February 28, 2002

Noise Pop Tour Diary, Day 2

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Day (Night) 2 of Noise Pop was everything that Day 1 wasn't: noisy, rocky, exciting, entertaining, and dramatic. We began the evening began at Bottom of the Hill to check out Track Star. After a half-hour-long delay during which time walk-up customers were able to purchase tickets and go inside and badgeholders had to wait out front (membership does not have its privileges, apparently), we were finally granted egress to the club.

The wait was well worth it, though. Kicking off the show were kaitO, a phenomenal indie-pop band from Norwich, England, of all places. If Justine from Elastica sang for White Stripes, or if Sonic Youth were still relevant, or if Huggy Bear were more substance than style, they might approach the beauty that is kaitO.

Unhampered by the pretense that plagues so many of their stateside indie-rock counterparts (or at least hiding it really, really well), kaitO's quirky we-just-found-these-guitars-so-why-don't-we-hit-them-with-these-toys proto-pop approach was a joy to behold. Fresh and fun and unassuming and unpresumptuous; all things that Track Star, sadly, were not.

Remember when Track Star were going to be the Next Big Thing? Yeah, not so much anymore. Wearing their Velvets/Belle and Sebastian/power pop influences on their sleeves, Track Star sleepwalked through a set of homogenous pop-rock. About halfway through their set, my life partner turned to me and asked, "Why do they call this 'noise pop'? They should call it 'pussy rock' instead." It's funny because it's true.

Luckily our next stop was Bimbo's 365 to check out The Faint, who would restore our faith in rock 'n' roll in short order.

I've never been a huge fan of their music (or hadn't been before last night, anyway), but The Faint brought all the action and drama and spectacle that Noise Pop had so sorely been lacking. Sixty or so minutes of bludgeoning kitschy-retro '80s sequencer-powered goth raunch. Gene Loves Jezebel Loves Trent Reznor Loves Pete Burns Loves Andrew Eldritch. We loved them all.

And when we got bored of looking at the furious black-clad spectacle on stage (which was seldom), we could direct our attention to the Molly Ringwald-dancing throng around us. Very hot. Very hot.

The Faint will be back at Bimbo's on March 26th. Be there so you can say you were goth before goth was cool. Again, I mean.

February 27, 2002

Noise Pop 10

I've been attending assorted Noise Pop events for the last six or seven years, and this year I finally forked over cash (yes, cash; I paid for it outta my own pocket) for a Noise Pop 10 badge that will guarantee me entry to each and every event. I'll do my best to chronicle my adventures over the next six days here in the pages of musicrag. Here goes nothin'.

Noise Pop Tour Diary, Day 1

That should probably be Night 1, but that just didn't sound as good. Noise Pop SF 2002 kicked off with more of a whimper than a bang last night, and more pop than noise. The one and only event for the evening featured Death Cab for Cutie, Dismemberment Plan, The Velvet Teen, and Aveo at Bimbo's 365 (you know, where that Chris Isaak guy hangs out). There were myriad violations of the Rules of Rock, which I will chronicle below, and assess penalties for. Please remit all payments to Ian Miller, in care of this station.

After collecting our complimentary Noise Pop 10 T's (if you saw the shirts you'd know why they were free), we made our way into the club just in time to see Aveo hit the stage. Sounding by turns like he was channeling Morrissey and Thom Yorke, singer/guitarist William Wilson led the band through a short but powerful six-song set.

Rules of Rock Violations included: Wilson's annoying habit of lifting and lowering his leg out of time to the music, much like a rhythmless crane, $15; bassist Mike Hudson sporting a hooded sweatshirt and tousled Eddie Vedder hair. You're going to work, dude. At least pretend to care. $35.

Next up were Santa Rosa's own The Velvet Teen. When singer/guitarist Judah busted out with his amazing falsetto vocals, it occurred to me that they should just change the name of the whole damn thing to the Radiohead Festival. Loud/quiet dynamics, odd time signatures, quirky-poppy chord progressions — it's OK to steal from Radiohead, just don't do it all in the same song. That said, they were still damned good. I could've done with more rawk, but hey; they're from Santa Rosa, so cut 'em some slack. It was at this point in the evening that my life partner busted out the quote of the evening. After two consecutive power trios comprised of skinny, frail-looking dudes, she said, "I like my musicians skinny and frail. It makes me feel like they're trying harder." Sheer genius.

Rules of Rock Violations included: Judah sounded uncannily like Dennis DeYoung of Styx when not doing the falsetto thing. $60.

