Key: (JG: Jeff Greenback)(RK: Rich Kroneiss)(RS: Rich Dropkick)

Piranhas/A-Frames/Little Claw @ The Comet, Seattle, WA - 5/21/04
My brain was buzzing as I walked into The Comet (or "The Vomit" for locals) and after some confusion at the bar where I ended up with a pitcher of what was likely Twig&Nut Ale, I made my way up front for surprise openers Little Claw. It's Jaime from the Piranhas on drums, his girlfriend/fiancÚ (so I'm told) on guitar and some dude on bass. My initial excitement over seeing an unknown Piranhas related project quickly turned to disappointment as soon as they started playing. People thought my "are they making these songs up on the spot?" question was funny, but I was being serious. At the end of their horrendous set they somehow managed to finish off with a killer tune that reminded me of an even more demented version of Seattle's Double Fudge.
Things changed quickly as the A-Frames started off with two new songs, which instantly brought "best band currently going" to mind. The first song (I'm guessing "Black Forest") will completely destroy you whenever it sees the light of day. The second one will bury its way into your head upon first listen as the very non-A-Frames like guitar lead played in the chorus is still in my head a month later. After the blistering start they didn't let up and proceeded to play all the hits like "Electric Eye", "Hostage Crisis", "Calculator", "Wasteland", "Crutches" and even "Neutron Bomb" for all the obsessive fans like me. Album #3 is my most anticipated release of 2004, no doubt.
Finally, the Piranhas played a short set of manic, destructive "songs" with frontman Jaime demanding all the attention with his intimidating stage presence. I was definitely entertained and the new songs sound just as good as the older ones live, but I guess I just don't "get it" with these guys like some folks do. If the A-Frames hadn't just played such an impressive set I might have been into things more but by the end of their set I was starting to lose interest. The crowd seemed pretty disinterested as well, although I should mention that by that point I was losing all ability to make pertinent observations as I somehow missed the forced puking to end the set, which I'm told I stepped in instantly after without even noticing. (JG)

Pirhanas/Hunches/Triggers @ The Jasmine Tree, Portland, OR - 5/22/04
Brain buzz part two occurred the next night and mere seconds after opening the door and taking a quick peek around the Jasmine Tree, I knew this was the perfect venue for such a show. The place was a dingy, dimly light Chinese restaurant straight outta the '70s with degenerate lookin' regulars playing cards and chugging back cheap beer while suspiciously eyeing up the hipster fags (like me!) walking in through the door for the night's show. Paranoid Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas vibes rushed through me like mad. To further add to the charm of the place, this over zealous bartender lady proceeded to berate us incessantly for the heinous crime of walking in with a bottle of water in hand.
The Triggers started things off and announced that this was one of their last shows. That much was obvious as soon as they played the first note as whatever was fun and exciting about their past live shows was completely lost. The new songs from the Dirtnap single were OK but if it wasn't for their trench coat sporting drummer who's always a blast to watch, I would have taken a step outside for some fresh air.
The place was gradually filling up with people (and the requisite incredibly hot Portland girls) as the Hunches proceeded to lay down another blistering set of complete aural destruction. All those boys talking about how the new album will blow minds aren't kidding. Their live show is consistently untouchable and the new songs match the fury of the hits from the first one ala "Static Disaster" and "Lisa Told Me". They lost me for a few minutes when the only thing going on was screaming and bashing on kids' toys, but other than that they dominated from start to finish.
While standing in the bar line between sets I got to witness the tail end of a pretty entertaining cat fight replete with Jerry Springer style antics and lots of utterances of "you stupid fucking bitch". Sarah from the Hunches did a good job of being the impartial peacemaker and even more impressive were the Portland police who were totally mellow and non-goonish about the whole deal even with the torn clothes and blood in sight. The grumpy water bottle lady apparently had had enough of the punk rock debauchery by this point and made her way up front to feebly attempt to end the show early and prevent the Piranhas from playing. The look on their faces when she got up there was priceless. After smirking for a bit, they turned their backs and proceeded to do their best to follow up the incredibly hard to follow Hunches. Tonight the Piranhas had a bit more of an edge to their sound and Jaime was doing his best Wolverine from the X-Men impression, jumping around and pounding his chest and body slamming anyone who got in his way. They played a good mix of new and old of their disjointed brand of free-from punk with circus influenced synth parts. I wasn't completely blown away like some seemed to be but once again that's not surprising seeing as the Hunches set was still on my mind. As a follow up, the Piranhas only ended up playing two more shows after Portland as Jaime apparently took a rather impressive dive into a table of pint glasses in San Francisco. Also, 50 lucky fucks from Seattle, Portland and Davis were lucky enough to snag test pressings with homemade sleeves of their new "Piscis Clangor" 12", which will please those who like their prior work and continue to baffle those who don't. (JG)

