up, my first thought was "What teacher's lounge did these guys meet in." By the end of their set I concluded that A) these guys taught at a continuation school, B) were on restraining orders to stay away from all schools, and C) this school metaphor is really fucking lame and I should probably abandon it now. One song into the Hank IV's set I was underwhelmed. By song three (Bullethead, I think), I was sold. These over 35s knocked out some great Crime meets Chain Gang meets Viletones meets Styrenes punk rock, that hearkens back to the dark grunt of late 70s Frisco punk, while remaining fresh. And now that I know that this band is made up of former members of Icky Boyfriends, Resineaters, Mr & Mr & Mr & Mr Evil, Leather Uppers, Bum-Kon, and at least a dozen more bands. It really should be no surprise that these music freaks are one of the better bands I've heard in a frog's leap. (hear them at Hank IV MySpace - doesn't do them justice but you'll get the idea)

Japan contributed to the night's next noise in the form of a duo called Kyozin Youni Dekai. Containing one member of the King Bros. (don't know which one), these guy do the yell scream thump thump clank clank skreeee art punk no wave noise thing that the youth seem to like nowadays. Me? Recorded this shit is great. It got me out of the house, which is an accomplishment in itself (them getting me out AND me getting out). However live, it didn't have the focus or power it does on CD. So a guy plays guitar on stilts? I've seen and heard to much to give points for circustry. If the music doesn't do it, a clown car full of midget porn stars ain't gonna get a rise out of me and this guy was merely tall. But at least Kyozin are trying to go somewhere new. And it was the end of tour show. Add that all up and I'd go see these guys again, but then it will be a "okay prove it" situation than expecting something exciting when I walk through the door. Kyozin Youni Dekai (SSR)

Sharkey and Karen of Clockcleaner Winters are long in Buffalo, especially since it's off season for touring bands and no one is stupid enough to come here in the dead of January just for the hell of it. Well, except for Clockcleaner. They thought it was a good idea. Let me find my stock TPT/Blowtops live review here....okay, here it is...they were great as always. They are instituions here. I'll you what sucks, is there are almost zero good local bands picking up the ball from these guys, and they're getting a little long in the tooth. I mean, who's gonna keep rocking the Nickel City when these guys retire? Jamie Moses? We need some new blood/bands. Mockba are promising. The Cashews perhaps. But other than that, things are looking mighty scary for the future of Buffalo rock. So Clockcleaner pile into Buffalo all the way from Philly. The Blowtops had met them at Horriblefest and formed a common bond of sorts and this show got set up via that alliance. We Buffalonians are still caught up in the long since washed-away underground swell of AmRep-core and T&G-related post-punk. We can often be heard reminiscing about Unsane shows we have attended or the time Killdozer blew our minds at Mr. Goodbar. So the sort of shit Clockcleaner does resonates with us. We are drawn to it uncontrollably like whores to crack cocaine. We are ready to get aggro. Right. So Merlin's is really a hippy bar that sometimes allows punk(ish) shows, so it's really funny when Clockcleaner get up there. Sharkey has about thirty yards of delay on his vox and is playing his guitar with loose change instead of a pick. When he plays it. And the strobes, maaaan. As soon as they start they house lights go off and two strobes kick in. And it stays that way for the entire set. And they are loud as fuck. They start off with "Interview w/A Black Man" which is kinda really just one dragged-out tension building intro (with a nice payoff when they kick it into gear at the end), and Sharkey is freaking the fuck out while the rhythm section pounds away seemingly oblivious to his antics. They get so loud it had me wishing for earplugs, and I'm one of those idiots who absolutely never wears earplugs. The strobe flashes and you see Sharkey with a mic down his throat. Brief darkness. Now he's rubbing his guitar between his legs. Dark. Now he's screaming at someone. Me? The sound guy? Don't know. Dark. And it continues on this way for a half hour plus, Clockcleaner hitting us with the tunes, the drums and bass constantly throbbing like the pulse of the strobe, locked in on pounding our asses down while Sharkey acts up and his guitar slashes tear into your head which is hypnotized by all the throbbing as he screams and gargles and yells and sings and talks with so much demonic delay you can barely make it out, but you get the sense he's talking about things that are kind of unnerving and it just doesn't let up and then he's got his head up the bass player's skirt and now they are rubbing asses and now he's making faces at me. I think. It was just a great show, and it left me pleasantly exhilarated and feeling like I had really seen something, not just some band up there who played some songs. It was...something else, you know? The band bullied you around. Confronted you with their music. It was being aurally and visually assaulted for around a half hour, and it was great. Sharkey plays the asshole-wacko card well, and some will say he's not playing at all. It's not forced or jumping-into-the-crowd breaking of the fourth wall shit all the time, it's just how I would expect someone to vocalize/perform along to the shitstorm the band puts out. Should he just stand there? I can see many criticizng his performances from the 'Yeah-Ive-seeeen-it-before, man" level of jadedness. He just kind of does his thing, which is get into your head and make you pay attention, and the give-and-take between him and Karen is great. If he comes off as irritating or assholish, well I think that's the point, isn't it? I believe they blew the PA in Merlin's, because the fucking hippie equipment couldn't handle it. So Clockcleaner, I thank you for waking me from my winter slumber one cold January night. I appreciated it and hope to see you again. (RK)


