Wow, what shows! Asta Kask/Vaccuum/Airfix Kits/Autonomy/Broken Needle/Mata Mata/Tuberculosis and more!! California, May 2011
In the middle of three weeks of jet-setting (NYC for a week, SF for a few days, and then out to Chattanooga this coming weekend) I foolishly tried to see all four of Asta Kask‘s California shows and Autonomy‘s only SoCal gig. I didn’t manage to see any of the shows in their entirety, but here’s a hodge-podge review of what I did catch — with lotsa photos, to boot. I’m not gonna bother to list the bands I missed…
Autonomy and Parlor at Harold’s Place in San Pedro, CA, 5/25/11
AUTONOMY is part of what appears to be a big explosion of “peace punk” bands over the last few years. Most of these bands have been coming out of the West Coast but these guys hail from the magical vortex that is Carbondale, IL, and feature on bass guitar that town’s foremost representative, the one and only Ray Suburbia. But of course this is not a one-man show, and the band quickly proved that by busting out a set that was full-on, with every band member giving it their all despite what at first felt like a fairly lackluster bar crowd. I think they won everyone over pretty quickly, though, basically ’cause their music rules. Driving, mid-tempo, kinda dark punk that’s clearly rooted in “anarcho” but with lyrics that are not so preachy/corny. Only a couple of this band’s tunes are available online right now but I have it on good word that a full-length vinyl release in the works. I, for one, cannot wait.
PARLOR was a big surprise — really unique, simultaneously quirky and straightforward, tuneful dual vocal-laden rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know if these guys are Mike Watt fans or if being in San Pedro is the only reason I thought of him, but I feel like PARLOR fits perfectly with the Watt ethos: heavy musicianship while being down-to-earth and not show-offy in the slightest. Couple that with having tons of energy and great “stage” presence (Harold’s has no stage) this band totally blew me away. I got their 12″ which emphasizes the tunes and virtuosity more than the power and rawness of the live show… It’s really great too, though.
Asta Kask and Vaccuum at Submission/Balazo in SF, 5/26/11
No offense to my homies in Vaccuum but I was trying to time it perfectly so that I could go straight from my band’s practice to this show and catch the last two bands: Young Offenders and Asta Kask. When I arrived, Young Offenders were rockin’ on stage and I was stoked. Said hello to a couple people, grabbed my camera, went up front and… “Thanks a lot, we’re Young Offenders, good night!” I’m sure that’s happened to you before. To me, it seems like it happens way too often. But hey, no worries, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to catch brutality merchants, MRR shitworkers, and 100% cool dudes VACCUUM, but due to the schedule being switched around I was gonna get to see them instead of Young Offenders. Actually I did get to see the Offenders “perform” in a way because two of that band’s members (also MRR shitworkers) got pretty aggro on one of the pit-moshers and nearly started a huge brawl. Way to go, old folx! Actually, Robert of Vaccuum got pretty tee’d at them, wise sage that he is, and reminded everyone that it’s not cool to fight at shows, “I don’t care who the fuck you are.” Hear hear. Vaccuum does their ass kicking musically, and tonight’s show was no exception. They’re loud, fast, heavy and I imagine are saying some cool shit. I could go get my lyric sheet and verify but come on, this is a show review not a fucking essay.
ASTA KASK (!!) was next, and let me preface by saying that this is one of my all-time favorite bands. I’m generally not one to be excited about a band based purely on nostalgia, but in this case my amygdala was not going to tolerate any cynicism whatsoever and all I could think was “Asta Kask good.” To cut to the chase: yes, they were great! Sure, they had a really dorky rock ‘n’ roll stage presence and were dressed in what my friend Barker described as “Lagwagon’s 2001 Warped Tour outfits,” but they could still play those damn songs like it was nineteen-eighty-whatever again, albeit a couple registers lower in vocal range due to old age. Apart from a few songs that may or may not have been newer, they played all the old hits and it was a pogoin’ mock-Swedish sing-alongin’ good time for the whole damn set. Do not miss them in Texas, y’all!
Footnote: Does the sound at Balazo still suck balls? Yes, it does! WT fucking F? I noticed they did reposition the PA speakers since I was there last and it sounded halfway OK if you stood pretty far back in the room, but still…
Asta Kask, Monster Squad, and Airfix Kits at 924 Gilman 5/28/11
Gilman shows are hit-and-miss and when I arrived it was feeling very much like a “miss” kind of night. Not many people were there, and those that were seemed like they came for Monster Squad and would be leaving leaving right after they played (due to curfews and/or lack of Asta Kask awareness). Indeed, not many present “got” AIRFIX KITS and at first they played to a only handful of polite Gilmians. But as their set progressed it seemed that they and the crowd got more into it, and when I turned around I saw a good amount of people bouncing along to the Kitties’ jaunty tunes. I don’t need to tell you about this band, do I? Really? OK, Airfix Kits sound like a closeted indie-pop skinhead in a bike crash with D. Boone’s guitar tech. You’ll like them, if you don’t already.
