CAMMIES: Week four
Punk, Funk/Jam, Hard Rock/Metal
Ask 10 different people what punk is, and you’re likely to get 10 distinctly different answers, some of which may have something to do with music. To some it’s an ideology, a way of life, a fashion statement, an umbrella term for dozens of movements, and much more. And who but the most self-righteous, punker-than-thou asshole can say who’s right or wrong?
This year’s CAMMIES punk nominees prove the genre is not as myopic as some believe it to be, and that, as ’70s and ’80s punk pioneers creep toward Social Security age, it is not exclusively a young man’s game.
One four-letter word has been synonymous with Chico punk for the last decade—Gruk. During this time, the vegan/feminist/anarchist noisemakers have toured the world multiple times, let loose a slough of releases, and carved an indelible scar on the face of local music. Alas, all good things must end, and Gruk is calling it quits after one last West Coast hurrah and a final hometown show in July. After seven drummers, five bass players and three guitarists, screamer Rachel Loveless—the only constant member—chalks the demise up to conflicting schedules that would limit their ability to tour and record and an unwillingness to undergo yet another lineup change. Gruk has been nominated every year since the CAMMIES inaugural in ’06 but has yet to win.
Severance Package has been a band for only about a year, which is hard to believe witnessing the airtight interaction of co-front couple Josh and Robin Indar. That’s because the band is just the latest chapter in a punk-rock love story spanning almost two decades—the couple have been married nine years and met at 924 Gilman 18 years ago. They spent most of the ’90s making music together as the Bay Area-based Black Fork before migrating inland to raise two children and churn out some excellent garage rock as Severance Package. To date, they’ve released one 7-inch and have a split with the Street Eaters in the works.
Celebrating punk’s darker inclinations (metal/thrash /grind) is the four-piece Black Hole of Calcutta. In the three years the band has been together the guys have toured Europe and the States (with return trips scheduled for the summer and fall), and released a handful of 7-inches and a 10-inch. The upcoming releases are testaments that bands from Chico can make it out in the real word: splits with Magnicide, Dios Hastio and Sarjan Hassan, hailing from Singapore, Peru and Malaysia, respectively.
Punk scenes everywhere are largely incestuous, and Chico’s is no different: Black Hole of Calcutta members Ben Terhune and Jesse Shreibman are hedging their chances for a CAMMIES win with their side project ¡Mammoth Torta! Shared members are where similarities end, though, with ¡Mammoth Torta! leaning more toward Dick Dale than Dio—the duo play reverb-drenched, landlocked surf rock with a sense of humor evidenced in song titles like “Torta Recall” and “Endless Bummer.”
Brass Hysteria! Are the babies of the bunch, the band’s genre-smashing hodgepdodge of punk, rockabilly, surf and ska simultaneously reflecting the younger generation’s ADD and the benefits of growing up with a world of music at their fingertips. Eclectic instrumentation—banjo and washtub alongside slick horns and electric guitar—and a flair for camp, delivered with a smart-assed smirk. Expect more good things from them.
Most of the musicians in the Funk/Jam category have been playing music in Chico for decades, and looking at the cross-breeding in this year’s nominees, it’s apparent that the scene is all about keeping things in the family.
For more than 20 years, the Jeff Pershing Band has been performing what Pershing describes as “eclectic funk and rock” all over Chico. With multitalented Pershing himself on guitar and vocals, Electric Circus’ Chris Henderson on bass, Tyler Coates on drums and Eric Weber (also of Big Mo & the Full Moon Band) on sax, the band derives its sound from a combo of blues, reggae, Latin, jazz, calypso and classic rock. “Funk is my favorite,” Pershing says. “And we love to jam a lot.”
Audiotherapy is nominated for its trancey grooves and jams backed by electronic beats. With Brett Johnson (also of country nominees Crazygrass) on guitar and synthesizers, Troy Dye on bass and Brian Delugos on drums, the three-man band brings together funk, reggae, jam, dance, house and electronica to create a funky sound of its own. “[It’s] hard to stick to a cookie-cutter genre,” Johnson says.
GravyBrain is still making minds melt after a couple years on the Chico scene with its jazzy mix of funk and fusion, backed by rhythm guitar, keyboards and a pinch of rock. With Spark ’n’ Cinder’s Glenn Tucker on keyboards and Brian “Gravy” Asher on guitar, Kenny Williams Jr. on acoustic guitar and sax, Kevin McAllister on bass and David Chambers (who sometimes plays with the Jeff Pershing Band) on drums, the group has used its different influences to create structured songs that have room for improvisation. But don’t try to call GravyBrain a jam band, says Tucker. Despite its largely instrumental beats, GravyBrain’s songs “have structures and layers,” he insists.
