Sean Hannity’s “Jingopalooza” coming July 26…

For reasons either oddly perverse (or perversely odd), I am excited as hell about this particular event. Sean Hannity, war-mongering talking head whose life appears to be one long audition for the role of Press Secretary for the Satan Administration, will be touching down in San Diego for one of his “Freedom Concerts” (does that mean that before the Iraq war these would have been called “French Concerts”?) on July 26, 2007.

The concerts, proving that even the wrongheaded can sometimes do the right thing, benefit the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund for children of those soldiers who have died in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. To be sure, the fine distinction between supporting the children of fallen service persons and supporting the rapacious administration that put them in harm’s way in the first place will be lost on Hannity. If you’re at all familiar with Hannity, you know that this is par for his particular course: take a relatively multi-faceted issue/problem and boil it down to whatever you can scream, Tourette’s-like, at your opponent.

What’s telling is that support for the war is so low, the headlining acts for this year’s freedom concert are Montgomery Gentry and Lee Greenwood. Montgomery Gentry are apparently a country music duo. Heard any of their songs? Me neither. And don’t get me started on Lee Greenwood. Since his insipid “God Bless the USA” (according to the website, “one of the most recognizable patriotic sons (sp) in the country”) became popular during the last Iraq war, this chiseler has been pedaling patriotic platitudes about freedom to people who believe the concept only applies to upper middle-class white Christians. I find this somewhat amusing for the simple fact that he looks, for all the world, like aging rough trade.

The best part is that Hannity, a NYC-born and raised Irish Catholic, has to go around pretending to be into country music for the simple fact that his most staunch supporters are inbred troglodytes who think the pope killed Christ.

Note to mis hermanos down south, who are looking to come across the border: here’s your chance. I guarantee the Minutemen will be taking this day off from their “posts.”

The capper: the keynote speaker is Oliver North. When your list of friends is dwindling to country pop singers and drug dealers, you might be on the wrong side of the issue.

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Show Review: Transfer, Apes of Wrath, the Vulgar Herd @ the Ken Club

Oh the Dialed In and the Dirtbag should be friends,
Oh the Dialed In and the Dirtbag should be friends,
One may dig the Dynamite Walls,
The other digs stuff with more balls,
But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.

Rosey and I met up last night at the Ken Club to see Transfer and Apes of Wrath celebrate the most famous pro-slavery, anti-tax revolt in history (in honor of this aristocratic rebellion, I tried to affect my best Thurston Howell for the photo). It was almost impossible for me to believe that this would be my first time seeing Transfer. Transfer arrived in San Diego about the same time as The North Atlantic, and while it took them a little longer to get going, my, my, are they going. The Ken was packed from 9:30 PM on, with Transfer’s usual mixture of well-meaning hippies, older folks digging on their Zeppelin-esque 70s vibe, and PB denizens. I recognized virtually no one, a sign I take as positive. Bands that appeal primarily to other musicians may benefit from all sorts of scene cred, but ask any professional band (by which I mean any band trying to make money making music) and they’ll tell you that what they need are fewer post-show discussions of effects pedals and more people standing in their merch line. Transfer seem to be one of the favorite bands of the non-hipster crowd, which in my book is a good thing. It usually means that the band can play and that their tunes mean more than their ability to do the hang. Good for them.

First up, presumably, was the Vulgar Herd. Two initial observations: 1. these guys roll with a TON of gear and take a little too long getting off stage and packed up, and 2. the other bands apparently didn’t know they would be there. Given these two facts, I was predisposed to not liking them purely for matters of band etiquette. That said, I was amused and entertained by their odd mixture of of Pretzel Logic-era Steely Dan and Europe, of all bands. The crowd didn’t quite seem to be picking up on what they were putting down: if not for a back wall, I’m pretty sure most onlookers would have been standing in front of the WaMu across the street. I liked them alright, though, and they seemed to be having a good time.

 

Next was Apes of Wrath. My brother Jason was excited to see this band because he works with the drummer, who apparently has spent every conversation the two of them have had downplaying the quality of both his drumming and his band. And while low expectations are easy to surpass, he needn’t have worried: Apes of Wrath were fun, interesting and energetic. The best I can do to describe them would be to imagine Bloc Party covering Thin Lizzy and Television songs: tandem guitar flourishes, manic, fevered drumming, and tight, bouncy bass made the band very fun for the musician in me. When their singer finds the vocal hooks to match their considerable compositional skills, I’ll be swearing up and down that its time to break out the anointing oil.

 

 

Transfer was the big draw this evening. By the time they (somewhat shakily, judging by singer Matt Molarius’s laughter) eased into the first notes of their first song, the crowd was already in good spirits. I’d estimate there were at least 150 in the music room for their set–or, put another way, considerably more than it was designed to hold:

 

The highlight of the set for me was the new track “You Are the Wolf,” Transfer’s contribution to the upcoming Black Box compilation, which probably does the best job of showcasing the band’s unique knack for shoehorning pop songs into expansive soundscapes that reference but don’t ape classic rock; the kind of tune that has earned comparisions to bands like My Morning Jacket. Other songs, however, played it closer to the leather vest, so to speak: at their worst, Transfer sound like a competent, Zeppelin-inspired classic rock band. While that’s no faint praise, the more they can do to escape the comfortable but well-worn territory of 70s rock, the better.

PS: Where were the suits? Oh, right–it’s always 120 degrees in the Ken Club music room.

