by Anton Patzner
This Sunday, August 23rd, The Matches will take the stage at The Fillmore Auditorium for their final show. When I heard this there was a side of me, perhaps my romantic side, that really couldn’t believe it. This was the band who had truely become “more than local boys”, who would be together forever, singing epic anthems to cheering crowds around the world. My practical side understands. Years of non-stop touring in small clubs and sleeping in motel 6’s will take its toll on any artist and eventually he will want change. Still, I can’t help feeling that this is the end of an important era in Bay Area music.
Judgement Day has known the Matches since even before they were called “The Locals“. My brother Lewis went to grade school with their drummer Matt Whalen and bassist Justin San Souci and saw them play their first show together at the St. Theresa’s school talent show. After that, I would always hear stories about their band from my parents. “The Locals played at Noelle’s birthday party”, “The Locals just opened for Blink 182”, “The Locals won a contest and are touring Japan”. It was almost like my parents were trying to make me jealous. At that time, as a rock-and-roll-dreaming high school student, I wanted nothing more than to have a band that actually played real shows. The jealousy quickly turned to admiration, however, when I finally met these “Locals” and saw what they were doing.
I first met Matches singer Shawn Harris outside of The Fillmore, fatefully the same venue where our bands will share the stage for their last show. With a guitar in one hand and a stack of fliers in the other, Shawn was hard at work, promoting his next show at a new Oakland venue called “Imusicast”. He was accompanied by a pair of young girls who were wearing Locals t-shirts and carrying Locals banners on long poles. Having left the Fillmore show early, I had the chance to introduce myself to Shawn before the rest of the audience came out. The name of the show on the flier that he gave me was “L3: Live, Local and Loud”. It featured a handful of cool Bay Area bands and sounded like the perfect chance for me to finally see The Locals. Just then the Fillmore show officially ended and the doors flew open. Shawn took up his guitar and bravely turned towards the oncoming flood of music fans. I watched him break into his song “Superman” and sing for a moment until he was enveloped by the crowd and all I could see were the Locals banners flying above them.
One week later I attended my first L3. It was quite a sight. The venue was a large warehouse decorated with bright, colorful lights and video screens. The whole vibe was very futuristic. The crowd was YOUNG. At 20 years old, I felt that I might very well be the oldest person in the room, other than the parents who were working the door and merch tables. Kids were hanging out, dancing, joking and having a great time.This was the hang out spot that I had always longed for in high school and never had. Finally, The Locals took the stage, dressed in colorful, home-made clothes, and the crowd really came to life. Guitarist Jon Devoto and bassist Justin San Souci spun in circles across the stage and jumped off of walls. When Shawn shouted out the lyrics “Shake! Shake! Shake!” the entire audience chanted along shaking their fists in the air, united in a sense of high-energy, punk-rock community. From that moment on, I was hooked.
L3 was a monthly event hosted by The Locals which would always take place at Imusicast. The Locals would always play, followed in the early days by more established local headliners like The KGB and Link 80. The opening bands would almost always be high school students, often times playing their first shows ever. The formula was a surefire recipe for large crowds of wide-eyed teenagers. For many L3-goers, these shows were about more than just music. This was their social outlet, their favorite night of the month and their first exposure to creative, DIY expession. Former L3 regular Ashley Wetmore, now a professional image consultant, credits the shows as a major source of inspiration for her and her friends, many of whom went on to play their own bands, put on their own club nights and design their own clothes. “We would see the Matches wearing these amazing outfits that they had made for themselves and we all wanted to do it too,” Ashley says, “The Halloween shows were the best. We’d all be trying to outdo each other for the best costume. It was a really fun.”
Month after month the crowds at L3 would grow larger until finally the huge warehouse room couldn’t fit any more and all of the shows were sold out. For trademark reasons The Locals were forced change their name, so they ironically chose “The Matches” as their new moniker and titled their debut record E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals. Shawn Harris did the artwork himself and in the bottom corner of the booklet, spray-painted words “no fake record label here. We’re just a band putting out our own record”. When the major labels came knocking (and they came in droves) The Matches decided to keep it indie, choosing Epitaph as their home. The next 7 years would bring them huge tours, award-winning music videos, and 2 more great albums.
We have had the honor of working with the Matches on multiple recordings over the years and the privalege of their friendship throughout it all.They have always been supportive of our band and Shawn Harris, who has truely become an amazing artist, has collaborated on the painting of the cover for our upcoming 2nd record, Peacocks / Pink Monsters. Judgement Day, like countless other bay area bands, will always look up to The Matches. We will always be inspired by their DIY ethics, their high-enegy live shows, their good humor, their constant strive for creativity and everything that they have done for the Bay Area music scene. It is with great honor that we will accompany them for one last, great show.
Anton Patzner is the violinist for Oakland “string metal” band Judgment Day. He blogs regularly on his band’s website http://stringmetal.com .
Matches guitarist Jon Devoto and drummer Matt Whalen have a new band together called Bird by Bird. They will be performing their first show on Friday at Blakes along with the younger brother of the Judgement Day boys, Graham Patzner, who closes the night.