Marky Ramone - Spoken word @ Gaelic Club, Sydney - 5/2/04
Now this is stretching things. First he gives himself top billing in The Intruders and now we're treated to Marky capping off his career with a night of reminiscences and a set of Ramones tunes with a pickup band in each city. Lucky us! The Spazzys start with a set of Spazzys songs. After they finish we head for the mezzanine to get a bird's eye view of proceedings and I'm dispirited to see a Ramones flag with a new slogan: Marky Ramone Spits It Out. Sigh.
He comes out to rapturous, ecstatic applause, introduces himself and gets on with things to the accompaniment of a slide projector. It's a basic, chronological run-down of the Ramones career. For all of us who've read the book or even just followed them for a while, there was practically nothing on offer we didn't already know. Likewise, if I have to listen to one more dissertation on just what '70s New York punk did to revolutionize music with grunge as the ultimate end product, I'm going to be very stroppy. None of this deterred the crowd however, who seemed to be taking their cues from a Letterman crowd.
"So we started playing at this little club you might have heard of called CBGBs...."
"....with these friends of ours you might have heard of, the Heartbreakers..."
"...well, see, Johnny Thun--"
And so on. There was some brilliant heckling which Marky wasn't ruffled by (though a perfectly timed "NO-ONE CARES!" had me in tears), until some wise cunt in the front row asked him to take off his wig and he threatened to "beat your ass, you fuck", or whatever it is they do to wise cunts in New York. He spoke of his alcohol problems with chutzpah, as we all do, and to his credit seemed to have a surprisingly modest take on his role in the Ramones, as a journeyman musician invited along for the ride of a lifetime.
After all this the Spazzys come out with Marky on drums, and their drummer Alice all dolled up Riff Randell style on the mic, and played seven or eight Ramones hits. It sounded remarkably like the Ramones (minus Alice, naturally) which raises the question of how much the drumming can shape such a basic sound. Interestingly, in the "End Of The Century" doco, Johnny and Dee Dee are completely dismissive of the suggestion that Tommy played a significant part in developing their early sound. Also interesting is that Marky's comment on the matter wasn't included in the film, which may say it all. This was worth the time but probably not the money, so I'd say see the movie instead. (RS)

Trailerpark Tornados/Concubine Forming/Tall Boys @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY - 5/28/04
Being from Buffalo, people often ask me what's going musically here. As if I know. I'm a terrible scenester. I rarely manage to make it to local shows, unless a good out of town band is playing. I'm terrible at setting up shows for touring bands. I don't do the college radio thing anymore. I seem to know more about bands from France than I do about those in my hometown. I infrequently patronize local record stores, as they all suck fairly hard from what I can remember. I do little, if anything, to help the local scene besides occassionally show up when someone I know is playing and get stinking drunk. It's terrible, I know, but... (insert lame-ass excuse here).
So, what is going Buffalo, you ask? Trailerpark Tornados, Concubine Forming, and the Blowtops, and that's about the size of it. I managed to crawl out of my cave long enough to see two of these band recently on a Friday night. I was already inebriated when I entered the venue (Buffalo's fabulous Mahawk Place, the only local venue that even matters), to witness the Tornados already laying down their incestuous variety of anything-goes punk/insect/aggro/garage/rock. I've seen these guys dozens of times, and it's always a treat. Frontman/guitar-rapist Dave P. has some of the best onstage banter going, and Rob is the perfect secret-dreadlocked-weapon on bass. Dave R. is often stereotyped as the 'crazy drummer guy', but that's because he sometimes is just that. But, he has the hard-hitting abilities to go along with the rep as well. The Tornados are one of those bands that everyone in the city loves, and rightfully so because they are all genuinely nice guys. Yet outside of Buffalo they get no respect/attention due to lack of promotion, recordings/records, extensive touring, or gumption. Which is criminal, because they are much better than the "Everybody's Favorite Opening Band" role they have been stuck with for too often. Anyway, they trotted out all the hits: "Bad Love", "Stab Me in the Eye", "Chinese White" (a song so good the Baseball Furies cover it), and more. I think I might have missed one of my all-time faves, "Crowbar", however. Hopefully, the world will isten to the new single and some new recordings they've done for a possible LP. They kill me.
Up next was a completely unknown-to-me group called the Tall Boys. Who were actually three girls and a guy. I think they were from NYC. At least they looked like NYU art students who formed a band on a lark so they could take their friends out "on tour". The only thing I remember is that they had large entourage and sounded as if they were doing a bad job aping the Au Pairs. Seriously. After the initial confusion left me, they were barely palatable. Luckily, Big Neck Records CEO Bart Hart was making a rare hometown appearance, and I had a chance to catch up with him. Basically, yes the comp is done, just waiting for the artwork. Locomotions single is almost done. He's looking for some good records to put out, as the well seems to have dried up, so send him some good demos. And he's got records planned with an unsigned Pac-NW band and some dudes from Chicago whose names I can't reveal. And like I said, send him some demos, as it sounds as if he's got an itchy trigger finger.
Concubine Forming closed the night. Originally a three piece ( two guitars and bass) with a drum machine, they've now added a real drummer, and kept the mechanical one as well. Sounded huge. An interesting band, who started out bad, but have gotten increasingly better and better. Perhaps their Big Neck CD with push them into the spotlight a bit more, as their agressive sound would probably impress a lot of people who haven't heard them yet. Obviously Big Black is a reference point. I've seen them do a Killdozer-esque Billy Squier cover live, and totally destroy (in a good way) a Cure song as well. Their frontman/guitar player is a volatile yet lanky fellow who is quite entertaining to watch. And the live drummer was really good, deepening their sound to good effect. And girl bass players are always a bonus. I guess they do the modern version of what Pigfuck used to be. Industrial punk. Droning guitars contrasted with buzzsaw riffing, dark lyrical material, heavy pounding, and an overall sense of menace. Well worth checking out live. I left the bar after their set ended and went to another bar and got more shitfaced. As if you care. (RK)

Photo Credits:
Piranhas: Mark Murrmann (actually from Davis, CA show)
A-Frames: Karl Zwick
Marky Ramone: Cocknut
Trailerpark Tornados: Rich Kroneiss