Rattling the Riff rafters
A triple bill of country, metal and hip-hop pumps up the volume at the Riff Raff
It’s a treat when a show comes along that offers more than the usual amount of musical variety. Which is why I was excited about last Sunday’s show at the Riff Raff. The night’s triple booking of bands was diverse enough to pique my interest on several levels. Part of me was just curious to see what sort of crowd the mixing of these three diverse bands would draw, and most of me was just happy to get to see three bands in one night playing very different styles of music without having to go to three different clubs.
Kicking off the festivities was lead Asskicker Bob Howard’s new spin-off group, called, for this evening anyway, the Minor Sixty-niners, featuring Asskickers bassist Alan Wood on bass and accordion and Robots Hate Cowboys drummer Candace Armenta on the kit. I didn’t know what to expect beyond trusting Howard to come up with something interesting—which he did without straying very far from the perceptive urban-hayseed persona he’s perfected in the Asskickers. Odes to self-defeat, debilitating intoxication, drug-addled relationships and the occasional memory of good times past were delivered in a poker-faced country baritone over brushed drums and mournfully droning accordion for the most part, but it was the punk-tinged rockers with Wood on bass and Armenta using the sticks that stood out.
I particularly liked “Monkey Bar Girl,” which with its simple narrative and shout-along chorus reminded me of a cross-pollination of the Ramones and Jonathan Richman. And the finale, “Business Suits,” built up to a crescendo of tom-toms and guitar feedback reminiscent of Lou Reed and Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground. It’ll be interesting to see how the band develops if it grows beyond the shadow of the Asskickers.
Taking the middle slot was the Whip, from Washington state, a phenomenal power trio somewhat in the mode of the Melvins with enough chops and volume to dominate a venue 10 times the size of the Riff Raff. Sitting a dozen or so feet away from the Whip at full throttle is not going to improve your hearing, but if you appreciate intricate time changes and high volume harmonic convergences that reverberate your rib cage and skull sutures, this is a band to check out.
A boisterous crowd of Sunday-night revelers applauded each new blast of feedback, distorted bass and double-kick drum patterns and only got more enthused after a comedy routine involving the club owner’s futile request for them to turn down the volume. “We don’t turn it down, we’re a metal band,” was the inevitable punch line tossed off to wild approval from the hardcore crowd in front of the stage. The Whip finished their blistering set with broken guitar strings and an avalanche of audience support by way of T-shirt and CD sales on the sidewalk outside.
Winding up the night, Chico’s icons of good-humored hip-hop, the Becky Sagers, laid down a set of topical, comical rap that elevated the mood of the crowd. Backed by the funky rhythms of drummer Casey and bassist Trevor and supplemented by the "human scratcher," DJ Good Burger (Matt Loomis), on larynx, MCs Shecklove and Heathakilla had the crowd smiling and bouncing from the front to the back of the club. Trading off raps and occasionally handing off the mike to the human scratcher for a solo—prompting Shecklove to declare, "Matt Loomis is God!"—the Sagers occasionally cracked themselves up along with the audience. By the time we left the club with visions of Scrappy Dogs dancing in our heads, it seemed perfectly logical for country, metal and hip-hop to share a stage on a Sunday night.