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T.S.O.L. matinee/Jack Grisham book signing at The Observatory; Publication reviews: Untamed by Jack Grisham, Hard Art by Lucian Perkins, Perpetually Twelve 10 by McHank
Tuesday, Jun 11, 2013 7:54AM / Standard Entry
T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham just released a new collection of short stories, Untamed. To celebrate, he had a book signing/punk rock matinee at The Observatory in Santa Ana. For the price of the book you got a free show! I got there just in time to introduce Jack to Eloise, have my copy signed, and catch the end of the afternoon’s final opener.
The Detours are a first-wave Orange County punk band, circa 1977. And in addition to decades of shredding to dip into, they can throw in a ripping version of “No Way” (doesn’t hurt that various members have played in The Adolescents, D.I., Christian Death, Social Distortion…). Awesome.
Four o’clock headliners T.S.O.L. gleefully served up all the old hits like maniacs, from anarchist rippers like “Abolish Government/Silent Majority” to proto-death rock classics like “Sounds of Laughter.” The pit was raging for a Sunday afternoon, and I was stoked that my five-year-old daughter lasted more than halfway through the set. I was also shocked to find out that the band played a second show that night at an American Legion Hall in Baldwin Park. Damn! Jack says the band is embarking on a South American tour this week, but there’s another chance to get your book signed at Beyond Baroque on June 23. Go! Jack isn’t as scary as you think.
Untamed, Jack Grisham
Jack Grisham’s literary work is joyfully twisted, right in step with the T.S.O.L. singer’s musical output (dark, violent) and legend (troublemaker, ass-kicker). And like his memoir, An American Demon, the brand-new collection of 10 short stories by T.S.O.L.’s singer is loosely based or at least inspired by his own life experiences. What’s real and what’s made up provide a ton of subtext for literary punks but fallen angels, torture, murder, and sex with stuffed animals make it a real page turner for anyone. Accompanied by R. Crumb-esque illustrations by Scott Aicher. [Punk Hostage Press]
Hard Art, Lucian Perkins
This collection of images by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lucian Perkins draws not from his stints in Afghanistan, Kosovo, or the Persian Gulf War but the Washington DC punk scene of 1979. The unpublished black-and-white photography captures key gigs in the embryonic punk scene that included Bad Brains (before they left for New York) and Teen Idles (featuring pre-Minor Threat Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson). The live shots are stunning but the photos of the audience are just as important–reflecting a real sense of community and not just a star factory. Insightful narrative is provided by none other than participants and musicians Alec Mackaye and Henry Rollins. [Akashic Books]
Perpetually Twelve 10
The balance has shifted from words to art in the latest issue of McHank’s zine out of San Diego. Among other pieces, I really dig the hot-rod inspired brushs of Mr. Sleeep and bold inks of Frenemy. McHanks’ fan art is awesome, too. I call it that not disparagingly but because he lovingly depicts Kermit the Frog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the same enthusiasm and spirit shown in interviews with the band More Humans and Matt Pryor from Get Up Kids. McHank reminds me why zines are awesome, and has not only gotten me back into them but actually invited me to contribute to this one. My two-page comic strip is right up front, and you can see the first few panels here… Hit up my friend for a copy! [www.facebook.com/perpetuallytwelve]
Retox at Vacation Vinyl plus publication reviews: Temperature’s Rising, Indulgence 11, What Will Hatch?
Saturday, Jun 1, 2013 7:11AM / Standard Entry
One of the tiniest shops on Sunset, Vacation Vinyl, has hosted some of the gnarliest in-stores, from Converge to OFF! Before this week’s Retox gig in the shoebox-like store, guitar ripper Michael Crain asked my friend Ben and me, “Did you bring earplugs?”
The Tinnitus-inducing San Diego group takes the ultra-aware, hyper-detailed hardcore of singer Justin Pearson’s best-known band The Locust and strips away the conceptual layers but not the brains or surgical precision. Featuring the furious rhythm section of bassist Thor Dickey and drummer Brian Evans, their raw-yet-forward-looking hardcore jams are loaded with animalistic power yet worthy of being deconstructed. Yes, it was a very heavy 20 minutes at Vacation and I kept wondering if JP was going to knock the camera out of my hands whenever I broke it out. (Never happened.)
Watch the appropriately fast-moving doc (featuring members of Melvins, Tomahawk, and the YYYs) and then cop the new LP, YPLL, right afterward. Definitely catch them live when you can, too, because they could implode at any second–although these guys are way too smart and seasoned for you to ever worry about them sucking.
Mike McGonigal, Temperature’s Rising: Galaxie 500 – An Oral and Visual History
The proto lo-fi indie trio from Cambridge wasn’t around for that many years but was massively influential and still much loved. Hence, this handsome paperback about the band’s rise, success (in Europe), and disintegration with each of its albums roughly representing one of the chapters of its lifespan. Fans will briskly read the no-holds-barred reassessments and anecdotes from not only members Dean Wareham, Damon Krukowski, and Naomi Yang but also producer Kramer, Simon Raymonde from the Cocteau Twins, and many other key contributors and observers, and then go back to devour the meticulously collected photography and artifacts with droll annotations by Naomi herself. An excellent time capsule and true labor of love. (Yeti Publishing)
Jennifer Ward and Susie Ghahremani, What Will Hatch?
