Show Review: Valient Thorr, ASG, Totimoshi

If you’re pondering a quiet night at home with a mystery novel and a glass of chardonnay, the Volcom 2007 Tour isn’t a good backup option. If you’re original plans included stealing a school bus, doing donuts in the Qualcomm parking lot and huffing paint thinner, I can report that this tour will give you pretty much the same high for a lot less jail time.

Totimoshi were up first. Hailing from Oakland, the trio is composed of the husband-and-wife team of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos on guitar and bass and Bill Bowman on drums–at least right now. Totimoshi is apparently on their ninth drummer. That’s not Spinal Tap territory–that’s Elizabeth Taylor territory. I hope he sticks it out. His Bonham-meets-Bill Ward approach to the kit works well in the context of Totimoshi’s sludgy brew. They’re somewhere in the middle of the vast expanse that is the resurgent doom/stoner metal scene, though they carry it off with a little less self-consciously dark imagery. On this, the first night of the tour, they looked to be having a good time.

ASG was second. ASG apparently stands for Amplified Self-Gratification. I’m glad it didn’t stand for autoerotic self-gratification, which could have made the evening a little uncomfortable. Then again, with the amount of full-frontal noodling going on, it might as well have been. ASG seemed pretty fun, mixing some of the proggy guitar pyrotechnics of bands like Coheed and Cambria with loping, 6/8 sea shanty rhythms. Jason Shi’s vocal histrionics were made all the more impressive by his ability to keep the riffing heavy and articulate all the while.

The crowd for ASG was small, tuned-up and ultimately a little too violent for their own good. I like a good scrum as much as the next guy, but I thought the days of leading with your elbows and kicks were sort of on the wane. One unlucky woman who waded into the pit got a nice big cut on her forehead for the trouble. As much as I felt sorry for her, I figured this was also a classic “bull–>horns” situation. The little shit that hit her just shrugged and didn’t even stop dancing.

Matt, one of the Casbah’s staff, had his hands full keep dancers from running into onlookers, many of whom seemed less than thrilled (and more than pissed off) by ten people dominating the entire floor area. This led to a bunch of predictable confrontations between dancers and standers, with some coming dangerously close to fisticuffs. That’s not ASG’s fault, and I certainly don’t blame them. I just wonder what it is about them that attracts that kind of shit. At first my buddy commented that they reminded him of Black Flag playing Zeppelin covers. About three songs in, he amended that to be Pennywise playing Zeppelin covers. Maybe that’s the key. Dude at least gets points for rocking a Kylesa shirt.

Finally, it was time for the Thorr. Being 29, bitter about touring, and bald, you’d probably not be shocked to find that I’m not all that impressed by most bands that I see. Valient Thorr is one of the few “new” bands (i.e. of which I’ve become aware in the past three years or so) that turned me into an immediate fan. Their recorded stuff is fine, but where they excel is as a live band. Simply put, they are the most fun live band I’ve seen since Les Savy Fav–and they’ve been my favorite live band for some time now.

Their mythology is pretty marginal these days–mostly, I think they’re content to let their frontman’s madcap antics and sarcastic stream of consciousness, MC5-esque rants carry the bands personality. And good golly, these dudes can shred. Their sound blends Motorhead, ZZ Top and rocket-fueled Skynyrd into a pretty infectious concoction. While fans seemed most pleased by the cuts from 2006’s Legend of the World, the new songs Valient Thorr tried out were greeted with hearty applause and sweaty dancing. As I recall, that’s what rock and roll is all about. Hate if you must–just don’t try to sell me on some LA band half-assing their way through lackluster stoner rock. If you want to see what a good time at a good price looks like, this tour is a must see.

Tonight’s the Night: Limbeck @ SOMA, Valient Thorr @ The Casbah

Tonight’s appetizer is OC’s Limbeck. Limbeck’s career arc seems to follow that of Murder by Death: first records display emo-ish tendencies the bands’ picked up in high school and college, while their later stuff moves toward country-tinged territory. Whereas MBD wind up somewhere in between Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello, Limbeck winds up closer to Graham Parsons and early Wilco. I’ll be interviewing the band for MusicMatters magazine, which reminds me that I ought to think about what I might ask them. They’re playing with the Format and the Honorary Title.

The main course is Valient Thorr at the Casbah. Rather than try to describe what the scene will be like, I found this visual representation:

If you don’t understand why I can dig stuff like this but not 95% o the “metal” that comes out of LA, find an online dictionary and look up the term “taking the piss.” Valient Thorr must be the most earnest piss-takers of all time. I’ve seen them four or five times now, and I still have no idea to what degree they are a) ZZ Top-esque showmen, b) criticism of punk rock, or c) meta-criticism of rock and roll. The one thing I can tell you is that they are a hell of a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it. As this is a Volcom Records tour, the support will be Totimoshi and ASG.

Set list from our last San Diego show:

Transparent Life
The Lotus Eater
Drunk under Electrics
Father in the Sky
Heads for Herod
Drunkship Man
Lotion Party
Bottom of this Town
Atmosphere vs. the Dogs of Dawn
Ministry of Helicopters

More photos and what not to come. The little sis went home to Knoxville yesterday, meaning that I’ll be back on the horse this week. What am I looking forward to?  Limbeck at SOMA, Valient Thorr at the Casbah, and not looking after an eleven year old in crowded public places.

Logjam on July 31…

OK, San Diego really, really needs to help me out with more awesome shows with the following:

1. Bearded dudes, black t-shirts (both on stage and in the crowd)
2. Punk of the non-So-Cal variety
3. Rock of the non-Sunset-Strip variety

July 31 looks like it’s serving up a double helping of shows that fit that bill. The first is Limbeck playing with a bunch of weenies over at SOMA; I’m going to do my best to get to that show, though I am loathe to pay for it. Later, however, we get a real, real treat in the form of Valient Thorr later that night at the Casbah.

I’ve seen Valient Thorr three times, and they’ve yet to do anything but put a big, big smile on my face. They are to ZZ Top what the Darkness is to Def Leppard: a loving, winking, self-depricating recreation of a sound and spirit of a massively overblown band whose persona eventually overshadowed their obvious tunefulness and fun. Thorr’s got a mythology all their own (I don’t know, they’re from Uranus or some such silliness), but they rock hard and unapologetically. Their shows have been the closest thing to a Les Savy Fav-like experience I’ve seen since, characterized by an active, raucous crowd and a hairy, paunchy frontman whose whole stage shtick puts all the rock and roll pretenders in these parts to shame…part metacriticism, part carnival barker, part great bar band.

It really, really bums me out to no end that I’m having to look all the way to the end of the month to find compelling shows to write about. San Diego dirtbags–get on the ball

Oh yeah, I just found this video of Valient Thorr playing SXSW with Wayne Kramer of the MC5. If they get his seal of approval, they should get yours, too.