MONSTER SQUAD, Monster Squad, Monster Squad… OK, so apparently there’s this whole parallel universe where bands like the Unseen and Total Chaos are seen as seminal, classic bands, and literally everyone knows the words to every Monster Squad song. This other universe also contains a lot more drinking, puking, fighting, and general stupidity than ours does. You could argue that it’s even more punk than our own, but you’d be wrong. Anyway, whenever Monster Squad plays Gilman I usually end up somehow getting duped into working the side door or security, and they usually end up being party to some stupid fight or drinking on stage, and of course there’s underage wastedness and lots of vomit, etc. Miraculously there was only a limited amount of this at this particular show, although, yes, I did get duped into working and yes, the band did drink on stage, and I’m sure there was plenty of underage puke but thank goodness I did not have to clean it up. (If I had a lot more time to work on this review I would love to find a way to work the quote, “Wolfman has nards!” into it somewhere…)
ASTA KASK (again!!) really turned this night around, for me and for everyone present. The Monster Squad crowd stuck around and whatever fights that were brewing in the pit were instantly placated by the Swedes’ enthusiasm and catchy thrash tunes. All the balding old punx came rolling in from the brewery across the street where they had been hiding out, and thanks to the side-door person who ditched their post earlier in the show the crowd had grown a sizable amount from when I arrived. It was the day before the birthday of my best friend Skot who shared my love for Asta Kask back in high school, so it was especially poignant to be able to share seeing this band with him… More “I have no idea what they’re saying” singalongs while trying to defend our ground from out-of-control moshers — just like the olden days! It was even heartwarming to see those obnoxious youngsters who I was giving the “don’t you fucking dare” eye earlier thrashing in a circle and having a genuinely good time. After the show Skot and I bought all the Asta Kask merch and tried shyly talk to them like the fanboys we still are. Those guys were very nice and seemed truly stoked to be touring the states after all these years.
Broken Needle, Tuberculosis and Mata Mata at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach, CA 5/29/11
Well, I didn’t go to see Asta Kask the night before this at the BLVD in East LA, mainly because that place is bullshit. Sure, they put on a lot of punk shows, but they don’t give a shit about the punx and just want their fuckin’ money. Enuff said. The next night was at a pizza place with some kind of weird age restriction curfew thing — under 21 allowed until 10pm or some crap like that. I’m sure the resourceful younger ponx managed to work their way around that one though. If it hasn’t been pounded into your thick skulls enough here at MRR.com, the LA punk scene rules and if you don’t come here and check it out sometime you may risk missing a great era and never be able to tell everyone that you were fucking there. A lot of ink and pixels have been spent on praising the good folks involved in the “raw ponk” community here, but this show was put on by another vital member of the LA scene, Todd from Broken Needle. He’s at all the raw ponx’ shows and probably a ton of others that I never manage to get to. He serves as a bridge between some of the disparate sub-sub-communities that flourish in the confusing shitpile known as SoCal and deserves much praise for his valiant efforts.
BROKEN NEEDLE was the first band I saw, having missed the first one or two, and they totally ripped. They weren’t very active on stage (except for Todd, who sings) but the music still had tons of energy and had people running in circles and punching one another. At one point this strange, tall punk kid got knocked over, apparently hit his head on the wall, and looked stone cold dead on the floor for about 15 seconds. He snapped out of it, got up and sat down on the stage where a Todd gave him a personal serenade to make him feel better… [see comments below]
Right around this time I started to feel the effects of all my traveling and rocking and the beer and the pizza and I was ready to head home for a deep sleep. But there was no way in fuck that I was gonna miss Tuberculosis and Mata Mata, two of thee best bands in existence… TUBERCULOSIS has a bunch of newer material that is so damn good. It sounds like some of the more melodic European punk bands might be influencing their sound, but with Reyna’s raging vox it doesn’t sound softer, just more nuanced and catchy. I can’t wait for a new recording from this band cuz I know it’s gonna rule. MATA MATA always sounds heavy as fuck, with Eddie’s chunky guitar riffs and Phil’s brutal vocals leading the way. At this show Phil had a whole cheering section chanting his name between songs! Sadly for all you Austin-bound ragers, these guys won’t be able to make it to Chaos in Tejas due to a bunch of shitty financial disasters… Will someone out there please donate a few hundred thousand bucks to the LA raw ponx so they can buy a good van, their own warehouse and a recording studio? That would be cool. Thanks.
My body and mind couldn’t go any further so I missed Extortion, Germ Attak and Asta Kask, but having seen the latter perform the exact same show twice already, I’m sure they were just as good at this show. Does anyone wanna report on what I missed? Comment here! Thanks for reading. If you think you can do a show review that’s better (or shittier even) than this, send the text and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish it… Thanks and good night. Zzzzzz.