Interview: Fifty on their Heels

Photo courtesy of itstoosunnyouthere.com 

I meet Fifty on their Heels guitarist/vocalist Junior Metro and drummer Justin at Hamilton’s, a relatively new beer bar in South Park. Hunkered over pint glasses and chatting softly under the din of a Padres-cheering crowd, the two exude a calmness and modesty that’s immediately at odds with the frenetic swagger of their debut self-titled EP. With reverential nods to Brits like Wire, Stiff Little Fingers and Roxy Music (a consensus pick for Fifty’s favorite band), the record took home the 2006 San Diego Music Award for Best Punk Album. Continue reading

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My MusicMatters article on San Diego Bloggers

…has been lovingly transcribed by the beautiful and talented Rosemary Bystrak of SD Dialed In. You can read it online here. I interviewed cat dirt, sddialedin and chickrawker for the piece. I liked it so much, I bought the compa–er, I started my own. Which I currently neglect.
Oh, if you know any of the MusicMatters people, tell ’em to get their stuff online!

Show Review: The Bronx at the Beauty Bar

I arrived at the BB around 8:45 PM and found the place already somewhat full. Ran into some friends I hadn’t seen in a while: Kipper, who was DJing, Justin from Silverbird/Counterfit, and Tony from Fever Sleeves. Justin seems to be doing well and is excited about getting Silverbird out on the road. I’m excited for him, too.

By 9:15, the bar area was completely full, a fact that may or may not have had something to do with Nathan Black’s assertions that cover and booze was free before 10 PM. It was, sort of: the booze was being given away along with a promotion by Camel cigarettes. If you smoke, this doesn’t present an ethical quandary. For some of us, telling us we get free booze for signing up on Camel’s mailing list is like asking us to join NAMBLA for a $10 rebate on our next gas fillup.

Tonight we were all victims of the “amazing added band” trick. The band in question is Alarma, from Los Angeles. Tony from Fever Sleeves correctly pointed out that their drummer looks an awful lot like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. The other dudes look, well, like dudes in a band from LA that write songs about wanting to fuck women when they’re high. That’s the main lyric from their second song: “I wanna fuck you when your high.” Oh yeah, I think they also said, “I’m gonna feed you drugs,” but that part might not be a direct quote.

Creepy lyrics aside, this band’s chief concern should be getting to the point a little more quickly. It took until their fourth song for them to stumble upon a decent groove and riff. Thankfully, from that point forward the band loosened the groove and came off as aping early Zeppelin instead of aimlessly meandering through soulless coke rock (cat dirt called it out; this hipster embrace of 80s Sunset Strip culture is pretty humorous, though not without its own logic–vapid is as vapid does). Maybe that’s the vibe they’re going for. If so, good for them. They nailed it. As with most Beauty Bar crowds who aren’t watching exactly what they came to see, they welcomed the band with stunned indifference.

The Bronx was another story. As I’ve said before, the Bronx are a quintessential Casbah band and tonight’s crowd proved it. Let’s just say that the Beauty Bar has never exprienced quite so high a concentration of large dudes with black t-shirts who don’t give a rat’s ass about Marc Jacobs before. The Bronx are known for being confrontational and singer Matt Caughthran doesn’t seem happy until he’s got the crowd worked into a real frenzy, which took approximately two seconds from when they hit the stage. “It’s been a while since we’ve played, especially here in the United States,” he said. A moment later, the band charged into “Heart Attack American,” and the burly crowd launched as if spring-loaded toward him. Mid-song he leaned down and grabbed me by the throat/collar, using me for ballast as he leaned out over the churning mass in front of him. Troy Johnson was in there for a while–I lost track of him pretty quickly, however. I’m pretty sure he didn’t whip out his spin kicks or floor punches, but you never know.

Pic courtesy of Rosey at sdialedin.com

I turned to the security guard who was stationed at the back of the pit and asked if anyone had warned them how it would be on a night like this. “No, but I’m prepared for anything,” was his reply. Though I think he firmly believes that, it occurred to me at the moment that he was basically out there on an island. On a night like that the Casbah will have four or five extra security people on hand just in case things get too wild. I get the impression that one of the facets of being a younger venue is learning that kind of thing as you go, a process that will no doubt be slowed somewhat by the fact that different promoters are at the helm almost every night. Still, Mr. Security Guard gets big points for simply, but firmly, telling a crowd surfer to stop without physically engaging him or acting like a dick. Good on you, should you stumble across this.

The Bronx are not without good humor, however. About four songs in, Caughthran stopped to thank the event’s sponsor. Affecting a fake, half-country accent, he said, “I’d like to thank all the people at Camel for all the sort-of free booze and the lots of free cigarettes–but mostly cigarettes,” he deadpanned, getting lots of good natured laughs from the crowd. Pretty quickly the scrum was back on, as the band went into “Your Shitty Future.”

Though their set was fun and energetic, it did sound like they were working off–if not rust–then a coat of dust. They weren’t particularly loose–these guys never are–but I’ve seen them play tighter. Then again, given the active crowd, semi-free booze and backyard house party atmosphere, tightness really wasn’t the order of the day. Ken Horne (formerly of the Dragons) is on guitar, too, though most of the time I couldn’t really get righted enough to tell whether he was a necessary addition to Jobi Ford. There will be pics added to this post later (damn that cable!), so check back to see if your lovely face made it.

PS: I didn’t stick around for Gods Girls.

Show Review: Fifty on their Heels, the Vultures @ the Beauty Bar

cat dirt throws a pretty mean party, even if a no-show door person meant that he had to do so while collecting cover and manning the prodigious guest list. The only part of his hospitality of which I didn’t partake was the cupcakes, though they looked delicious. Pics from the event will be forthcoming–damn that enigmatic USB cable.

