May 12 was something of a personality test for Boise music fans. Did you go to Knitting Factory to see The Shins or to Revolution Concert House to see Primus?
This salty old fart chose fast hands over lower legs and went to see some psychedelic shred-funk. In 3D, no less. And I'm glad I did because I've never seen anything quite like it.
When James Cameron made Avatar, he was largely mocked for shooting it in 3D. But it ended up redefining action cinema. I'm fairly sure Primus may be doing the same thing with its current 3D tour.
Video projections and light shows have long been commonplace at larger venues. But through 3D glasses, Primus' synched video projections appeared to extend out beyond the edge of the stage, enveloping the band and members of the audience in swirling bubbles, psychedelic textures and wormholes to the seas of cheese. Combined with Primus' steady circus funk beats—and two giant inflatable astronauts with faces projected inside their helmets so they looked like Vigo from Ghostbusters 2—the show was hypnotic.
But it wasn't just the band's visual presence. Primus is the rarest of groups; its style is so based on its members' specific skills that it is nearly inimitable. The Primus of 2011's Green Naugahyde isn't that far removed from its Frizzle Fry, Antipop or Pork Soda days. And being so divorced from sonic trends, the band has aged well and remains just as challenging and bizarre as it did playing during the battle of the bands scene in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
Frontman Les Claypool's thumb still slaps gunfighter-quick, and his runs of notes seem to defy scales or standard phrasing, while Ler LaLonde's guitar lines somehow found space for their own equally impressive riffs and textures.
The band played two sets separated by four Popeye cartoons shown during intermission.
Before playing a song from Suck on This, one of the band's earliest recordings, Claypool gave a shout-out to his father, who was watching from the Revolution balcony. Claypool said his dad lent the band $3,000 to press Suck on This to vinyl, which they then sold by hand.
"Just shows what can happen if you're willing to take a chance," Claypool said. "And my dad was taking a chance, too. He was a mechanic in a transmission shop, it's not like he had an extra three grand laying around."
But chances are, any musicians in the audience hearing Claypool's thoughts were not thinking about hitting up pops for $3,000 to press their music on vinyl. That money would go directly to a 3D projector.
Here's what I liked about Hudson Falcons' set for Punk Mondays at Liquid on April 15.
It wasn't just the balls-out rock and roll. It wasn't just the warp-speed beats reminiscent of Let's Go era Rancid. It wasn't just the medley of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis songs that closed out the night. It wasn't just the "support the union and fuck the scabs," shout-outs in blood-red Idaho. It wasn't just the the thick Jersey accent or that frontman Mark Linskey's metric for remembering his first Boise gig was that it was when Ray Charles died.
It was that he looked like someone's lame dad, complete with spectacles and a bandanna. He tucked his T-shirt into his mom jeans, for shit's sake. And I'm pretty sure that he was wearing orthopedic shoes. Linskey quite literally looked as if he'd strolled out from the dish pit in the kitchen to pick up a guitar and blow the roof off the place during his smoke break.
Punk rock is as much fashion as it is music, something which is wildly exhausting. The level of inside baseball knowledge and time spent on one's hair or the rips in their jeans is absurd, turning music that was supposed to be about accessibility into an unapproachable, alien artifact. And Hudson Falcons turns that completely on its head by dropping the B.S. and just plain rocking.
It's fast. It's loud. It could be anybody on stage, even your dad. But more than any of that, it was honest. And that is what has always made rock and roll great.
As Linskey put it: "Boise and Jersey City don't have too much in fucking common, as anyone who's been there can tell you. But good people are good people no matter where you go. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for them."
A friend once detailed her theory to me about how, because of fixed production costs, rock music would become the new jazz—an increasingly complex product for connoisseurs—while electronic would continue to dominate modern pop.
That certainly seemed to be the case at Red Room March 7 with Boston post-rockers Caspian.
Local opener Ditch Tiger was a library of polyrhytms and savage math riffs. The band was as reminiscent of Botch as it was hardcore-icon Refused. The vocals were somewhat amelodic, hammering a single note like a drum, letting the rawness of tone fill the space generally occupied by melody. The band isn't fully developed yet, but for local hardcore fans, Ditch Tiger is one to watch.
The middle band, Native from Indiana, is what Ditch Tiger seems to be aiming for. The trick to hardcore isn't creating a massive sound, it's knowing what to leave out. Start with a wall of noise and whittle it away to make something uniquely jagged. Native has mastered that. Blindingly precise riffs moved back and forth between droning mid-tempo grooves and syncopated blasts of overdrive. The band said it had never been to Idaho before. Let's hope it comes back.