I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the brushwork of indie art superstar/my longtime friend Susie Gharemani in person so it was a real trip for me to see it reproduced in this gorgeous children’s book by Jennifer Ward. As a parent of a recently graduated preschooler, I put a lot value on books that not only trigger her imagination with well-framed information but cultivate her aesthetics. This is a perfect example with curious die-cuts and a mature color palate that balances the cuteness of the animal babies depicted. (Walker & Company)
Eleanor Whitney, Indulgence 11
It was shortly after seeing the aforementioned Susie Ghahremani’s band play that I was handed a copy of this zine. Simply (and beautifully) made with a Gocco cover and bound by string, it has a cut-and-paste aesthetic and energy that mirrors its maker’s credo. Eleanor writes about joining a band after years of being a fan of music, which is inspiring, and includes thought-provoking infographics, but my favorite part is where she daydreams about Los Angeles being a creative mecca favorable to the DIY capital of the world where she comes from, Portland, OR, and comparable to Paris, France. What excuses do I have to not fulfill my dreams? (killerfemme.com)
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:49PM / Standard Entry
I was pretty bummed when I found out that both Boris shows at The Echoplex were sold out. Also pissed at myself for not immediately buying tickets. After all, how often does one of my favorite bands make it all the way here from Japan–the group that I actually sold merch for when they toured with our mutual friends Damon & Naomi back in 2008. Then out of the kindness of her heart, the very same Naomi hit up Atsuo from Boris on my behalf and he put me on the guest list. What? And thanks!
The first opener was Marriages, who hint at what Siouxsie might sound like if she were backed by The Melvins instead of The Banshees. Yeah, it was that good. Next up was a black metal band, Deafheaven. I think they are what Iceage want to be when they grow up–super hard and colder than shit. This is the type of top-shelf noise you get when a label like Sargent House takes over a venue…
Finally, there was Boris. The first night of their two-night stand was billed as a “greatest hits” night with rockers like “Statement” and “Pink.” I don’t think any other band in the world can match their supreme blend of psychedelic jams, sludgy doom, and straight-up metal licks. I had actually never heard them as a trio–they often tour with the unofficial fourth member/guitar god Kurihara–so it was wild to hear “Rainbow” without him. So heavy. So awesome. (Yes, that is indeed O in the picture above. He was doing sound for Boris.)
Around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., I received an email from Atsuo who said that he didn’t see me at the gig and that I was on the list for the second show as well. This was billed as the more experimental set, and wouldn’t I be a dick if I didn’t go and say thank you?
While I left the first evening totally satisfied, it was kind of like having one bookend without the other. Boris’ rocking side is complemented by a more noisy and arty side, and it was rad to hear the intense, epic buildup of “Flood” in the same set as the gorgeous “Attention Please.” The band’s masterful and massive range of harsh noise to gentle beauty is huge, matched only by the members’ coolness. It will seem like forever before they come back but it’s comforting that the prolific band keeps cranking out excellent, challenging releases as if their brains were on fire…
On Saturday night I got to see Turbonegro for the first time. I got pretty amped up by the band’s pre-gig mix of The Cult, Judas Priest, Motörhead, etc. And then holy crap, they delivered a great show–like KISS meets the Village People, maybe. Just as incredible as the Norwegian band’s ultra catchy brand of “death punk” is their hardcore fans who not only shout out every single lyric but dress up like demented sailors in denim and smeared lipstick. Even better, there are just as many women as dudes singing along and bouncing around to supremely catchy and rockin’ songs like “Just Flesh,” “FTW” and “Erection.” How rad (and rare) is that?
That’s three consecutive nights of very loud, very awesome music. Luckily there’s been a long weekend to rest the ears before trying to catch Retox later this week…
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 2:31AM / Standard Entry
The first of three videos based on last month’s Long Beach: Work in Progress conference that I helped assemble has recently been uploaded. Longtime Giant Robot mag readers will be familiar with many faces that are included: Joe Escalante from The Vandals, Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman from Dengue Fever, pro skater Chad Tim Tim, W+K’s John Jay, Staple Design’s jeffstaple. I hope you also know Jack Grisham from T.S.O.L., Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold…
Hardcore GR fans will also be familiar with the work of videographer, Ben Clark, my good friend and go-to photographer who shot portraits for many of my key articles: Stephen Chow, Richard Mulder, Boris, P.K. 14. I was really stoked that he got the gig and think his video captures the spirit of the event as well as the vibe of Long Beach.
Check out the link on Imprint’s Vimeo page. If you dig it, please share and come back for more on the next couple of Tuesdays.
Clockwise from top left: Ben Clark and me, Joe Escalante (The Vandals) and Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman (Dengue Fever), Jonathan Gold (The Los Angeles Times).