 

My American Heart are goddamn young

I just finished up a story for MusicMatters on My American Heart, the Kevin Lyman-backed National City band that was one of the first signees to Lyman’s Warcon Records. Warcon is a strange label, home not just to MAH by also Helmet, a great band past their prime, and Opiate for the Masses, a band that, to quote Major League, “never had a prime.” My only experience with Opiate for the Masses was watching their singer (who I swear to God is a body double for Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray) prance around on stage at SXSW in 2006. “This shit sucks,” I drunkenly muttered to the bartender at Emo’s. Judging by the strength and comped nature of the drink he poured me, I assumed he was in agreement.

Back to My American Heart. I can’t honestly say that I like the band–let’s just say that the article is a feature, and decidedly NOT a review–though my limited interactions with them led me to like them as people. It’s truly amazing to me. Three of them dropped out of high school to tour full-time. Their oldest member is 22, and he’s the newest. The core of the band are all 19 or just turned 20, meaning that they’ve been touring and recording since about the time that most people start thinking about prom. It also means that they’re a full decade younger than I. The guys seem to mean well and have made some pretty solid career choices. They are now managed by Mike Bachta, who also handles biz for Spitalfield, Wax on Radio, Hidden in Plain View, and others. That’s good. I think for them to grow as artists, they’ll need a foil to Lyman’s “Forever 13” musical tastes, and Bachta can provide that.

Sure, My American Heart sound like a lot of other emo bands (Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is…, and Rufio, to be exact), and their black coifs have gotten them dubbed My American Haircuts, but before you bash a band like My American Heart, think back to the way you dressed and acted when you were 19. As John Cusack said in High Fidelity: “Now who’s the asshole?”

Save that kind of vitriol for people my age who are content to play the same kind of stuff. Kids making kids’ music is one thing. Guys like Pete Wentz (who’s 29) and Davey Havok (who’s 31) are one small step from being the Wiggles (see below) in eyeliner.

Inagural post: Barfer? Appreciation Day

For my inagural post, I figured I would direct my attention to Barfer? for a couple of reasons. The first is that for whatever reason, most of the other music blogs cover the garage/indie rock scene pretty well, while leaving hardcore, punk and artier stuff out in the cold. The Muslims are fine, and Grand Ole Party are nice folks, and the Prayers do a real good impression of the Shins two records ago.

I’m more interested in covering punk and hardcore, with the odd metal/indie/whatever band/show thrown in for good measure. It’s underserved from a reader standpoint and underhyped with respect to how good most of the bands really are. Ask most people outside of San Diego what we’re known for, and you’ll hear names like Swing Kids, the Locust, Drive like Jehu, Hot Snakes, Three Mile Pilot, Thingy and Heavy Vegetable (if someone mentions Tanner or Fishwife, extra points). None of these bands–or, more accurately, the bands working in this particular idiom–are served by the San Diego blog community. That’s a shame, since they’re pulling a lot of the weight in terms of making music that differentiates us from a host of other cities and scenes.

Anyway, back to Barfer? Barfer? is Mikey McCardle, formerly of Business Lady, Jason Hendrix of The North Atlantic (and my little brother, FYI), and Brandon Relf of Sleeping People. Their music sounds closer in spirit to the spazcore of the Locust, infused a bit with moments of more blissful prettiness courtesy of Hendrix’s guitar-like take on bass. Then there’s McCardle, who plays keys but mostly engages in something occupying the space between singing, performance art, and court jestering. They aren’t terribly easy on the ears, but get points for at least challenging the competing frameworks of art rock and hardcore–frameworks that, perhaps paradoxically, both exhibit a tendency toward the formulaic. You can’t dance to it, so I don’t know that they’ll be the hot new shit on the dance party scene. You can, however, be awed. Isn’t that still in style?

So far they have no recorded music, though they do have a Myspace page.

Battles/Ponytail at Beauty Bar, June 29

Alas, I am going to miss this show. In fact, I’m writing from the airport at the moment, getting ready to head east for my step-grandmother’s funeral. Jason and I got bumped from our first flight (we’ve been here for five hours now) but in return got an upgrade to first class (a definite solid, as we’re headed to Connecticut) and two round-trip tickets gratis.

Anyway, I saw Battles a couple of years ago. I met John Stainer, their drummer, who was the original force behind Helmet. Nice enough guy. Much nicer than Damon Che, drummer for Don Caballero and former conspirator with Ian Williams, Battles’ guitarist. I interviewd Damon Che a while back–the man was incredibly standoffish, though a great interview. Anyone who references Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett, the size of his ass and bar rags in a forty second span is worth listening to. Their split was acrimonious to say the least; judging by Myspace plays at this point, it seems like Williams is winning. I still think Don Cab is superior, but that mostly goes back to their record American Don, which is probably the pinnacle of instrumental math rock.

I can’t figure out why this show is at the Beauty Bar, except that the Casbah has Steve Poltz and Anya Marina that night. Something tells me both shows will do fine. I’m having trouble imagining the individual that will feel genuinely torn between Battles’ Nintendo rock and Steve and Anya singing songs about whales and moonlit walks.

I’m still not quite sold on the Beauty Bar as a legitimate alternative to the Casbah from a sound reinforcement perspective, but a lot of the bad press from the rock crowd is a little undeserved. Sure, it’s frequented by hipsters who still need training wheels, but they serve beer and booze just like every other venue and the security team strike me as being agreeable dudes. So I’m going to second (or third) cat dirt and tell people to go there. Just be aware that you may be treated haughtily by a certain bartender. I find that kind of behavior hysterical: you’re selling beer in the middle of a “neighborhood in transition” to college kids, and you’re acting like you’re writing the great American novel.