Cape Cod. Photo by either Pars or Wars.
It seems like a cliche to talk about how the past year sucked. We do it every year, but this era was terribly fraught with sadness for me. More friends died, others moved on, some important unions halted and my dad passed away just before the new year. I've already spent the better part of 2014 packed away in my room, staring at the walls or at movies....but the past couple of days felt pretty good and I hope things continue to get better. I really struggled to find ten things to talk about for this list because feeling good wasn't happening a lot in 2013, but here ya go...in no particular order...(P.S. I'll also have a top ten list of 2013 records in next month's MRR).
FUNERAL CONE WEST COAST TOUR
I generally prefer to surround myself with a bunch of grumpy ass folks when I go on tour, but being the roadie for FUNERAL CONE on their West Coast tour was a breath of fresh air. Rather than pouring out of the van after long drives and running to hide in some dark corner while guzzling pure grain alcohol, the band would run around to meet seemingly every person at the punk house and seem genuinely interested in hanging out with people. Also, it appeared like there wasn't any stressful situation that fazed them...even when I got them to sleep on a freezing wooden boxcar or when we slept in a sketchy suburban squat in Victoria, BC. I had fun the whole time, from long drives to ferry rides to encountering the cross streets of Woodcock and Kitchen-Dick to huddling up in a stupid-ass rental van and acting like I could possibly sleep. FUNERAL CONE rules.
DEEP TEENS RECORD RELEASE SHOW AT THE LAB IN SF
Not only was I into this show because I think DEEP TEENS are a great band, but because they organized the show to be a huge event rather than just a normal show. Okay.....full disclosure: I missed every opening act because I was doing other stuff in the city and decided to go this last minute....BUT, I was not disappointed by a single second of the DEEP TEENS set. The set started with a drag performance in front of a curtain. At the culmination of that act, the curtain was pulled down to reveal the members of the band ready to start their set. While they played their eerie, dark songs, deadpan models stared straight into a camera ten feet away from them and it was projected onto a screen behind the band. The effect was alluring, jarring, unsettling and exciting. As the band wound down, the performers in front of the camera launched into a performance that blew my mind in such a way that I can't even describe it. I appreciated the show for changing the landscape of what a performance usually is, for being outwardly queer and freaky with brutal clarity, for completely crushing all of my expectations and for reawakening some part of my psyche that feels more comfortable with personal gender fluidity. Plus, they set up the show at the Lab in the Redstone Building, which has a long history of labor struggles, queer activism, plain ol' activism and is full of labor murals. I wish more performances had this much thought behind them.
I loooove THE BODY. They play music that sounds like how awful my year felt. I think I saw them play three times this year: at Gilman in Berkeley, at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, RI and at a tiny little house in Santa Cruz. My favorite might have been the one in Rhode Island where they had two drummers and WORK/DEATH opening for them. At some point during that show, I realized that the band had been getting louder and louder throughout their set and it had reached a point where it felt like everything in the world was rattling into a cataclysmic oblivion. At the end of their set, they played a loop of "Suicide Is Painless" for about 15 minutes. The Santa Cruz show was really fun too because it was funny to see the band cram their huge amps into a tiny little room along with 50 stoned, moshing maniacs. I can't wait for their children's album to come out this year.
There's no video that can give you the live experience of seeing THE BODY, but this one's not bad.
So, every time I see this band, it's usually better than the last. I was worried about this one meeting those expectations since their singer, Ruby had broken her foot and was hobbling around on crutches while wearing one of those big black cushioned boots. I should know better. As soon as she hit the stage, the crutches were nowhere to be seen and she was fucking killing it along with the rest of the band. NO STATIK is ruthless. They are their own world. Yeah, sure I cringed when Ruby was running around the stage and I had my phone ready to call the paramedics if needed, but fuck, it ruled.
Starting at 1:40, I would like to remind you again that she was on crutches all day and night.40 MILE BIKE RIDE
My friend Mike Leslie and I went on a 40 mile bike ride through Rhode Island one day in October and it was insanely beautiful. Sure, I almost bailed on the idea after ten miles, but it's only because I was dehydrated (2 bottles of water and a Del's frozen lemonade and I was fine). Most of the path we biked on was surrounded by the last bits of fall colors and I wished I could just live in that moment for a few more months.
I mean, look at that shit.
Spotted Race (a.k.a. Lumpy Rex) is a tape label that's responsible for some of the most deranged, lo-fi and ridiculous punk coming out of the Midwest these days. In some ways, it reminds me of the old Gulcher Records label from Indiana. The packaging for all of their releases is hand drawn by Lumpy and everything is fucking dirt cheap, the way punk oughta be. Home to great bands like LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS, VIOLATIONS, TRAUMA HARNESS and CAL AND THE CALORIES.