For those who crave the Dead-to-Mo-Hips jam/country-rock fusion sound, there’s Electric Circus, the funky rockers who have taken a foothold in the scene with high-energy electric guitar and smooth vocal harmonizing. With varied members Saul Henson and Gary Dutra on guitar, Chris Henderson on bass, Mike Waltz on drums and vocals, and a few other honorary members at any given time, the band has managed to keep North State bodies moving to its blend of psychedelic- and country-rock for decades.
Swamp Zen’s frontman Doug Stein has been a part of Chico’s jam scene for 20 years. With Chad Kelly and Stein on guitar and vocals, Steve Hoffman on percussion, Noel Carvalho on drums and Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass, Stein says the old-school rockers continue to be inspired by festival-circuit jam bands.
Perhaps the biggest household name in this year’s showcase is perennial CAMMIE nominee Spark ’n’ Cinder. The band is: Jimmy Fay (also of country nominee Three Fingers Whiskey, and world/Celtic nominees Ha’Penny Bridge and the Pub Scouts) on drums, Jerry Morano (Salsa Bella and others) on percussions, Kim Gimbal (Mossy Creek) on keys and bass, Jeff Daub (of world nominee Los Papi Chulos and others) on trumpet, Bay Area-based Dan McLaughlin on bass, and GravyBrain’s Brian Asher and Glenn Tucker on guitar and keys. The band has been combining rock, funk, reggae, calypso, Latin and Afro rhythms in Chico for more than three decades. “But it all has a Spark flavor to it,” Morano says. “People dance to our music, and I think that is the reason for our band lasting for almost 35 years now.”
—Stacey KennellyHard Rock/Metal
In the ’90s, Chico bands typically fell into two camps—the barefoot, dirt-twirling hippies and the Chuck Taylor-clad, arms-crossing indie rockers. Longtime metal institution Fallon (which has been a Chico staple since the beginning of civilization) and heavier bands like Buzzwurm and Trench were anomalies. It wasn’t until the aughts that heavy music really started breaking through the surface of Chico’s porcelain complexion. One notable party-crasher was a band called Oddman.
Former Oddman guitarist Cayle Hunter (also of Will Haven and Ghostride) is now a member of Armed for Apocalypse, which seems to get heavier each time the band steps on a stage. The four-piece released its debut LP Defeat last year and the guys recently embarked upon an epic European tour that saw them open for Crowbar (!) and Sepultura (!!!). Prediction: A4A will take over the world in 2012. Probably sooner.
Frankie Swa has been at it for more than two decades as bassist for Fallon and now as vocalist for Blood of Cain. The band mixes old-school thrash with death metal, and over the past three years has toured the West Coast, put out a self-released EP, and took home a CAMMIE in 2008 (and scared the bejesus out of my mom at the 2007 CAMMIES Awards Show).
Blood of Cain guitarist Jake Costello also lends his shredding abilities to Tome of Goetia, who caught the CN&R’s ear in January as part of our Local Band Issue. It’s pure heavy metal—dual guitars, double-kick drum, a double shot of testosterone—made by five long-haired gents who’ve put in their time with local bands Thyestean and Stormin’ Norman—devil horns!
Teeph’s MySpace page references Converge, Zappa and Melt Banana under “Influences.” The music is pure spastic sludge (Converge, Melt Banana—check and check). Songs like “Hipster Killers,” “Jailbait Blues” and “A Shitapple Driving a Shitmobile,” and you’ve got your Zappa. So, how about a cover of “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama”?
I predict that by 2016 Sesar Sanchez will be a member of every CAMMIES nominated band. Aside from indie/experimental nominees Red Giant and Dr. Yes! & The Soulgazers and the aforementioned Teeph, Sanchez also plays guitar in Cold Blue Mountain, a super group of sorts that drinks beer, kicks ass and plays a lot of shows. In that order. These guys go for heavy, but there’s some beauty in songs like “Comatose” and “Dark Secret.” Just don’t tell them I said that.
The band that had a heavy (a very heavy) hand in Chico’s Metal Renaissance is The Makai. The precision of metal and the loose energy of punk come together on the band’s full-length The End of All You Know. Not to mention the individual personalities that always seem to come through in the music, which lyrically sticks with tried-and-true topics of demons and dragons. Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way.