Another humid summer night, another banger on the rooftop of OWL. This was a five band bill, which I have recently said can either be awesome or a bummer depending, but this night fortunate was firmly in the “awesome” category and there was not one band that I didn’t thoroughly love. With this lineup, I felt like I was magically transported to Gilman circa 1992, which really, dream freaking come true! Any of these bands would have fit in perfectly there in that era, and as it turns out, some of the members of the bands that played WERE at Gilman in and around that era.
The night encompassed that special raw, classic late 80s/early 90s Lookout! punk, and even headed into what I called the “Neurosis portion of the evening.” I meant it more figuratively than literally, mainly because the last two bands were sonically heavier and out of the straight up buzzy punk/pop punk realm, heading into some math and noise territory and into garage n roll. So not exactly as heavy as Neurosis in sound, but certainly in sentiment as far as this show was concerned.
Penny started out the night and had a riot grrrl esque rawness to their sound, complete with shrill shouted vocals and buzzsaw bass courtesy of lead signer Liz, which I absolutely loved. Musically, they reminded me of Raooul, who put out a few songs in the early 90s before then splitting up (a few members went on to form Tourettes before dropping off the face of the earth). While they have the same musical spirit, Penny is definitely very different lyrically than the lovable bratty scenester subject matter of Raooul’s songs, and have a far more mature output in that regard, addressing vulnerability and alienation among other subjects. I’m glad I discovered this band and I look forward to seeing them again.
Sub Rosa hit the stage next and brought a crunchy Crimpshrine vibe to the night, which given that they share a member with Crimpshrine, drummer Aaron Cometbus, is a fair assessment. This was also their last show with Cometbus so I was very happy to be able to catch them for that reason. I’ve long been a fan of his zine, the seminal Cometbus (which turns 40 this year), and his music. I’ve listened to him in Pinhead Gunpowder, the aforementioned Crimpshrine, Thorns of Life (which also featured Blake Schwarzenbach and Daniela Sea), and several others over the years, but sadly had never managed to get to see him play before this show. It also turns out they share singer/bassist Jacques with Hekla, who are friends of mine for the last few years. Sub Rosa has yet to release any of their music, but singer/guitarist Jessi Jetpack told me a tape and 7inch are forthcoming; I am anxiously awaiting getting those in my hands.
Choked Up was up third and this was their first show back as a full band. I’ve seen them many times over the last few years and they really encapsulate the early 90s Lookout! sound that I love so much. They hit so many high points with their energetic “pop punk Telenovela about crushing in the dystopia,” and bring a urgent realness to their sound. Singer/guitarist Cristy Road has been performing some shows solo recently, but now with the full band back at this show, they ripped live and loud through their set as a tight power trio (I’d previously seen them as a quartet). They played a lot of the songs from their last album, Dischoso Corazon, as well as some brand new tracks that have been recorded but not released yet, my favorite being “Tragic Bullshit.” Road introduced this song by shouting “the government sucks! Cops suck! Depression sucks! Trauma sucks!” before the band tore in which immediately got me and just about everyone amped up because who can’t relate to that sentiment? This song will be on their new album, due out next year, and I am counting the days until I can get it in my ears whenever I want. In the meantime, Road has just released a solo song, “In Your Dreams,” to hold us all over.
Night Children are brand new and this was just their second show (they played their first a few weeks ago with my band in fact). They have no social media or Bandcamp currently, which is unfortunate because I really want to hear their music outside of a show, so hopefully they record soon. Jessi Jetpack of Sub Rosa described them as a “proggy Fugazi,” and I would agree with that. They nail high energy post hardcore with notes of Thursday and Fall of Troy finding their way into the music as well. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this band.
When The Wilful Boys started, I was getting my camera adjusted so wasn’t looking up and when I finally did, I had a moment of confusion because I was hearing vocals but not seeing any of the members at the front of the stage singing. I quickly realized that was because the drummer was in fact the lead singer, which really is a personal favorite thing of mine. It would have been nice if time and space had permitted moving the drum kit up to the front so he’d have been featured more, and honestly his band mates could have made a bit more of an effort to not block him, but such is life when the show has to be over by a certain time and the stage is only so big. I dug their sound which is rowdy, noisy garage n roll aka some of my favorite shit. Drummer/lead singer, Fisher, a burly hard-hitting Australian, dominates on the kit. He hammers hard, yells loud, and kills it on the complex fills; it’s a lot for one person but he made it look totally effortless. I’m a little annoyed at myself for having never known about these guys til this show, but better late than never and I hope to catch up with them again soon.
I missed out on the early 90s heyday of the East Bay because I’m a shade too young and grew up in New Jersey, but I really longed for nights like these as a kid when I would read zines or hear comps featuring music from far away bands, imagining myself in the thick of things. Still, it’s nice to get these nights all these years later and to feel at home with my fellow nerds and punks. Yes maybe we are all a little “older” now, but I know all of us still can’t fathom leaving this life behind. There is no way I’m leaving now and you will without a doubt find me in the nursing home circa 2060, setting up shows in the recreation room between bingo games. Hope to see you there!
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
THE WILFUL BOYS