DIEHARD, REPLICA, NO STATIK and ABSURDO in Santa Cruz
I ran down to Santa Cruz with my roommate Matt and friends to see this awesome show in a tiny little apartment. There were actually like 4 other bands that played, but the bands listed above are the only ones I saw. The apartment was hot and sweaty. Everyone was slick and greasy, but having a lot of fun. After dancing with a bunch of maniacs to flawless back-to-back sets by DIEHARD, REPLICA and NO STATIK, I didn't think that anything could top it...but then Spain's ABSURDO jumped on the already packed show and just destroyed the little apartment. After that, we skipped out on the rest of the show because of other commitments. I drove the crew back to San Francisco and was still so pumped from the hardcore show that I biked over to a bar to see BLACK PUS. That was also really cool, but the atmosphere just sucked after being in a rad house with a bunch of sweaty punks all day.
HUMANBEAST / RUSSIAN TSARLAG at the Lab, SF.
I've been a fan and friend of all parties involved for years now. Eli and Maralie (from HUMAN BEAST) first caught my attention with their Arkansas punk (and more) band SOOPHIE NUN SQUAD and then won my heart over with TEM EYOS KI (Linked video is one of my favorite live recordings of a band completely in their element). Carlos (from RUSSIAN TSARLAG) blew my mind by orchestrating performances that ranged from rolling around in the gravel to taping raw meat to his chest to talking into a microphone in a basement for 24 hours. I used to tell people that RUSSIAN TSARCASM (the former name) was my favorite band, even though I had never actually seen Carlos play one note of "music".
Anyhow, the rest of the show itself bored the hell out of me, but seeing these two bands made the night completely worth it. RUSSIAN TSARLAG's performance has matured in many ways. Rather than just beating you over the head (sometimes literally) with a raw egg or something, Carlos eased into his performance and set a tone that was slow and deliberate. He's now singing along to pre-recorded music and playing beautiful, gloomy songs on the guitar to a backdrop of warbly VHS tapes. It was almost poppy, in a way. It made me uncomfortable in the best way. It was real and honest. It's also a little indescribable. And yes, some raw egg got on some people who were sitting a little to close.
HUMANBEAST changed the tone very abruptly. I'll just put it out there: I don't really give a fuck about dance music, but HUMANBEAST is more than dance music. They're dark, primal, sexual and deviant in a way that feels really genuine. Plus, Maralie has one of the best singing voices ever, so she could just be singing her shopping list and I'd pay attention. I love the way the two of them take over a room. Even though Eli is playing a couple of tables full of synth and pedals, he doesn't stay still. During this performance, he danced just as much as Maralie..or could be found climbing up a ladder on the edge of the room. The two of them played around with bondage and power dynamics in a way that seemed to make the stuffy SF crowd blush a little bit. I loved it.
I didn't ride on a plane until I was about 22. Just thinking about them gave me a panic attack, but I like traveling. I want to go to faraway places. I want to be able to go see friends on the other side of the country (or world) without spending an eternity getting there. This year, I've finally been able to ride on planes (and even enjoy it) without wanting to puke out all of my insides while waiting in the terminal. That's because of heavy drugs. Thanks, drugs.
DEAD MOON LIVE IN PORTLAND.
Other people broke the rules, so I will too. This show happened on January 4th, 2014. It was practically still 2013! I have very mixed feelings about reunions, nostalgia and giant ballrooms, but also, DEAD MOON is my favorite band of all time, so I had to go. Fred and Toody Cole have been playing consistently ever since DEAD MOON broke up, so it didn't feel like they were doing something too out of the ordinary. As soon as Andrew hit the first drum cracks of "Diamonds in the Rough", everything felt right. It sounded like they had never stopped playing. I was out of my mind and stoked. I was not around friends and everyone around me seemed to stand like statues while pointing digital devices at the band. I pushed my way through the crowd, but then just ended up in the balcony, finding friends and dancing to all of our favorite songs. There were 1500 people there! Where were all those people when DEAD MOON was a band?! I never saw them play to over 150 people. Whatever. They sounded great. I had a great time. I hope they get back together. I wouldn't even be bummed if they put out a new LP.
I took that picture.
Honorable mentions (a.k.a. right up there with everything else): Mineragua in a glass bottle, going out to Provincetown (and Wellfleet) finally with excellent company, IRON LUNG live, joint birthday party at Pinball Wizard, Twins Pizza, biking up to Twin Peaks in SF, STILLSUIT, "Pick My Nips" (the drinking game...not as nasty as it sounds), RV Cave and seeing TOTAL CONTROL.