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An Olympian wall of indie punk sends hippies fleeing Moxie’s Café

WITCHING WAIL <br>Old Time Relijin’s Arrington de Dionyso lets vocal chords rip during the Moxie’s set.

Old Time Relijin’s Arrington de Dionyso lets vocal chords rip during the Moxie’s set.

Photo by Tom Angel

Old Time Relijin, The Americas, Moxie’s Café, June 22

Typical of Chico, last Friday’s 5 p.m. Old Time Relijin show at Moxie’s Café didn’t start until 6:30, owing to the fact that two of the scheduled bands (Neck Tie Party and The Parlor Maids) didn’t make it. Their van broke down somewhere in the North State and left Olympia’s Old Time Relijin without equipment or an opening act.

God bless Chico locals The Americas for stepping in and starting the show and for later providing Old Time Relijin with the necessary amps and drums.

Announcing they’d be wearing earplugs, The Americas tore into a manic frenzy that got me thinking of the skate-punk band fIREHOSE. My end-of-the-work-week haze burned off completely within the first 30 seconds of this duo’s onslaught of sound. I got whipped around like I was on a ride at the fair, swooping in and whirling out just fast enough to make my neck hurt and the corners of my mouth curl up in a grin that could have passed for a leer. This was good clean fun.

Evidently, the volume pissed off a pacifist toward the back of the room, and at the end of the first song he hollered that it was just too loud.

Singer/guitarist Travis Wuerthner responded with, “OK, well it’s going to be a little quiet…” and cranked up the next song. Very punk. The hippy shook his fist and hurried out the back door.

While the guitar and drums (Casey Deitz) weren’t always perfectly synched, the tunes were well worked, each song starting with a frenzied mania that sped through several time signatures until collapsing into an artful tone poem, slowing the room to a stop. Their sheer loudness couldn’t detract from their genuine ability to write songs.

Punk rock should either exhilarate you or piss you off. The Americas succeeded in both, sending some potential customers right back out the door while making the rest of us feel like pogo dancing. This was not Green Day punk. (Green Day was punk?)

Afterwards, at the coffee counter, Wuerthner asked, “We were loud?”

Old Time Relijin’s vocals were even louder, and no more understandable, than The Americas'. Arrington de Dionyso’s voice was hellish in the way that can give you a headache in the wrong circumstances and trip you out in the right. He sang like David Byrne and Nick Cave’s love child, with a super-pliable wail abruptly dropping into such subsonic throat singing that I had to resituate my earplugs. This is the kind of band you’re better off seeing in the flesh, watching de Dionyso’s guitar carve pieces out of the room and Aaron Hartman’s upright bass throb like a didgeridoo. A woman standing in front of me had the amazing restraint to tap only her big toe.

While I wasn’t sure I liked it, I definitely respected it. It made me feel like I did when my parents would go out for the night and I would crank the stereo and jump on the furniture. Relijin was a cacophonic combo of punk, funk, and Tibetan monk. They were without their equipment but were definitely full of plugs.

“This is from our album, Witchcraft Rebellion, the best album of the year!"—from de Dionyso. “My other band, ‘The Microphones,’ will be playing here July 25. Just the other night we were on Conan O’Brien and the night before that David Letterman. I’m not kidding!” said drummer Phil Elvrum.

After de Dionyso whipped out his bass clarinet and intoned Kafka in a Beat-like performance, he described their tunes as “Jack Kerouac meets Walt Whitman … [like] floating on leaves of grass. By the way, that wasn’t a drug reference.”

You can check out Old Time Relijin on the K Records Web site (www.kpunk.com) and download a free mp3.