Then Dismemberment Plan were up. Ummm, so who said these guys were good? I know lots of people like D Plan, and I need to know who they are so I can put them on my official Enemies List. Somewhere at the intersection of Dave Matthews, the Barenaked Ladies, and every godawful frathouse band you've ever seen butcher "Brick House" is where Dismemberment Plan lives. Steer clear, I say. Turn back now. Before it's too late.

People, I thought we'd endured enough white boys playing funk rock. I thought this ended in '91 when Primus and those other goofy Bay Area bands went away or became irrelevant. Haven't we suffered enough?!?

Apparently we haven't, 'cuz D Plan played, like, forever, and the weirdest part is that the crowd ate it up. Listen, White Boy, unless you're the Minutemen or Gang of Four, I don't want to hear you "get funky," bro. There's only one D anything Plan in my eyes, and that's the almighty Dillinger Escape Plan. Go back to Rock School, impostor D Plan. Do not pass Go. Certainly do not collect $200..

Numerous Rules of Rock Violations included: Smug, annoying dwarf singer; disco drummer who looked like the Ghost Rider, only instead of flames had long stringy hair instead; bass player who looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo; synchronized dance steps with invitation to crowd to join in same. $1,500 total fines assessed, and one hour of life back, please.

Death Cab for Cutie rounded out the night, but I was already too pissed off at Dismemberment Plan to enjoy them. They were boring anyway, although their songs and performances were solid. There's a fine line between emo and tedious, and the Death Cab cats strayed to the tedious side. They were also hindered by an almost total lack of charisma and stage presence as well, which I'm sure didn't help. Anyway, we bailed after a half-dozen songs or so.

Rules of Rock Violations included: Being old and tubby and boring. This is a correctable violation, also known as a "fix-it ticket." So at your next show, move around or something. Have a salad, or go for a run or something. There is no room for fat guys in rock. Literally or figuratively.

So that was Night 1 of Noise Pop 10. Tonight we're off to catch Track Star at Bottom of the Hill, then back to Bimbo's for The Faint. I have high hopes for The Faint, anyway. But if they end up sucking, does anyone wanna buy a couple of slightly used Noise Pop 10 badges cheap?

the Last Splash?

Last night, I had the great privilege to see alt-rock darlings The Breeders play before a sold-out show at the excellent Casbah, in San Diego, CA. Twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal and Jim MacPherson were joined by a new bassist (who according to Kim, they "were lucky enough to have picked up in East L.A.") and another guitarist (why have two guitars on stage when you can have 3?). Kim shared with the audience that original bassist Josephine Wiggs had "got lost in New York". Oh well, three out of four original members is good enough.

After a very long, slow equipment set-up (remember, there were 3 people playing guitar), The Breeders finally treated fans to old and yes, NEW songs. Surprisingly, it was Kelley who was the sober half of the Deal sisters, who at one point prompted Kim to comment, "I hate sober people". Kim looked a wreck, though she was still able to sing, play guitar, and stumble on stage. Even though I was the youngest person there, I was able to feel a little old (for the second time in my life- first time was in 2000 when I went to the Warped Tour only to see Weezer play and was surrounded by 14 year old boys, some accompanied by their parents). Nostalgia set in and here's where I unashamedly reveal my age. I bought Last Splash at the bitter age of 13, when 'alternative rock' was truly alternative to the mainstream crap on radio and MTV, during that most magical, musical year of 1993. It was crazy and wonderful to see them play live 9 years later. It is comforting to know that they can still play "Cannonball" with dignity. It is also comforting that there are aging hipsters who stupidly shout in between songs "Gigantic"! I suppose some people are still holding their breath for The Pixies to prepare their reunion tour (wishful thinking).

At the end of the show, I shook Kim's hand and for lack of anything else to say, I casually asked for an interview today (they play another sold-out Casbah show tonight) to which she replied (as politely as possible) "Hell no...I'm lucky I'm still standing right now". A classic moment. That truly did put a smile on my face as I walked out. Gold star to Kim for her honesty. Although she turned me down (I really wasn't expecting her to say yes, come on now), I still want to thank Kim for signing my ticket.

Look out for a new album sometime this summer on 4AD .

February 21, 2002

This guy has two first names but we'll let it slide

I'm pretty sure that liking Craig David in some way makes me less of a music connoisseur but I'm not sure I care. It's too damn good. For better than boy band harmony and pop visit: CraigDavid.com.