DIRTBOMBS, BLACK LIPS, THE LAMPS, SENSATIONS @ The Independent, San Francisco, CA, March 29

The 22 Filmore is one of those bus lines where anything can happen. On our (the our being Ryan Wells & myself) jaunt from the Mission to a few blocks from the club, a bit of Bonds steroid talk was interrupted when we saw a pack of cop cars around Church & Market. Streaming away from the cops was a mob of about a hundred teens. The bus scooted past a stop in order to avoid the mob, crossed the intersection, hit another stop, while some teens piled in and then out of the bus. For a moment the whole bus tensed up. Ryan later remarked that the experience made him feel old, that there was a time when he was the teen that made the adults stiffen.

The Independent is a big rock club which used to be known as the Kennel Club, San Francisco's home to grunge. Nowadays, it caters to the reggae and hip hop crowd, thus pro sound, pro light, and big stage.

We missed Sensations and walked in as the Lamps were setting up. Last summer I missed my chance of seeing the Lamps play a 4th of July party in a sweltering Davis living room. Too bad, because the Lamps are much better suited for a small room - be it a bathroom or a bar - than a huge rock club stage. Not to say that the set that Monty Buckles and pals turned out was anything to be ashamed of. The played great, a great thud thud of a set, but sometimes stages swallow bands and that was nearly the case here. What would have killed them is if they wouldn't have played so damn good. The half a club that was there was treated to a more than solid set that would have been punishing in a smaller room. I can only guess that The Lamps are best when you can see the whites of their eyes.

Right now nothing but the Black Lips can swallow the Black Lips. Despite a terrible sound mix, with vocals dropping out, one guitar inaudible, and another guitar barely heard, these four guys ruled the night. The Black Lips are simply a band at the top of its game, young enough to take it with the right amount of "don't give a shit," humor, and fun to make them nothing other than great. Forget the sound, these lads were good enough that you could fill in the blanks. If one of them would have smacked his head on his amp and passed out in a pool of blood, they would have still sounded whole. So, yeah, the Black Lips have that "it" that materializes once in a rare while, especially now when so many bands are self consciously trying to make themselves it or are busy faking it. But, this "it" (or, if I might be a bit foppish, what Pablo Neruda called duede) can't be faked, can't be learned. "It" is there or "it" isn't and the Black Lips have "it." Add to that a great set of songs, as good as an early set by the Gibson Bros. or the Gun Club (and we will see if they can maintain it), and you have one of, if not THE best bands going. So good are these guys that the "indie" mainstream has started to take notice, leading to a backlash among underground hipsters who prefer not to think of themselves as hipsters. That foul record elitist mentality that Jack Black portrayed so well in High Fidelity is being visited on the Black Lips. Fucking reactionary, knee jerk morons is what these folks are. The Black Lips are great and proved that beyond a doubt this night.

The above paragraph could have once applied to the Dirtbombs, but if the bus being mobbed by youngsters made Ryan and I feel old, the Dirtbombs made me feel young. Not by osmosis but because compared to the corpse that was literally strutting their stuff on the stage, I am a blinky pup of chump. Yeah, sure the Dirtbombs sounded good, but the songs had no oomph, no life, and the prancing on stage was pure karaoke 101. I know there is a market for pretending your bass is a cock and the rock star lean but I never thought I'd see the Dirtbombs resemble a TV rock band. At 2006, the Dirtbombs stage show is something you expect from the Lenny Kravitz's and Ashlee Simpson's of the world. Harsh reaction? Sure, but I never expected this level of going through the motions from the Dirtbombs. It has been a few years since I saw them last but I can count that show as one of the best sets I've ever seen, one that was full of organic greatness and real excitement, not manufactured rockisms. Hell, call me a spurned lover if you want. That still doesn't change my contention that what I saw was rock and roll hackery. I will concede that they sounded good, flat but good. The songs were nothing special and one of them (don't know the name) could have been on mainstream radio. Maybe that is where the Dirtbombs are headed. Maybe years of just making a living is beginning to sour on Mr Collins. I can relate to that. I am looking in the future and I, too, fear spending my "Golden Years" as a Wal-Mart greeter. I can't blame the guy if this shift in band's music and stage show is an attempt to generate some more green. Life costs money. But knowing that still doesn't mean I gotta like it and it doesn't mean that I need to be nice when a band appears to be faking it. (SSR)

Chitown pics by Mac Apples
Clockcleaner pics by Chuck Barrels

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