Not playing around

It takes a certain amount of commitment for a local band without a record deal to pay big dollars to uproot itself and go to a major metropolitan city to work with a famous sound engineer. Of course, big names alone can’t make or break a band, but they can help. In the end, it comes down to marketability or talent or both (depending on which side of the fence your critical perspective is riding). Still, for a local band to take that kind of high-dollar gamble says something significant about the members’ level of faith in what they do.

This is why Justin Chase’s message piqued my interest. It seems that the band he manages, Playing to the Grandstand, is scheduled to record in Chicago with none other than Steve Albini—the legendary producer whose credits include Nirvana and the Pixies.

Hopefully, Playing to the Grandstand won’t have to pay Albini out of its own pockets, as the ubiquitous “label interest” is circling the band. It’s no great surprise. If the band’s set last week at Harlow’s for Concerts4Charity was any indication at all, Playing for the Grandstand is simply superb.

Sacramento has displayed a solid interest in math rock—indie rock’s answer to the kind of complex noodling that bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer made famous in the 1970s—and Playing to the Grandstand displays some of those same math-rock roots. But the band’s approach to those roots is more conservative; there’s a math element there, but it isn’t taken to any extremes. Instead, the shifting rhythms add to the general flavor of the music to generate a hard indie-rock sound.

The major interest comes from the virtuosity of the rhythm section. Justin Goings (formerly of Mister Metaphor) is surely one of the most exciting drummers in town right now. Bryan Marshall’s bass tones are clear and percussive, and his playing is harmonically complex. As if in counterpoint, Josh Hill’s guitar playing is relatively simple, and his vocals are delivered in a lackluster slur, strangely providing an anchor for the rest of the band. (It’s an interesting situation in itself, since more often it’s the bass and drums that provide the anchor.)

As I told Marshall after the band’s set, I haven’t been this surprised and excited by a band since the first time I saw Didley Squat. Yes, it’s good. Try for samples or check the band out at Old Ironsides on April 29, when it shares a bill with another terrific band, the Proles.

In other news, Former Raigambre frontman Sam Miranda’s new project, Sol Peligro, has ended up becoming something of a supergroup, borrowing Gerald Pease and Leon Moore from fellow rhythm rockers ¡Bucho! and rounding out the lineup with Ken Rego and El Joe. The band’s CD-release show will be June 11 at the Blue Lamp. Check out for samples.

Almost last: No Kill I bassist Gornzilla is riding a 40-year-old motorcycle around the world, and if you’re not reading his blog about it, you should be. It’s damn entertaining stuff. Check out Drunken Monkey Motorcycle: Geek Round the World at

And very last: a quick congratulations to Dave Ninja of the Four Eyes on the birth of his daughter, Sage.