I had a chance to speak with Dan Wise, bassist of the Vultures and guitarist of Kill Me Tomorrow, before the show. I had not seen him in a dog’s age and was glad to be able to catch up. He’s taking upright bass lessons and seems to be enjoying the hell out of it. He made an interesting remark to the effect that he wanted to expand the repertoire of what he could do musically so as to be able to do it throughout his life. “I don’t want to be an aging rocker,” I believe, was the direct quote. I can second that. Dan’s work with Kill Me Tomorrow is excellent, reflecting a sincere desire to break up the narrow approach of dance punk by encorporating all sorts of musical odds and ends, and he’s still actively trying to grow and get better.

Also, I’ll give credit where credit is due. At least on this night, the bar staff was unfailingly polite and helpful. I made mention of a lousy experience there in another one of my posts, so I figure it’s only fair to recognize good work.

This was my first experience with the Vultures, or Chuck Rowell and the Vultures (which are they going by these days?). While I was never a big fan of the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower (though I did give Love in the Fascist Brothel a positive review), I’m less enamoured of the member’s current projects, both of which strike me as genre exercises. The Plot’s approach was famously all over the map; both the Prayers and the Vultures seem to be channeling very specific influences, though one does sunny Beach Boys-esque pop and the other Iggy and the Stooges/New York Dolls glam punk. Chuck’s stage presence is still an exercise in visible (if good natured) disdain for the audience, but his current vocal approach is straight-up Johnny Rotten. Perhaps I caught them on an off night.

Fifty on their Heels spent the entire Vultures set up front and listening intently. However you choose to look at it, the courtesy/honor/gesture wasn’t returned. The Vultures spent most of Fifty’s set stationed at the bar, which was too bad. They missed a pretty energetic offering from Junior, Justin and Nicky. It would have been nice, too, if the crowd had caught some of their energy; I was reminded of the Dismemberment Plan’s hilarious “Doing the Stand Still.” C’mon, it’s Saturday night, it’s a dance punk band and you have the disposable income to already be drinking the night away–can’t you loosen up and shake a leg?  My impression, and I may be incorrect, is that the Beauty Bar’s attracts a dance crowd that is more or less indifferent to a lot of the live music that goes on there. Individual shows, such as Battles or the upcoming appearance by the Bronx, may buck this trend, but it’s probably safe to say that the DJs do more business for the bar than the bands.

Tonight: Fifty on their Heels, the Vultures @ Beauty Bar

Yeah, I’m headed to see Fifty on their Heels at the Beauty Bar tonight. My feature on them just came out in MusicMatters, and I think they are great dudes. It’s cat dirt‘s wife’s birthday (I believe her blogger handle is CDW–which reminds me: I have a distant uncle who’s CB handle is “Texas T-Bone.” True story).

My favorite part of the interview was when Junior dismissed with the typical platitudes about scene support and acknowledged what has to be the biggest open secret in San Diego: this music scene doesn’t support each other for shit:

When asked to identify the best and worst aspects of the San Diego scene, the order in which they do is telling.  “The worst thing I’ve found is that I always hear talk about the community, and how bands look out for each other…I’ve never really felt that. I’ve felt cold shoulders, weird vibes sometimes. But when you find those bands that you really get along with, that’s the best thing, because you really have each other’s back. Of course it’s competitive–“

“Which is alright,” Nicky interjects.  “There’s a large concentration of good bands that may not be the type of music I’m in to, but there are quite a few really good bands playing, and lots of opportunity.”

Junior concedes. “For me, the Muslims are great. The Prayers EP was very good–I love that CD.”

Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but the majority of bands around here would (and have) stab(bed) you/me in the back for twenty dollars. I’m finding the bloggers I’ve basically just met to be more friendly and genuinely interested in each other’s work than the majority of bands my various projects have played with. The bloggers seem to get that more people writing means more people reading–the rising tide raises all ships, and it makes our scene, town and lives more interesting places to be.

Not to harp on the issue, but when I start blogging about the experience at Denverfest, you’ll see what I mean when I say that other scenes’ musicians definitely understand community much better than we do here. Click here to read what Reno band Think in French, first timers in Denver, had to say about the place. Given that no one is really making money off this stuff, shouldn’t comaraderie be a pretty central concern for San Diego musicians?

New MusicMatters out now

It’s a little embarassing being beaten to the punch about your own magazine, but as cat dirt reports, a new issue of MusicMatters magazine is out. I contributed a feature on Fifty on their Heels (I absolutely love the band shot of them, by the way), a feature on Augustana, a feature on In this Moment, and a show review of Tool‘s last sojourn through these parts.

I know MusicMatters doesn’t have the best reputation among readers in San Diego, but we’re working hard to change that. It’s glossy, it covers lots of different types of music, and the quality of the writing is right up there with what you read in the Reader, Citybeat, and the U-T (that’s a minimal statement, too. My humble opinion is that it’s better in some cases–hopefully, in my case, at least). Makes sense, as many of the people writing for MM write or have written for other local papers/magazines in the past.

sunn o))) / Earth / Weedeater @ the Casbah…

cat dirt has a good post/preview on tonight’s sunn o)))/Earth/Weedeater show at the Casbah. This is a veritable doom rocker’s dream lineup (several out-of-town touring bands I’ve spoken to pondered cancelling their shows tonight just to be there), and a classic example of the kind of show you can see in San Diego with 225 people that you’d have to see in another (even smaller) city with nearly a 1000. Isis’ gigs in town at the Casbah are sort of the same situation. There’s something to be said for seeing bands that can do 1000 cap rooms in a place not much bigger than a largish living room.