It was a tumultuous night for scheduling at 924 Gilman in Berkeley. But the chaos inherent in the punk rock show led to a diverse, if somewhat uneven set, by several smaller bands from across the country Aug. 4.
Although the show was scheduled to be headlined by Night Birds, and was set to include Neon Piss and Bobby Joe Ebola, both Neon Piss and Bobby Joe Ebola had to drop off the bill the day before the show for unspecified reasons. Further, because Night Birds had to catch a plane, their set was moved to nearly the beginning even though they were the main act. Still, "on with the show" goes the old adage and despite the change ups, the bands took the malleable schedule in stride, despite the small audience of under forty people.
Added the bill that night, openers Backseat Lovers (Sacramento, Calif.) kicked off the show with an energetic set of classic, early San Francisco punk. Much in the vein of the Avengers, vocalist Amanda Chavez howls in a feminine, but aggressive open calling. She's got attitude, but the skills and toughness (and wry humor) to back it up. The music was based in three soaring chords, but would waylay into nasty, Germs-ish snapping territories as well, which made the music energetic and nasty, but fun, too. The band is relatively new, but the members seem to have a good deal of experience, so they were able to kick out the jams with just enough rawness and just enough precision to make their music stand out. Still, the band did pause between each song, which sapped a little of their momentum. If they're able to keep rocking without the breaks, or able to fill the breaks with some substance, they'll be able to go from the cool to the classic. Definitely a band to watch out for.
Next, "headliners" Night Birds (N.J.) kicked into their set of surf rock meets hardcore on their last stop of a three week tour. Because they had to catch a plane 45 minutes after the show, the band tore through a truncated, but zestful set. Brian Gorsegner didn't stop moving the entire show, whipping his body to the ground and back up again, in a style reminiscent of early Jello Biafra. Likewise, in lieu of screaming, his voice had an energetic high pitch tang to it they gave their lyrics of killing and being abducted by aliens both a suitable menace as well as self-acknowledgment. Because the band stuck to the hits from their LP and singles collection, the audience shouted along with most of the songs. Like Gorsegner, the band was in motion the entire concert, revving up the speed of their already revved up songs, sending them off the rails just enough to be wild, but not to be sloppy. The band delivers on record and live they deliver and then deliver again. The show ended with them literally running to the merch table, slinging their goods and then running to their van to get to the airport. it was not dissimilar to the famous video of the Beatles fleeing from the Hollywood Bowl.
Then came the real surprise of the evening. The Marshmallows (N.J.) began their set by announcing that not only were they also from new Jersey, but it was their first tour, and instead of touring the East coast, they came out to the West coast. After Nightbirds, the audience dwindled about 33 percent and frankly, it was their loss. Composed of three young ladies, each who sing, the Marshmallows cut through about 12 songs that were fresh and classic at the same time. Based equally in '60s AM rock and '90s indie warmness, the band played two-and-a-half minute tunes that had an understated reference to the Phil Specter girl groups with their three part harmony, but also took handfuls from punk, unafraid to bust out a nasty riff when needed. Most impressively was how deftly the band merged its various sounds and sunny voices into a sound that was timeless and genuine. It's not that the grip was trying to reference the classic girl groups or classic punk, it's just the way their music came out and it was wonderful. Dfinitely a group to keep an eye on.
No Limbs (Bay Area, Calif.), who was added to the bill to replace Neon Piss, then turned the tables with their live debut. In contrast to the energetic warmth of the Marshmallows, No Limb tore through a six-minute set (yes, six minutes) of completely raging hardcore. While the faster hardcore gets, the sloppier it becomes, No Limb tightened up with their speed, somewhat echoing Paint It Black, thrashing about with unexpected stops and starts. The lead singer, who I think might be the vocalist from Deep Cover, thrashed around like a maniac, every bit as pissed off and depressed as the aggressive music would suggest. Still, while the band perfected tight, nasty, sharp hardcore, it would seem that something new to their repertoire would take them from good to being great.
Lastly, No Mistake (San Jose, Calif.) closed out the night with a different take on hardcore. While No Limbs were sharp and precise, No Mistake were louder, looser and more metallic. Their guitars came crashing down in a metal intonation, similar to Cro-Mags, but played with the energy and speed of early D.C. hardcore. While the band's music was nasty, their set was plagued with some problems. They had to briefly stop their set early on and in between song breaks were a little long. As with No Limbs, while the band has a good grasp on their music, some more individuality in the music would make them really something.
-Between sets I was reading an issue of Maximum RNR and ot ponce, but twice, did two younger fellows come over, open to the respective review of their zines, and glowed with pride…despite the fact that the both of the reviews trashed their respective zines without explaining why. These kids were honored that the magazine merely looked at their stuff, despite the unfounded scathing reviews. Listen people, constructive criticism is one thing, but I'm gonna have to quote Donald Trump here despite his evilness. "If someone insults you, insult them right back." It is one of the keys to success…and self-respect. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Don't put up with that kind of bullshit.
-Celebrity watcher: Alternative Tentacles manager and celebrity DJ Jesse Luscious was sighted checkin' out the newest tunes that the kids are into these days.
-Seriously, check out the Marshmallows. Really good stuff.
-On my way back home, I rocked some sweet Jimmy Cliff. I know all' y'all have your knickers in a twist over the great new Jimmy album, and it is great. But, I was into the man back when it wasn't cool, holmes, so I rocked the old school shit.