Party with a cause
Gruk headlines benefit for Men Against Rape and Sexism
It’s a testament to the character (but maybe not the business sense) of Fulcrum Records owner Rene Stephens that she would open her record store/ rock club for an all-night concert-benefit for Chico State’s Men Against Rape and Sexism group. An all-ages music venue in a college town is the perfect fit for such a benefit, but in Chico especially, a venue with such razor-thin profit margins is in constant need of its own fund-raising as well. That reality is not lost on Stephens, who is pursuing switching her operation over to nonprofit status to help ease the financial burdens.
Gruk bassist Brad Lambert arranged the evening’s diverse lineup of locals for the benefit, though he admitted that a couple of bands magically appeared on the bill at the last minute, making for a long but loose and fun night—and it only cost $3 to enjoy.
Featuring a couple members from both Slow Down Theo and Sleepyhead, The Pink Opaque did a few spirited instrument-switching improv numbers, warming up the room for the expansive noise of Birds of Fire. Before the Birds took flight, though, former Synthesis scribe Brooke Haley brought the benefit briefly into focus with a spoken-word call-to-action (with accompanying beat-box by Devlin Donnelly): “Why not swing back?/ I’m talking about preparedness,/ Readying our daughters for the fight.”
This would have been the perfect spot for Gruk to have blasted out of the gates in all its furious glory, but that would have to wait about three hours. Birds of Fire didn’t really blast out. They blazed, starting off the set with stony, noisy jams that took a while to get moving. With the third-to-last tune, “Sedona,” things finally got hot, as the long, aggro progression forwent lulling in favor of a rhythmic pummeling that continued through to the set’s glorious closer, “Whale.”
Opening its set with Fender Rhodes piano accompaniment, Aubrey Debauchery brought the people in for a handful of frontwoman Aubrey Pope’s intimate songs, highlighted by guitarist Curtis Zinn, on bended knee, leading the room in a sing-along of “ooh oo-oo-ooh” for crowd fave “Pretty Girls Play Pretty Songs.”
Before Gruk closed things out, its former guitarist Johnny and his new crew The Shankers blasted through a quick set of rockabilly and early rock ‘n’ roll covers (plus two originals). Johnny’s vocals were saturated with reverb as he sang punked-up versions of classics like “Blue Suede Shoes” in a great hiccupy Buddy Holly-ish affectation. Fun.
With a few hours of Friday night taking its toll on bassist Lambert, Gruk played a sloppy but rousing set of its shrieking, shredding punk. Rachel Loveless kept things together in her typical eyes-rolled-back, unearthly possession fashion, and the band closed out the night with the sing-along cover “Hack,” by Arizona’s The Blacks.
Gruk is heading out on its third U.S. tour at the end of the month. You can help the cause by checking out any one (or all) of the three upcoming benefits, starting with a house party on Saturday, May 14, 7 p.m., on the corner of Eighth and Ivy streets.