The headliner, Caspian, built its wall of sound high with three guitars blasting massive amounts of feedback through delay pedals, but in the most lovely way. The atmosphere was so lush, it felt like aerial footage for a nature documentary as it built up in five-minute crescendos to savagely percussive endings.
"Holy fuck! Awesome," one audience member screamed over and over again when the band reached it's final song.
So Caspian played one more. And when it ended, the cries began anew: "Holy fuck!"
You certainly don't get that from electronic pop.
My goal was to write about the Reverend Horton Heat's performance at Knitting Factory Feb. 27. And, there was plenty to write about. Everything from the effortless way front man Jim Heath's fingers danced across the neck of the guitar, to the set of Dead Kennedys covers the band played as an encore after a nearly two-hour set. Even the way "Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush?" remains one of the best songs ever written about a breakup.
But as much of a tour de force of talent the Rev was, he paled in comparison to the drunken shitshow that proceeded him from Gutttermouth, the world's leading group of potty-punks.
Frontman Mark Adkins was in truly rare form, something he attributed to starting drinking at approximately 9 a.m. Why would he do such a thing?
"Because I have personal problems," he slurred. "You may have a beard, but I have inner turmoil having to do with bad parenting. Possibly bad grandparenting. Possibly even bad great-grandparenting."
Many of the words Adkins uttered were mush-mouthed and mangled, if they were words at all. He spent half of a song wandering around in a circle before realizing his microphone wasn't even plugged in. So Adkins shoved the mic in his pocket and grabbed someone else's to tell the audience what he didn't like about Boise.
"There's not enough gay people here," he said. Then he turned to the band and offered a strategy: "Let's make these people gay."
Adkins then started stripping and encouraging the audience to do the same and to throw their clothes onstage. When they didn't, Adkins asked the only obvious question: "What's the matter? Don't you guys celebrate diversity?"
Then he stopped singing for awhile to pick lint out of his bellybutton and use the microphone to perform fake fellatio on the band's bass player.
By the end of the show, Adkins had torn the shirts off the backs of his entire band and distracted them from their instruments with a variety of titty twisters.
"You guys should know ... the name of our band," he slurred after the last song. "We're called Guttermouth. Let's hear it for us."
Adkins then encouraged just the ladies to cheer.
"That makes me want to beat-off in the staff bathroom," he said and tottered offstage.
Halfway through the Rev's set, Adkins reappeared on the dance floor having one helluva psychobilly freakout until Knitting Factory security removed him and forced him backstage like total goobers.
The Reverend Horton Heat was great. But following an Andy-Kaufman-meets-G.G. Allin performance like Adkins gave would have even been hard for Andy Kaufman or G.G. Allin.
I've seen The Aquabats a number of times. Between the costumed superhero battles, the bizarre Saturday morning cartoon videos and the epic shenanigans of frontman Christian Jacobs—I once saw him light his head on fire and then do three backflips—it's the most fun I've ever had at a live show.
And when Jacobs told Boise Weekly that the live version of Yo Gabba Gabba, a kids TV show he co-created for the Nick Jr. network, was the live show The Aquabats always dreamed of, he was massively understating the case.
The Yo Gabba Gabba performance at the Morrison Center on Feb. 26 started with its host, DJ Lance Rock, having to escape a giant video screen, then introducing the cast of life-sized dancing puppets, which went on to sing surreal songs about "a party in my tummy," not being afraid of the dark and the mechanics of giving a hug, while psychedelic, iPod-commercial-like projections played on the screen.
Mike Park, frontman for Skankin' Pickle and founder of Asian Man Records, played saxophone and sang about jumping. Rap legend Biz Markie also escaped the video screen to teach kids who couldn't possibly understand his relevance to hip-hop how to beat-box. Bubbles and confetti cannons fired into the air.
Were Salvador Dali alive, he would have said, "Damn yo, now that was some freaky-weird shit."
Yo Gabba Gabba Live was a strange, wonderful, fun and wholly magical experience for kids and adults alike, and it was a genuinely sad moment when the cast sang its goodbye song at the end.
Neurolux was packed to the gills with Boise's culturati last night. As one patron put it, "Every hipster who is any hipster is here." Most of the tables had to be moved out to accommodate the crowd.
The draw was Youth Lagoon, Boise's best chance to be known for something other than blue turf.
But it was more than just a rare hometown show, it was the live debut of Youth Lagoon's expanded lineup and material from its sophomore album, Wondrous Bughouse, which is set to be released Tuesday, March 5.
In my opinion, it was the first time Youth Lagoon wasn't wildly disappointing as a live act.
