No ray guns here

To be honest, when I first started receiving e-mails about the band Be Brave Bold Robot, I assumed that it was some kind of electro-pop band. I pictured men in astronaut outfits playing keyboards in a shtick-heavy Devo rip-off band, perhaps a “hot” green go-go dancer on the sidelines à la Star Trek.

So, I’ve done a pretty fine job of avoiding seeing Be Brave Bold Robot for a long while now. Matthew Gerken, from local math-rock outfit Nice Monster, finally clued me in on how good Be Brave Bold Robot truly is and assured me that the band members don’t generally wear astronaut costumes (at least, not in public). Be Brave Bold Robot is a roots-rock band at heart, but this element is sometimes obscured by chord and tempo changes that are the musical equivalent of a verbal non sequitur.

Early last week, Be Brave Bold Robot brought its music to the California State University, Sacramento, campus, where the band played in a small, unobtrusive room in the University Union for a Communications Club mixer. There was free soda, free pizza and nary an astronaut costume in sight (although one of the opening acts, a group from Arcata, dressed up like superheroes).

Be Brave Bold Robot is not necessarily easy to understand. To do so, one must sink into the mind of Dean Haakenson, and that means reading the postmodern scribbling of assorted maniacs, for although Be Brave Bold Robot the band is relatively new, Be Brave Bold Robot the zine is not.

Haakenson’s zine has been circulating quietly for a number of years, publishing material too harsh, witty, ironic or intelligent for the mainstream media. Samples can be found at (which is also the band’s Web site). Therein, brave, bold readers will find Dennis Yudt’s superb dressing down of Alanis Morissette. It’s worth your time.

Haakenson is the guiding force of both the band and the zine. Haakenson’s a giant, heavily sweating, bearded man who belts out the songs with a kind of desperation that makes it difficult to turn away, and his music is both interesting and emotional, riding the edge between dynamic complexity and straightforward rock.

When the band was at its best (which was often at the CSUS show) the sound was something akin to the Counting Crows covering Frank Zappa, or like Calexico performing the collected works of Les Claypool. There’s plenty of Arizona “desert core” sound in Be Brave’s sonic pallet, but it doesn’t hammer on it enough to make it ridiculous. This is good music, and you should hear it.

I ran into Charles Twilling at the show and received an update on the progress of Junta. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Twilling’s new all-ages music venue is still not open. Twilling was hesitant to offer any real insight into when the club will open, mostly because he doesn’t seem to know himself. The permit process is apparently long and rather arduous, but let’s hope the venue is up and running by the start of 2006. It’s about time we had all-ages music in Midtown again, and Junta’s a bit closer—in terms of build-out—than the new True Love Coffeehouse.