The last time I ever saw Filth, right before Shit Split came out in 1991, less than thirty people bothered to show up. Nearly two decades later, for the first of four much-heralded reunion shows, you’d think there was a gigantic magnet at 8th and Gilman in Berkeley. At 6:30pm, there were 300 people in front of me in line; when doors opened, the line stretched around the block.
The rumor about tonight’s show was that Blatz was supposed to play too, which on sheer holy-fuck levels would have probably caused a Guatemalan sinkhole. As it stood, Filth sold the place out and just about threatened to tear it down. In a word, MAYHEM. It’s 2:14am, I just got home, drenched in sweat, smelling horrendously, delirious from being crushed by bodies, eardrums essentially kaput, and full of love.
You can go anywhere in the Bay Area and find your run-of-the mill, dull show. Not the case with Filth. Wheelchairs in the pit. People making out in the front row. Dozens of people on stage. Horrible sound. Entire crowd screaming “The List.” Swarming crowds falling at a 45-degree angle. Being held up by willpower and adrenaline. Boys wearing nothing but nuthuggers. Setlists stolen. Songs falling apart. Everything falling apart. Glory, glory, glory, glory.
Hanging over Filth like an albatross in their heyday was this really ragged notion that they began as a joke, exaggerating punk’s nihilism to ridiculous extremes, and that over time the joke morphed serious as their fanbase expanded. I’ve heard this rumor used against Filth, e.g. “Walk through the filth / You will find me there / Needle hanging from my vein” isn’t a reflection of Jake Sayles’ reality, but a hollow posturing to initially mock punk and eventually—when no one got the joke—to capitalize on it.
But can you name one band, or at least one great band, that doesn’t posture even just a little bit? The portrayal of what music listeners want as reality is often just as important as that reality. Maybe more so, actually—if Jake had needles hanging from his arm all the time, Filth probably wouldn’t have lasted long enough to record the most scathing, incredible crustpunk anthems to ever come from the East Bay.
I never gave a shit if Filth truly lived the chaos or not. What mattered was how their songs affected me, which is to say: strongly. Not only did they lend empathetic understanding to self-destructive impulses, they crafted said self-destruction as a powerful, torrential force. “You Are Shit” is still the most empowering song about the ineffectual nature of humankind ever written; if one realizes that we are all truly shit, and we accept that lowly role, then we receive liberation from the expectations of the world. It also totally fucking kicks ass.
Tonight, Jake ominously paced the stage like a bald eagle, virtually unchanged in the last 20 years. That same icy gaze and cold detachment. While songs occasionally sputtered—Lenny, Jim, Mike and original drummer Dave E.C. were really struggling amongst the waves of fans on stage repeatedly beaten back by security—the sheer fray of energy superceded technical “quality.” When Sayles reached the apex of the set, hundreds of suffering souls screamed along with the lines that defined the night: “You are within me / WE ARE ONE.”
It can’t go without notice that tonight was the 20th Anniversary of The List, amazingly compiled and distributed for two decades by Steve Koepke. Congratulations, Steve! And the Gr’ups, presumably filling in for Blatz, tore through a rambunctious set that had Jesse Luscious and Anna Joy swapping trademark sarcastic barbs between urgent versions of ageless anthems “On the Way to Frisco” and “Lil’ Red Riding Hood.”
I drove home in a daze. I really, really need a shower.
[UPDATE: Gilman has posted the full audio from the show here.]
If there’s one good thing to come out of Conan O’Brien’s ordeal with NBC, it’s that Max Weinberg is coming to the Mystic Theatre on June 28. He’s playing as the “Max Weinberg Big Band“—a 15-piece jazz ensemble, larger than the Max Weinberg 7 and even larger than the E Street Band—and he aims to recreate the classic era of Gene Krupa, Count Basie, and of course, Tonight Show icon Doc Severinsen. I am having nerdy visions of him walking out on stage to the Conan O’Brien theme song, although a swing version of the intro to “Something In The Night” would do nicely, too. Tickets are $30.
I first came across Guy Henry playing guitar three years ago, in a shed on Slater Street. Clubs were getting shut down left and right in Santa Rosa, guerrilla shows were thriving at Boys Club and the Boogie Room, and he and Nik Proctor passed a red hollow-body guitar back and forth among the wood-plank walls, making some of the most beautiful, eerie music I’d heard. I immediately crouched in the corner and started writing in my notebook. I wanted to capture it. I sensed it wouldn’t last.
Even though Guy is still playing music under the moniker Low Five, he’s always changing things up. Two years ago he added Goodriddler‘s Nicholas Wolch and bassist extraordinaire Kyle Lindauer to Low Five, and the shows I caught were mind-boggling—the songs swelled and drifted and crashed and rose like gales of paramecia. Every time I saw them, the songs were different; inverted, folded, turned inside-out, a cousin to Animal Collective’s guitar-driven Feels era mixed with ragged, free-form improv.