Things were a bit quiet in Old Town on Feb. 22. The light rain put a damper on the typical Friday crowd, leaving the cavernous clubs largely empty.
Even upstairs at Reef, things were a bit downtempo.
Monophonics, the sole band scheduled for the night, took its sweet time getting ready—not hitting the stage until nearly 11 p.m. And when they did, it was with no words, no four counts, just the sudden dulcet tones of a wah pedal for a few bars, then the beat dropped.
It was a strong '70s bar band sound: heavy on the mid-tempo funk beats, peppered with staccato wubs of bass and rhythmic stabs of organ frosted with guitar textures and swells of horns.
Though the audience at Reef was only a few dozen deep, they took to the dance floor instantly, rather than adhering to the Boise custom of waiting until a band's last song.
"When we get to that part, we need y'all to help us out and sing 'sho is funky,'" singer Kelly Finnigan said from behind his keyboards. "Can you do that?"
The crowd could.
Several dozen people crowded into the basement stage of Tom Grainey's Feb. 17 for the debut of Boise hip-hop supergroup Glorious Pop, a collaboration between Brock Stringer (Charles Engels) and Steve Stein (Oso Negro). For this project, the duo are going by the names Glorious Esteban and Trey Pop—because eleventy gazillion names is the easiest way for the press to keep track of who's who.
"I'm glad there's a bunch of people here on a Sunday for this," Esteban/Engels/Stringer said after opening sets from P-Dirt and Engels' live band, Family Matters. "I know y'all missed church for this. Or came right after Jeopardy."
Though Glorious Esteban had a more toned-down attitude than his alter ego, Charles Engels, Stringer was still in rare form, slamming back shots, climbing on the speakers and generally forgetting all the lyrics to the duo's songs.
Both Stringer and Stein said the goal of the project was to focus on a more mainstream pop sound than the aggressiveness or psychedelia of their solo projects. And for the most part, the duo accomplished that with snappy, mid-tempo beats perfect for head-bobbing, samples of "Summer in the City" and casual lyrical explorations of alien astronauts.
The band's debut EP was also released at the show.
"CDs are like $4.97," said Engels. "I hope y'all brought change."
It was not the strongest live debut ever. But with solid fundamentals and six weeks to go until the band plays with Sage Francis at Treefort, all should soon be well in Glorious Pop-ville.
You can stream the new EP below or download it here.
When Stephanie Bell of local band Hot Dog Sandwich originally approached The Pride Foundation to volunteer, she was expecting to help with the parade. She instead found herself putting together a benefit punk-rock show at Visual Arts Collective, called Equality Rocks.
It was a big enough success that Bell decided to keep going with the series, but moved it to The Crux so it could be all ages.
"How cool is it that there are 8-year-old kids here?" Bell laughed, surveying the audience at the third installment of Equality Rocks, on Feb. 16.
The kids in the audience weren't the only young ones there. Bell was especially excited about Standing Stupid, a high-school pop-punk band she booked for the show.
Her eyes drifted back toward the door at several people strolling into The Crux, oblivious to the donation station.
"I need to be a more aggressive door-watcher," she said.
The previous installments of Equality Rocks raised around $400 a piece for the Pride Foundation's scholarship programs.
"They did some really cool stuff in Washington with musicians for marriage equality, some big names," she said. "But we did our show first."
The first band of the night was The Retrobates, a five-piece rock group with atonal female vocals and the sloppy cohesion of The Voidoids.
"We're going to slow down," the singer said. " And I give my husband and Bart's wife permission to slow dance."
The Retrobates were followed by Standing Stupid, whose pitch was no more perfect than their predecessors. The arrangements and hooks showed promise, however, as did the band's clear enthusiasm for the stage.
After Standing Stupid finished, Ben the Drunken Poet read from a book of poems about the Holocaust.
The evening was capped off with a performance from Hot Dog Sandwich, who filled in for Roofied Resistance, which canceled at the last second. As always, the moon-shooting band sounded as classy and refined as its name suggests.
Boise thrash-metal band Krystos is a mess of contradictions. The band will headline Knitting Factory one night and the next, then play to eight drunks in leather vests in a dive bar at 1 a.m. with just as much enthusiasm. The band's name is almost unknown in the local music scene, and yet it has gotten several European tour offers. Its tunes are arguably the most metal thing in the area, and yet its frontman Billy Thornock is, like, way into Adele.
But that's part of what makes the band great. It's as polished and precise as kung fu, yet as raw and aggressive as a drunken haymaker.
Boise Weekly caught up with Krystos at a recent performance at Red Room for the latest episode of Scenes From a Scene.
Check it out below.