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:01AM / Standard Entry
I’ve known Susie Ghahremani as an awesome indie illustrator, artist, crafter, and good friend for more than a decade but had only scratched the surface of her musical talent through karaoke. Last week I saw her play with a fairly new band, Bulletins, right down the street from my house at the Silverlake Lounge. The sound is both lovely and cosmic with elements that recall the energy-filled hooks of Velocity Girl and noisy undercurrents of Asobi Seksu. Afterward, I had to ask my pal from San Diego for more details…
MW: It’s been a while since you’ve played in a band, hasn’t it? What got you back into it?
SG: It’s true that I haven’t really been playing music in awhile–slowing my pace recording/playing as Snoozer was a combination of feeling increasingly burned out mixed with developing stage fright mixed with a blossoming art career that became increasingly demanding. I was (and am) juggling work as an artist/illustrator, meeting deadlines in the mornings before playing shows at night, which is really pretty exhausting. I didn’t used to have stage fright, then one day I did and it sucks. I still get this fear-of-spotlight at art shows, which is why you often find me at my openings standing outside the gallery.
I wasn’t really planning to get back into being in a band, but I was browsing Craigslist for a band for my shy husband Michael to join (now the singer/guitarist of The Paper Thins) and I saw an ad for a band that sounded perfect for me. So here we are!
Incidentally, our singer/bassist Lorelei Plotczyk used to work on HGTV’s Crafters Coast-to-Coast and had contacted me to be on the show ages ago! So we were already connected!
MW: You’ve been in more bands than Snoozer and Bulletins. Can you give me a short laundry list of your bands with brief descrīptions?
SG: Here are the main ones:
The Spoolies (1996-1998, I think?) - My high-school-aged all-girl band.
Snoozer, nee The Boy/Girl Party and Brie (1994-sorta-ongoing, not that active after 2007) – My solo project. Indie pop / indie. I think my album Winter Stops All Sound (Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records) was my first mention in Giant Robot!
Snuggletooth (2002) – Very short lived indie pop with my college BFF.
Palephant (2012) – After dating my husband for 10 years (also a musician, who I met through Providence RI’s music scene when we both lived there) we finally started writing songs together. I play whatever Michael isn’t playing. We hardly ever practice but our songs are always stuck in my head.
Bulletins (2012) – The band I am in now that you just saw! Dreampop/Indie. I play keys/sing harmonies.
MW: What’s it like being in a band as an “adult”? Advantages and disadvantages?
SG: Pretty much the same. Advantages: fun, social, creative, exciting. Disadvantages: expensive, time-consuming, exhausting, tinnitus.
I definitely have a lot more responsibilities now which makes it harder to balance a band in the mix. But since I last really put effort into music, the Internet has really changed the game, making it so much easier to connect with like-minded people/venues/listeners thanks to Twitter, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Bandsintown, etc.
MW: It’s got to be weird jamming out songs with a band after being an indie artist who’s used to being in total control… Or maybe it’s kind of fun?
SG: Totally great! I’ve always loved being part of a band dynamic, and with the aforementioned stage fright, I much prefer being in the background and having someone else front the band! (My first time doing so.)
MW: What’s it like working with your brother in the studio?
SG: It was so. Much. Fun. I always love hanging with my family but it’s extra awesome seeing someone you love at work, just being totally amazing at what he or she does. Check out his recordings for Gelmania, The Apple Sisters, and Jon Daly’s Rafflecast and you’ll see what I mean.
And it was really my first time ever working on a creative collaboration with him! My brother, like everyone else in my family, is ridiculously talented and I feel really lucky that I get to be related to him. More about him at cyrusg.com.
MW: Thursday night’s show was your first outside of San Diego. Any tours in the works?
SG: Someday, but nothing in the works today! I think we want to record an album first.
MW: Any other projects I need to know about?
SG: I’m speaking at The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art on June 27 in La Jolla, CA. I’m on the awe-inspiring board for the Illustration Conference happening in Portland in July 2014. I have a few group art shows opening in the near future–such as this one in Florida curated by my friend Heidi Kenney.
I recently released a new collection with Chronicle Books–a fox journal with sticker tabs and a bird/telephone/typewriter-themed office supply kit, both available in my shop.
I’m about to launch new collections of jewelry, buttons, and magnets.
I’m also designing a T-shirt for the amazing Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater and some illustrations, wedding invitations, and logos for some of the coolest, kindest people I’ve ever met.
MW: I just saw you last week signing your new children’s book, What Will Hatch?, as well. How’s that going?
SG: Amazing!! It’s my first picture book, and I am so proud and astonished by the response it’s been receiving–it was selected as part of a national campaign at Barnes & Noble displayed next to classics I grew up with like Make Way For Duckling! It’s surreal and touching seeing my friends’ kids covet it. Sometimes I get teary signing it to the next generation of indie rockers and artists. I hope it shapes the way they see the world in the same way books did for me at that age.
- Giant Robot co-founder and contributor.
- Occupation: Magazine Editor
- Gender: Male
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March 20, 2008