Against likely odds, Low Five quickly became a veritable buzz band around town. But then… the band took a hiatus. “We’re scrapping our set and writing all new songs,” Wolch told me. What the hell? How could they just ditch all that greatness and start over? Didn’t anyone record them?
Fortunately, local recording engineer Ross Harris did. Those full-band tracks mixed with some of Guy’s home-recorded solo material comprise Low Five’s debut album November, timely captured and released this month by Saint Rose Records. You can pre-order it here.
As for that hiatus? Sources tell me that Low Five had band practice again just last night. I can’t wait to see what new tip they’re on when they reemerge.
– Ceremony’s new record is called Rohnert Park. The cover photo is awesome. I talked to vocalist Ross Farrar about it before the band left for Korea; it’ll be in the Bohemian next week. “I have mixed feelings on Rohnert Park,” he told me. “I do have a little bit of tension. A lot of things happened when I was growing up here, but I realize now that I’m very appreciative of it. So calling the record Rohnert Park is a balance between homage and hatred.”
– The Christina Aguilera record has leaked. Don’t laugh. She’s got an amazing voice that’s always wasted on poor material, and I’ve been waiting for the material to catch up. This could be the one. “Bobblehead” is straight-up Manaj / M.I.A. Stylez.
– The wedding of the year took place over the weekend, and on the decks was the erstwhile DJ Broken Record. While Ben and Desiree walked down the aisle to a throng of cheering friends, this remix of “Rebel Girl” played triumphantly. Specially curated for the Star Wars obsessive and/or Bikini Kill fan. Way to go, Edgar.
– The Arcade Fire is putting out a new record. Despite attempts to be blasé toward it, the first couple teasers sound really good.
– Eric Lindell recently left Alligator Records, started his own record company Sparco Records, recorded an album at Grizzly Studios and put it out on vinyl. It’s the best record he’s ever made. Includes a stunning version of the Impressions’ “It’s Hard to Believe,” and even a song dedicated to Bodega. He plays the Forestville Club this Saturday, May 29.
– I saw Jeff Ott at the wedding, which reminded me that Fifteen has a new 7″ coming out. You read that right: it’s an old recording of the band’s cover of “Caroline,” the Jawbreaker classic. I’m pretty sure it previously appeared on Eggplant’s tape, Later That Same Year, which I still have. I do know that Hanalei contributes the B-Side; a cover of “Petroleum Distillation.” Order it here.
– Hanalei has an amazing new record coming out this weekend called One Big Night. See him play on Friday, May 28 at Thee Parkside and Saturday, May 29 at the North Bay Film and Art Collective. Also playing the Collective show are the New Trust, now (again) with a fourth member, Chris Brum, and also Paper Hands, the new band of Michael Richardson, Kevin Buchholz and Dio McLeod. Pants will be shat.
– I was pleased to see the New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones give a tip o’ the hat to Type Records and the noise scene in general this last week. As previously mentioned, the Yellow Swans LP is magnificent, as is Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. I stopped in at Amoeba after the Giants game on Sunday and bought Jóhann Jóhannsson’s And In The Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees LP, which is rather beautiful classical-ish music written as the score to a film. To counter, I also picked up RRR-1000, which may be the most ridiculous record of all time. (Since RRR-500, at least.) Quite an incredible essay on the subject of locked grooves, and RRR-1000, is here.
– David Byrne is suing Florida governor Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign ad without permission.
– What’s that about Mike Richardson? The Benton Falls album Fighting Starlight is reissued on vinyl? No way. Also: Converge’s Jane Doe and available as a pre-order from Plain Recordings, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.
– Do take pleasure in this video for E-40’s “Lightweight Jammin’.”
– Lauryn Hill is headlining this year’s Harmony Festival, and it will either be so bad that people will flee to the gates and demand their money back or it will be the greatest comeback in ages. Assisting the chances of the latter: she’s rumored to be doing her entire album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in its entirety at select Rock the Bells shows this summer. Or maybe not. Or maybe so. At any rate, if she hits the stage in Santa Rosa to the album’s first track “Lost Ones,” shit could go off.
I saw KRS-One on Friday night. He wasn’t really on his game for the first half of the set, and covered by saying that he was soundchecking. Soundchecking in most circles means you’re supposed to show up to the club at 5pm to check levels. (Soundchecking in hip-hop means you show up to the club 30 seconds before you hit the stage and then get on the mic to complain that the levels are all wrong.)
So KRS-One kept switching mics, but he also kept switching songs—drop the beat, verse and a chorus, cut to the next track. Skittish. “My Philosophy,” “Sound of Da Police,” “Criminal Minded” and more got lopped short while KRS ran the usual berating-the-crowd-for-not-knowing-the-classics. Sigh. He still couldn’t find a mic he liked, nor did he ever finish an entire song.
