Live Review, 6/1/12: King Tuff and Shannon and the Clams Rule the Go! Go! Fest Finale
Simone Sullivan King Tuff at the New Parish on Friday
THE GO! GO! Night Six: Hunx & His Punx, King Tuff, The Bobbyteens, Shannon & The Clams, King Lollipop, Elvis Christ
Friday, June 1, 2012
Better than: Any 50 year anniversary tour of a rock band will ever be.
Before the music began, the scene resembled some kind of retro rock 'n' roll summer camp: A dozen or so clusters of long black hair above denim and leather jackets adorned with oversized buttons (displaying illustrated hamburgers and '70's power-pop artists) sipped PBR's incognito near the bar of the New Parish, while other attendees swung their legs from the venue's second-floor balcony and six bands performed in front of a massive banner gaudily themed around Hunx's newest album, Hairdresser Blues.
The attendees mingled in each area of the venue with cheery abandon and strutted their vintage kicks on the dance floor. They were hyperactive. The Go! Go! Fest was arranged by Oakland's 1-2-3-4 Go! Records as a showcase of rock 'n' roll bands, with a heavy focus on local groups. With all but one group performing Friday night based in the Bay Area, the final evening of the festival seemed like a victory lap. 1-2-3-4 Go! Records deserves the celebration, too. In the business' capacity as an all-ages venue, record label, and record store, it is arguably one of the local institutions most supportive to independent music.
King Tuff was the only performer from outside the Bay Area that performed on Friday, but his subtle glam rock influences, punk immediacy, and pop sensibility were more akin to Oakland than anywhere else, and his set absolutely dominated the evening. Some detractors may resent the dense production of his latest eponymous Sub Pop album, but the live mix of tracks from his 8-track gem, Was Dead, along with newer material, showed a seamless continuity in his singular songwriting and fierce performance. In a cut-off Crass T-shirt and baseball cap enclosing greasy brown locks, Kyle Thomas requested that the reverb be removed from his voice. In that and every other aspect of his performance, Thomas exceeded the usual trappings of modern garage rock.
In our recent interview, Thomas admitted that producer Bobby Harlow suggested minimizing the amount of guitar solos on the latest album, but Thomas' virtuosity still shone through live. Never at any point did the solos seem too indulgent or lengthy. During "Dancing on You," he channeled Richard Thompson with psych proclivities; "Freak When I'm Dead" had the feral swagger of Johnny Thunders; and the impressive playing on "Sun Medallion" solidified that Thomas' expressive, flippant guitar solos carry on the compelling lineage of J. Mascis. The tempo to most of his songs was increased and the delivery of key vocal moments was dramatized, but the pop sensibility was retained. "Bad Thing" alone conveyed an utter command of fully realized rock 'n' roll. Thomas enunciated the intimate verses convincingly and screamed the chorus with equal conviction. Of course, the guitar solo shortened on the album appeared in an elongated form, and didn't distract from the hook's impact in the slightest.
Simone Sullivan Hunx ans His Punx
Shannon & the Clams
Shannon & The Clams indulge in the inherently kitsch nature of their songs, but the group is so consistent and tight live that it's impossible to fault them for it. There is a sheen of cartoonish absurdity on the surface of their music, but once listeners become accustomed to it and notice all of the innovative techniques utilized to cultivate such camp, one finds a certain respect for the group. Their blending of disparate tones is especially evident live, where each member alternately provides high-pitched back-ups while playing their respective instrument. Shannon might coo while the guitarist, Cody, inexplicably delivers a catchy verse in the tone of a toad, and a few moments later the drummer will be harmonizing with Cody while Shannon releases a husky vocal climax. Their songs are relentlessly catchy and stop and start instantly. In between each track the band cultivated a natural rapport with the adoring audience. In an act of charismatic pandering, Shannon declared, "We're Shannon & The Clams from OAKLAND!" to gratuitous applause. The evening's most tender moment of banter followed immediately after, though, as she explained, "Thanks to 1-2-3-4 Go! Records for putting out our first record and taking a chance on us when no one else would."
Cody's hiccupping vocal tendencies in Shannon & The Clams takes full presence in his new project, King Lollipop. The new group allows him to exorcise the Buddy Holly caricature that is only suggested by his work with Shannon. Coupling such an alter ego with a tribal rhythm section composed of four people berating floor toms and a token tambourine wielder creates quite a spectacle live, but the unconventional lineup isn't quite used to its fullest potential. The giddy tracks that found percussionists diverging from one another in polyrhythmic rolls were the most effective, but they largely thumped along in unison. Visually, it creates an interestingly paradoxical excess of minimalism. The aesthetic decision of using only a few different instruments, but four of each one, is original, and Cody's idiosyncratic, roots-rock songwriting is endearing. But the group has yet to own their novel dynamic with the same grace as Shannon & The Clams, although they likely will.
Simone Sullivan The Bobbyteens
Polka dots and scarves a go-go littered the three women at the front of the stage for The Bobbyteens' set. The sleaze and archetypal rock 'n' roll themes in their songs and demeanor were appropriate for a John Waters film, but they were delivered in such an amateurish fashion with bad acting that it ultimately fell flat. The choruses were largely comprised of "Yeah," "Whoohoo" and "One more time," but the clichéd lyrics weren't delivered with enough conviction to overcome the banality. Similarly, the rehashed riffs played out of tune never defied the trappings of their music's inherent constraints. When momentum was occasionally built up, a false start or cringe-inducing lyric about something asinine like sitting on someone's face would stifle the mood.
As the name suggests, Elvis Christ have no illusions about their music being a ragged pastiche. The vocalist employed retro-affected yelps above a swaggering rhythm that occasionally broke into a ramshackle shuffle. Obligatory rockabilly-derived guitar licks punctuated the backbeat, and the band delivered an energetic set of backwards-looking rock 'n' roll that didn't really strive for anything more.