Forgetters Reignite Jawbreaker-Caliber Angst at Bottom of the Hill

Categories: Last Night
Forgetters-2.jpg
The Forgetters at Bottom of the Hill last night. Pics by Rae, whose camera broke upon arrival, leaving us no choice but to subject you to Blackberry photos.
Forgetters
January 27, 2011
@ Bottom Of The Hill

Better than:
Living under the false hope that Jawbreaker are going to reform one day.

There is a moment, a couple of songs into Forgetters' set tonight, where all the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, a light flicks on in your brain, your mouth drops open and you think "Holy shit, this sounds like an out-take from Bivouac!"

For the non-Jawbreaker-obsessed amongst you, Bivouac was the Bay Area trio's second full-length -- a dark, noisy affair that spends as much time on intricacy, layers, and melody as it does on distortion -- a record now widely considered a punk rock classic. For a Jawbreaker fan, songs that sound like Bivouac are basically the Holy Grail -- so please understand that when we make the comparison, we don't do so lightly.

After Jawbreaker imploded in 1996, frontman Blake Schwarzenbach went on to the significantly less visceral Jets To Brazil, a life on the East Coast, and a job as an English Literature professor working in New York. Today, Jawbreaker fans -- who are as enamored and obsessed as ever with the band, for the most part -- are almost entirely resigned to the fact that the trio is long gone. And after Jets To Brazil and subsequent project The Thorns Of Life, the world pretty much gave up on Schwarzenbach writing anything as sharp, as disconsolate, or as gut-wrenching as he did with Jawbreaker.

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But tonight, Jawbreaker's shadow is looming large -- and not just because they will forever be closely woven into the fabric of Bay Area music. It's in Swarzenbach's dedication of a song to his ex-bandmate, Adam Pfahler (who -- in case you don't already go in there and stare at him like a giant nerd -- opened The Mission's finest video store, Lost Weekend, after the trio's demise). It's in the samples -- Margaret Thatcher speaking in Parliament and a harrowing description of dolphin suicide (no, really), among them -- which start bluntly and run directly into, and then under, songs (a signature Jawbreaker move). It's also in the slow building of each song's performance -- tracks that creep up on you quietly and gradually roll themselves into gigantic threats looming over you. It's in the undercurrent of unabashed melancholy, shrouded in pointed articulation, on display here.

More than anything, there's an edge to Swarzenbach's performance with his two new bandmates tonight that has been absent for years. You might have thought his inherent darkness long-buried, but tonight proves it was merely in hibernation. One example: he gives, unannounced, directly before a song, a super-fast, word-perfect recital of the passage in Hamlet in which Hamlet's dead father describes being murdered by his own brother.

To give another example, the wonderfully-titled "Too Small To Fail" -- recently released on the Forgetter's four-track, double seven-inch -- is a fine enough song on record; understated in its beauty. But tonight, it clubs you over the head, all drum fills and crescendos and dangerous levels of angst. By the time Swarzenbach has descended into howling "Someone's gonna love me someday" at the end, it feels very much like falling into someone else's nervous breakdown, which was always part of Jawbreaker's inherently masochistic appeal.

The bottom line is that all those things we all loved about Schwarzenbach fifteen years ago are still there, and he's unabashedly putting them out there once more. It's honest and ugly and beautiful and awesome and it's about time.

Critic's Notebook: The line "In the trenches between the patrons and the booze" (song title unknown) is the most wonderful and succinct description of bartending I think I've ever heard.

Also worth noting: Schwarzenbach tells the audience he is currently working as a bartender in Brooklyn ("I have a Masters degree and I'm a bartender"). We will give ten bucks to the first person who can tell us which bar it is. No, seriously, we don't know, either. We just really wanna go.

Fun Trivia: Forgetters drummer Kevin Mahon once played in an early incarnation of Against Me!.

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Location Info

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Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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6 comments
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Cabscool
Cabscool

excellent review, even though i was at the echo. full length to be recorded after they return from europe. i only found one review online of the echo show and it was a true F- of a lazy ass, substance-less, riverside college news paper article by some lazy fuck who's review apparently pissed me off.. anyway, nice review of the s.f. show. thats exactly how it was in l.a. lots of hairs standing on end on neck.

Kvon43
Kvon43

I just saw "the forgetters" tonight in echo park. Man you hit the nail on the head with this article. Blake was having such a blast playing song after song, and would have played well in to the night. Well, until he said "what?, it's 9. What's that mean? Ohhh we need to stop?" then he said " hey everyone, this place needs to turn into a dance club. Burn it down, burn this fucking place down and smash all the booze". All I can say was a great show. And after 17 years I was reunited with Blake in true jawbreaker essence. Plus, I was able to show my 14 year old brother that true music still exist. And he was able to witness a genius, and a founding father of music of our time.

Forgettersfan
Forgettersfan

Nice review ruined by bad copy editing. The name of the band is forgetters, no "the" no "F."

Brooklyn Resident
Brooklyn Resident

God, I can't believe you posted his bar address in response to this review (which was well-written). Tool alert.

Kulturekid
Kulturekid

"For a Jawbreaker fan, songs that sound like Bivouac are basically the Holy Grail"

Couldn't have said it better myself... Show last night was great. Upsetting to hear him waste his time as a bartender, with his talent. Reminds me of Will in Good Will Hunting.

Chuckie: Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat, that's a fact. I'll fuckin' kill you. Will: What the fuck are you talkin' about? Chuckie: Look, you got somethin' that none of us- Will: Oh, come on! Why is it always this, I mean, I fuckin' owe it to myself to do this or that? What if I don't want to? Chuckie: No. No, no, no. No, fuck you. You don't owe it to yourself. You owe it to me. 'Cause tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be fifty. And I'll still be doing this shit. And that's all right, that's fine. I mean, you're sittin' on a winning lottery ticket and you're too much of a pussy to cash it in. And that's bullshit. `Cause I'd do anything to fuckin' have what you got. So would any of these fuckin' guys. It'd be an insult to us if you're still here in twenty years. Hanging around here is a fuckin' waste of your time. Will: You don't know that. Chuckie: I don't? Will: No. You don't know that. Chuckie: Oh, I don't know that? Let me tell you what I do know. Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out we have a few drinks and a few laughs, and it's great. You know what the best part of my day is? It's for about ten seconds from when I pull up to the curb to when I get to your door. Because I think maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye, no see you later, no nothin'. Just left. I don't know much, but I know that.

Do yourself and the world a favor and put the band back together.

Kulturekid
Kulturekid

The Double Windsor210 Prospect Park West (at 16th St.)Brooklyn, NY

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