But the show went from averagely average to awesomely awesome in one quick moment. KRS found a mic he liked, cried, “oh, that’s the one!” and hopped off the stage into the crowd of people. I thought he might stay there for half a song or so, but instead he cleared a huge circle for various breakdancers and kept rapping. The song ended; he kept rapping. Another beat dropped; he kept rapping.
For a half hour out on the floor—much to the confusion of the club’s security team—KRS-One brought the place to life. What’s more, he brought the spirit of his Bronx upbringing, and thus the spirit of hip-hop’s upbringing, to a little club in Santa Rosa. He’s been on “tour” forever, but he calls it a mission, and left a few converts in his wake on Friday, for sure.
You hear about heavy metal singers dying even before they’re dead. Jazz musicians, it usually takes a couple days. Hank Jones died on Sunday at age 91. I really loved his playing.
The NYT has a somewhat voyeuristic look into the 12′ x 12′ room where he holed himself up in his final months, practicing incessantly. It’s a surprising vision of where even the greats like Hank Jones end up.
If you’ve never seen the Tel Aviv quartet Monotonix, you might be better off. A quick search on Google Images gives you the idea: lighting their drums on fire, crawling over every imaginable venue surface, flailing upside down over audiences. Everyone I know who’s seen them reports back either amazed or terrified—or, as in the case of a San Francisco show where band members ran out into the streets half-naked and finished their set in a tree, thoroughly amused.
Last year, Monotonix played the UK All Tomorrow’s Parties festival and were summarily banned for mayhem of their usual sort. That didn’t stop Pavement, curators of this year’s festival, from requesting that they come back. Looks like the band tried and tried and tried to be calm and polite—for once! But, alas.
This in from the band:
Like we said before, for the ATP show we tried something different to make sure they don’t shut us down – because the country club that hosts ATP freaked out about last time we played there and the nature of our show. We asked them to make a little mobile stage for us, put it in the middle of the room, and we will sit on chairs on that stage and play 10 new songs that will make most of our next album without moving or doing anything except for playing music —with the audience around us.
The organizers tried to get the audience to sit down on the floor, but as soon as the crowd got up and started dancing, getting a very rough treatment from security, they literally pulled the plug on us, during the beginning of the 5th song, while we are just sitting on chairs playing our new songs.
Another amusing thing was that security refused to let half of the people into the venue until the middle of the first song, they wanted to “see what we’re gonna do” first before they let the people, who paid money to see the bands, come in. In the middle of the first song the other half of the people came in, and during the third song – everyone (except for us) got up and started dancing and having fun.
There were representatives of “Butlin’s Country Club” in suits (!) making sure “nothing happens,” and 25 security guards around us, it was a pretty surreal experience altogether.
We just wanna thank all the great people who came to that show, we had a blast playing those 4 new songs to you and it was very special, regardless of how short it was. It was nice to see everyone connecting to the music so much when there was really nothing but the songs. We’ll see you when we tour the U.K in September or other parts of the world this summer. Till then…
It’s like she’s trying to have it both ways; i.e. epic political-allegory video with “shocking” visuals and a metaphor thought up by a junior high student and, also, this. Wasn’t it enough that she disregards the divide between genres? Does she also have to go out of her way to blatantly disregard the divide between underground and mainstream sensibilities? Because this shit is a cruddy autotuned Eurodance jack, and I have now never looked forward to an album less. “Born Free” was contrived but no one noticed it outside of the let’s-all-write-about-it video and hey! Wow! A Suicide sample! This, I hope, pulls the curtain back and shows that M.I.A. is now just playing the game like everyone else instead of making challenging, incredible, fucking vital music like the wonderful M.I.A. of old. Meaning the M.I.A. of six years ago. Could it really be all over? Is six years all it takes to drain someone of all their creativity? And they start singing about iPhones?
In interviewing famed German chanteuse Ute Lemper for this week’s Bohemian column, I had to ask about her first group, the Panama Drive Band, pointing out to her that Wikipedia describes them as a “punk music group.”
In the continuing adventures of not trusting Wikipedia, Ute clarifies:
“It was not a punk band. It was just a jazz-rock band. I was never a punk person. The music of punk is not interesting to me, it’s horrible.”
Ha! So… what did the band sound like?
“It was a jazz-rock band when I was a teenager. We did good music, like Joan Armatrading, Chick Corea, the Brecker Brothers and all that. So it was good stuff.”
I love Ute Lemper for the 1988 recording Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill, the cassette of which came in a used Volkswagen bus I bought when I was 16. I played that thing over and over and over for an entire summertime. (The car also came with Master of Puppets; the two tapes complimented each other well, actually.) She knows her Weill and Brecht intimately, and interprets their music like no other.
Ute Lemper sings Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins this weekend with the Santa Rosa Symphony, and if you can get there at all, you won’t regret it. Short of funds? If you get there on Saturday afternoon for the Discovery Rehearsal at 2pm, it’s only $10, and you’ll get to see Lemper and the orchestra working out the kinks before opening night. Cool!