Show Review: Sleeping People (CD Release), Kill Me Tomorrow, Aspects of Physics

Curse my lousy memory: because of it, you get no pictures from what was–all in all–a very interesting, eclectic night at the Casbah. When Sleeping People, a co-ed, mixed-race group that rocks in systems of equations and shit, is the most conventional band on the bill, you know you’re in for a pretty interesting evening.

Aspects of Physics took the stage later than expected due to a confluence of factors:

1. For three dudes, they have a shit ton of gear. It’s awesome, and effective, and creates an incredible amount of layered sound, but it does have to moved, positioned, and set up.
2. The drummer from Vagabond Opera (who headlined the Casbah’s early show, and apparently had belly dancers on hand) apparently didn’t get the memo that, when another band is coming on stage right after you, it’s considered good form to REMOVE YOUR GEAR FROM THE STAGE AREA BEFORE DISASSEMBLING IT. Can you tell I’ve been in this situation before?

Once on stage, the trio of Jason Soares, Jeff Coad, and Brent Asbury were masterful. Asbury was especially impressive. Playing to a pre-recorded rhythm track, which is one of the toughest things for a drummer to do period, his power and presence behind the kit were phenomenal. Why isn’t this guy’s name thrown around in the discussion of best drummers in San Diego? That said, they sounded great but probably played too long by one song, as the Casbah had to hit them with the house lights in the middle of their last tune.

Kill Me Tomorrow took the stage next. I met them for the first time years–and I mean years–ago when our two bands were mysteriously booked at the Spanish Moon Cantina in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the same night while on tour. I’ve been a pretty dedicated observer of the output of Kill Me Tomorrow, mostly for the fact that they produce clothes and books with about the same frequency as records, which is interesting in its own right. This was my first time seeing them with Tobyn McCormick in the band, and his additions of percussion and horn added to Kill Me Tomorrow’s standard fare of noisy, percussive and off-kilter dance punk. It’s funny, because most people, myself included, tend to call them an electro-punk band, even though their actual ratio of electronic to organic instrumentation is quite low. Weird. Anyway, they were good.

Sleeping People got the stage late–it was about 12:50 AM when they finally started playing their first notes, and by then the crowd had unfortunately thinned out a bit. Starting shows late may be good for the opening bands but it’s another classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is unfortunate when it’s Paul’s CD release show. That notwithstanding, Sleeping People attacked their first song, “Yellow Guy, Pink Eye” with unmitigated ferocity. As impressive as the guitars of Casey Flowe and Joileah Maddock are, the real fireworks come from the bass and drums tandem of Kenseth Thibideaux and Brandon Relf. Brandini, as he’s known to some, is San Diego’s resident Damon Che, a flurry of muscle memory-defying fills and a sense for finding “the one,” in drummer terms, that positively creepy.

After their set, which was cut short due to time restrictions, my buddy Kirk picked up their new record on double-gatefold vinyl. If you have a record player and like being dizzy, I recommend you do the same.

Sleeping People CD release Saturday night @ Casbah

Now this is the kind of lineup I can get behind: Sleeping People, Kill Me Tomorrow, and Aspects of Physics this Saturday at the Casbah. Math rock that’s more rock than math, an electro funked-out soundtracks to monster movies, and the band I wish Rob Crowe spent most of his time with. I couldn’t really ask for more.

I wouldn’t expect many skinny ties. I’d expect a lot of notes. A lot of notes.

Show Review: Marnie Stern, Sleeping People, Japandi @ the Casbah

Math rock can go one of two ways. At best, it has the capacity to challenge the mind with dense interplay and inventive songwriting. At worst, it’s an opaque mass of notes and rhythms that lacks coherence and serves as a backdrop for tech-nerd wanking. There aren’t a whole lot of “bad” math rock bands–the exigencies of playing math rock tend to weed out the shitty instrumentalists–but this is to say that there are plenty of boring and unchallenging ones.

The three bands at the Casbah last night, New York’s Marnie Stern and San Diego’s Sleeping People and Japandi, all fall into the former category, and all do so in different ways. Japandi, who opened the show, did so with a little more emphasis on song structure and groove. Japandi are painfully young; I think their drummer is 19. He certainly didn’t play like it.

Aside from the drumming (I am a drummer, what can I say), the rest of the band was more than capable. About the only thing I could say about them in the way of criticism is that some of their songs seem like they could easily be made into more conventional songs (i.e. with the addition of lyrics). All that means is that there’s still more room for experimentation within the sound that they’re working with.

Sleeping People are probably San Diego’s best math rockers. They seem to be well liked in other places, due to a phenomenon known in the 1990s as “touring.” Of all the bands doing this kind of dense, complex instrumental stuff, Sleeping People probably do the best job of creating strange, tense head space with their music. It’s hard to say something sounds paranoid, but that’s exactly what it made me feel. Dark. Even playful sometimes. The whole band is kickass, from Casey and Joi on guitar to Kenseth Thibideau bass and Brandon (Brandini) Relf on drums, they are all at the top of their game. Bradon’s some kind of savant. He simply plays like no one else I’ve ever seen.

Later in their set, Rob Crow joined them for guest vocals on the track they’ve contributed to the Black Box compilation. In related news, the release shows for the comp are August 23 and 24 at the Casbah. A two night affair, eh?

In between bands I chatted with Andrea, a fixture in many of the pictures taken by Rosie at sddialedin. Just ’cause Rosie’s taking the night off (or rather, taking in the Republic of Letters in Solana Beach) doesn’t mean your off the dropped-name hook.

Marnie Stern is, apparently, both a band and a person. The person is Marnie Stern, who plays guitar in a way that tends almost exclusively to the type of two-hand tapping that Eddie Van Halen made famous and Ian Williams of Don Cab reclaimed for indie rockers everywhere. Marnie Stern also counts on Josh and Zak Hill of Hella for instrumental support. The latter Hill is one of the craziest drummers I’ve witnessed. Playing a set that looks like it had been tortured, he was all over the place. His right foot might be the fastest thing on the planet. Remember when Roadrunner would really get to hauling ass and his feet would blur into what looked like a giant blue tank tread? Yeah, Zak’s foot sorta looked like that. The band/she is doing a series of dates on the west coast, with tonight’s stop in LA and tomorrow’s in San Francisco. Ostensibly, that’s where they reconnect with the magic spaceship that put them here.

Adding to the fun is the fact that Marnie actually sings. When she does, it’s some bizarre, left-field stuff. If this makes any sense, her music sounds little like Gwen Stefani took a bunch of mushrooms and made some weird, Robert Johnson like deal with the devil to become an insane guitar monster. Somewhere, there’s a reader who’s got the Go! Team, Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien and Hella in their car’s disc changer. Congratulations: you just found your new favorite band.

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.