On the third and final date of Bomb the Music Industry!'s Bay Area jaunt, the young crowd at Santa Cruz's Catalyst Club Atrium was sparse, but full of excitement and energy.
Paying little attention to the meager turnout (which barely reached 100 attendees by the time the main act took the stage), Dan Potthast, he-of-MU330, took the stage followed by his NINE-PIECE backing band, the Bricks. With about seven brass instruments, the band immediately cut into some energetic but slower-tempo ska/rocksteady cruisers, touching more on the classic topic of love, then the punk territory of politics and frustration. Interestingly, Potthast's sense of humor, which may make sense to the reclusive performer alone, engaged in some friendly audience baiting by asking one attendee why he smelled like pizza, and asked another if he would rather the set run out in spoken word or music. While the band did play a few high-energy ska stompers, it seemed that the group was at its most engaged when playing the slower numbers, and to their credit, when easing off the tempo, they were able to master both the soul and song-craft essential in slower ska.
Looking very much like a younger, skinnier, more diminutive Jay Reatard, Steve Ciolek kicked off the Sidekicks' set by striking his guitar, letting the note hang, and was rapidly supported by the band. Although the band is known for being "real young" according to Lawrence Arms member and internet commentator Brendan Kelly, their blend of '90s alt-rock, punk, and classic '70s rock had a level of maturity that most groups never grasp. Like Reatard, Ciolek has a very unique voice that almost seems to be two voices at once, with a higher pitch coming from one side of his throat and an older, huskier rumble coming from the other side. Although the band's energetic set was rooted in the classic rock structure, the band assembled pieces from across the musical map, making it hard to characterize their soulful but bouncy-as-anything beyond-rock. A little bit of Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones, Third Eye Blind, and a pinch of Rush (screw you, man, Rush is AWESOME) shows that the group has studied their rock lessons, focused on the underlying skeleton, and avoided the clichés that so many students accidentally absorb. Between their high-energy but very listenable songs and well-played stage presence, this band is going to go places.
Although I've said it each time I've seen them, the axiom still holds true: Classics of Love get better with each performance. Although their career started out with the band cutting some mid-tempo but sonically interesting punk, at the live show, they demonstrated that they've almost morphed completely to a hardcore band. After taking the stage to the rhythm section's rumbling drone, Jesse Michaels snapped into "World of the Known", which featured the band stampeding forward at a rapid pace, in control of their instruments, but skilled and learned enough to let the music fly off the handle now and then. Meanwhile, Michael's iconic high-pitched rasp was pushed forward by the riffs, snapping for maximum impact just as the band congealed. But, Classics of Love don't seem to be just a hardcore throwback. While they retain the inspiration of Hermosa Beach 1979, their lyrics seem to come from a very contemplative space, as opposed to be knee-jerk screams, and while wild, their instrumentation is wont to wander into slight pop, metal, and classic rock detours...and yes, they even played a pretty high-tempo ska tune... Strikingly, although the band has a fairly varied sound, at times referencing Black Sabbath and thrash metal, the band was at its best when charging ahead at full speed on their newest tunes, some of which edge close to D-beat territory. It's telling that, in accordance with their new, fiercer mandate, in their dozen-song set the band didn't play a single song from their debut EP. And yes, the Hard Girls fronted by Jesse Michaels playing D-beat is as awesome live as it looks on paper.
After a brief interlude, Bomb the Music Industry! took the stage in their iconic fashion: clomping onto the stage in a piecemeal manner until the group, fully assembled, realized that it was indeed, fully assembled. While the group's newest record, Vacation, is somber and the band's most reserved release to date, live, the tunes from Vacation are pulled forth from contemplation to reaction. Instead of being textured absorption pieces, they are morphed to all-out rockers, with the band increasing the speed, volume, and tenacity at which they are played. Some of the refrains from Vacation, such as "Everybody That You Love" and "Hurricane Waves", had been shifted into crowd shouters, something not really suggested by the studio recordings of frontman Jeff Rosenstock. Often, live reviews of Bomb the Music Industry! suggest that the band is loud, fast, and sloppy. While those first two descriptors are accurate, I think the group is actually much more tactical then their persona suggests. While the band's live shows are a great deal muddier than their studio affairs, its much more a result of bombast and excitement than lack of precision. Rather, because the group fly up and down the dynamic scale with such ease and in such uniformity, it shows that they aren't so much sloppy as they are practiced and raw. More so, while Bomb the Music Industry! isn't necessarily known as being uber-prolific, despite their extension of set list time from previous tours, they didn't have enough room to accommodate all their hits, and had to pick and choose carefully for the spots not covered by the ample selection of tunes from Vacation. Near the end of the set, the band took requests and played a request despite Rosentock warning that it would be "really, really, really bad." Of course, it wasn't bad. It was fast, rough, and awesome. After the band closed out the set with a bombastic jam featuring members of Hard Girls and Shinobu, the group left the stage as they had arrived...falling apart member by member until the stage was empty... Is Bomb the Music Industry! the E-Street band of punk? Maybe.
- Pit-Fu moshing and ska skank dancing look equally ridiculous, but I must say, ska skank dancing creates a much more genial atmosphere.
- A mutual acquaintance introduced me to a fellow in the early stages of middle age. Trying to make conversation I asked, "So, are you, like, in this scene or just here to check it out, man?" He politely replied, "Oh, I went to high school with [Asian manner records founder] Mike Park. Also, I'm in the Chinkees." John Gentile, the world's most oblivious douche, strikes again!!!
- According to their Facebook, Classics of Love are recording their debut full-length as you read this. Album of the year, I says. Album. Of. The. Year.
- CELEBRITY FASHION WATCH: Mike Park was spotted sporting some slick earthen tone board shorts. Jeff Rosentock pushed his latest summer wear, a shirt in a crust-punk style which read "Some cops are nice." Several members of North American reggae "act" Rebelution, who were performing next door, were seen peaking their heads inside to check out the scene, while sporting some tasteful '60s-inspired headbands. Yours Truly kicked it up on the dance floor in a hella sweet Boogie Down Productions Tee which displayed an off-center image of KRS-One brandishing an AK-47.