Get your motor running

The address was correct, but the neighborhood didn’t look like a place you’d find a record store, much less a cool indie label.

But given the name of the store/label: Gearhead Records and Stuff (Fifth Street in Woodland) seemed weirdly appropriate, or at least the few lowered ’50s-vintage Chevy pickups along the street attested to that idea. In the front yard of one house, an old trailer and a Freightliner conventional tractor flanked a seriously collision-warped pickup that looked like a total loss; the two pairs of legs protruding from underneath indicated that someone had faith that a little wrench work could restore it to drivability.

It was the kind of scene where your first impulse is to bail, but then you hear something that changes your mind. On this Saturday afternoon, it was the amplified strains of the Little Medusas beginning their set, heard somewhere a few houses away. And, down a gravel driveway and into an enclosed yard, there it was: the Gearhead Records food drive and grand opening party.

Gearhead, a label that’s an offshoot of a Bay Area car-culture revival magazine with the same name, has occupied the space—a store that sells punk records, magazines, clothing and plenty of cool tchotchkes—since January, but they were just getting around to doing the grand-opening thing on this early November day. The setup was not unlike one of the makeshift venues you might find in Austin, Texas in March, when garages are converted to stages to accommodate the influx of bands playing the annual South by Southwest festival. Aside from the absence of beer and barbecue, the gig could have been one of the many afternoon parties during that festival.

There were around 50 people milling about—some of them tatted men and women of the Robert Williams and Bettie Page tribe, along with a few rambunctious kids and a helping of slouching teens from the neighborhood. Between songs, Gearhead proprietor Michelle Haunold announced a raffle and encouraged people to grab a bag o’ free swag while they lasted, and the Medusas—Whitless, with the Orange Crush-colored hair on guitar, DinoGirl on bass and the irrepressible Kepi on drums—entertained the crowd with their fun brand of turbo bubblegum. From a comic book point of view, it felt like the Rodriguez BrothersLove & Rockets, Dan ClowesEightball and Roy TompkinsTrailer Trash mixed together nicely.

After the Medusas, the Secretions, another renowned local trio, launched into an energetic set of melodic Ramones-like pop. Guitarist Paul Filthy and bassist Mickey Rat both sported black Secretions T-shirts, a nod to the inherent tribalism of car culture and ’90s entrepreneurial punk: It’s all about the branding. But the music—songs like “3 Chords and a Fuck You” and “Ramen and a 40”—kicked ass.

After that came Hellbound Glory, a new Gearhead signing, a self-described scumbag country combo from Reno fronted by a guy named Leroy. Backed by a cig-smoking Telecaster player straight from central ’50s grease-monkey casting and a hippie bassist, Leroy navigated through originals like “Too Broke to Overdose” and some choice 100-proof country tunes. It was a smokin’ good time. You can find Gearhead Records and Stuff at 39 Fifth Street in Woodland, a few blocks north of Main Street.