Review and Photos by MikeyMike
The Elbo Room brought out quite a lineup this past Saturday with local heroes Nodzzz and Ty Segall plus imports The Strange Boys (Austin, Texas), and Chain and the Gang (D.C.). Although this took place during Noise Pop, this was definitely not Noise Pop. Gone were the young ladies doling out Noise Pop propaganda, gone were the banners of hip kids sucking soda pop with straws.
Instead, there was a tense mayhem in the air. The packed room revealed none of the usual findings — heads bobbing in place, space-sensitive moshing — replaced by shouts of obscenities throughout the night. There were groups of fans that seemingly arrived both sweaty and smelly, and they relentlessly plowed through the crammed quarters. At one point during Nodzzz, an elderly gentleman threw a slightly younger man across the first four rows and down onto the stage. The same younger man was next spotted surfing upside down with feet in the air across the sea of heads. Later, during Chain and the Gang, a large number of ice cubes impossibly flew from the rear of the room all the way to the stage, nailing the unfazed Gang. Here’s the full report in no apparent order.
It’s 2am, I’m sitting in my car in the driveway under a gigantic full moon unable to turn the car off before hearing the last three tracks of my just purchased new Strange Boys album, Be Brave. Track 10, “All You Can Hide Inside,” blows me away. The aching drawl from the first record is there, but set to a beautiful, dare I say it, love ballad? The Strange Boys could be quickly dismissed as another of the psychedelic garage bands that seem to be everywhere now, yet as they prove on their second In The Red release that they are so much more.
When last spotted at Oakland’s Ghost Town Gallery, the band had acquired a new member, a female saxophone player. I can only assume that was one of her first shows as she blended into the background, nearly invisible except for the wail of her horn. For this show, however, she took center stage and provided some humor and banter, both often lacking in The Strange Boys, who can come off as quite shy and, yes, strange boys. To her credit, she does seem pretty strange. Her saxophone has now come fully into the mix, adding an unexpected dimension that provides further evidence of this band’s potential.
The Boys led the first sing-a-long of the evening, bravely handing out a mic to a swirling swarm of sweaty fans. The sweaties insisted they could sing “Should Have Shot Paul”, from the first record, The Strange Boys and Girls Club, but after the first verse, the song stopped. They were reprimanded and given one more try, and did quite well. The set was a well chosen mix of old and new material. The newer songs less strange in some ways, more folksy, but still dripping with sweet, sweet twang, and that undeniable air of early Stones much overlooked today.
The night had began with local heroes, Nodzzz. My first taste of the band was at Grace Cathedral a week before, as part of the very cool EpiscoDisco series uniting art and music. Nodzzz played in a small alcove at the front of the church; in front of them, 1000 flowers hung upside down in a beautiful pattern, and with a lovely scent to boot. The Elbo Room show lacked the sweet aroma, but Nodzzz didn’t seem to care. They had survived an older lady at the Grace Cathedral show, who had demanded a hug from the singer (he gave in eventually).
Nodzzz started out with the “difficult ones,” “Love is Code” and “True to Life,” and they came off quite well with their signature combo of two jangly guitars and a stompin’ drumbeat. After hearing the Nodzzz recordings, I was surprised to find them so clean cut. Both guitar slingers donned pinstripe shirts all tucked in. Hair was short and well-kept. I had imagined them as messier looking dudes. Big hit, “I Don’t Wanna SMK MRJWNA” didn’t happen at Grace Cathedral (not a real surprise), but was also sorely lacking at the Elbo Room.
After Nodzzz came Ty Segall. A year ago at the Hemlock I believe he played without a band, and this current band is a great addition. Ty was the only one who kept his shoes on. The other guitarist was barefoot, and the hot, goth drummer slipped off black high heels before playing. I think it was a good move: she wailed on those drums, providing a heavy primal beat to stand up to the guitar assault. Ty couldn’t seem to get all the reverb and echo he desired on his voice, but sounded great anyway, and fortunately it didn’t seem to bother him one bit. He remains a consistent powerhouse of raw, vicious rock and roll both in his growling lyrics and fuzzy shreddings on guitar. He seamlessly mixed bits of punk, metal and indie into one pleasing brew, great on recordings but far more enjoyable live.
Last but not least, something outta left field. Chain and the Gang came all the way from D.C., and the hard times there are written all over the band. Politically charged material covered everything from the assassinations of JFK, MLK and Malcolm X (“Deathbed Confession”), to “Reparations” that demand atonement from schools, television, and everything else. I am not sure the heckling crowd got it. Someone yelled “stop talking, play some music,” to which frontman and rock veteran Ian Svenonius yelled back, “this is music…according to John Cage.” The guy does talk too much, at times ranting, and some raving as well. He spent a good 15 minutes describing the first three acts of the night and you know he “liked it.” He even invited lead strange boy, Ryan Sambol, to play on the evening’s last song.
Mr. Svenonius wore a sharp white suit, clutched a bottle of orange soda, and lurched around the stage like some college campus preacher with a meth habit. About half the crowd stayed to hear what these guys were all about. It is intriguing stuff — it’s not every day you are confronted by a band dressed in prison stripes. They gained even more credit when they pulled out the second sing-a-long for the night. Svenonius announced “one for the doctors,” and got everyone singing the chorus “It’s a Hard Hard Job Keepin’ Everybody High.” Indeed it’s 3am and my sleep aid is comin’ on. Sweet dreams…