Punk Retrospective
31Dec/130

Can’t Keep Up

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

OBN III tearing up the VFW - Photo credit

OBN III tearing up the VFW - Photo credit: Amy Donovan Photography

Yeah, I never write on here anymore. I still go to shows. I still shoot video...so much that I fill up all the hard drives I find. Between work, family, the band and shows, I rarely find myself with time to even upload video, let alone add titles and other info. This week I decided I needed to get some of this online and off the main laptop...so, in a somewhat random fashion I'm going to drop a few videos into your lap.

I was called to Missoula, Montana in October and got to witness night 1 of the Bugs US tour. No, they're not THAT Bugs, these guys are the really great Bugs from Portland who wrote the underground hit song, 'Fuckin' A Right,' that I love so much. They played at the ZACC, which is a really cool cultural component of the Missoula scene...and a nice intimate setting to witness artists of this caliber. I shot their whole set, but had to shoot the last 15 minutes with a screen width of 320px instead of 640px, because I'd shot the Oll Breds set (which I hadn't planned on) and the card still had Paul Collins Beat and the Maxies from a few nights before (yeah, I'll probably post those other bands soon). I talked with Paul and Mike before and after the show, then financed the first leg of their tour before walking back to the house I was staying at. Here's their set from where I was standing:

Pretty damn good, right? OK, so here are two more from my trip to Missoula. First up is the The Blind Shake at the Ole Beck VFW Hall in downtown Missoula. They opened for OBN III and Thee Oh Sees...the combination of which whipped up the over capacity crowd into one of the craziest situations I've ever been in at a show. The video of The Blind Shake is pretty clean, but by the time OBN III started, there was barely any space left for the bands and they were forced to hold the fans back while they played! I'll drop the last OBN III song here, but probably won't bother with Thee Oh Sees video. Here's The Blind Shake:

and OBN III:

Well, I decided not to post this 'til I uploaded the Oll Breds video I shot. Like I said...I had no intention of filling my SD card with anyone but the Bugs...then these guys started playing. I'd spotted them at the Paul Collins show...thought they looked strange for Montana, so when they started slinging some sloppy, garage style fun I got hooked. As always, the sound quality leaves a lot to desire, so I'd recommend also scrolling to the bottom for some studio recordings:

OK...that's what I've got uploaded from my Montana adventure. Maybe I'll drop some more of that later...but, since you're still here, why not go buy some Bugs music?

[bandcamp album=172638194 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

more? ok, here's some Oll Breds!

[bandcamp album=2512373294 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

18Aug/130

Post show wrap-up: Secretions at the Miners Foundry

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Cooper Žák

Cooper Žák of Lightweight at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center for the Summer Daze concert series.

I started writing a piece about the show we promoted so heavily last week...you remember, the Miners Foundry event with Sacramento's Secretions. I guess it was fine (the article), but it started getting into the future of events and didn't focus enough on the absolute success of the current event. With that in mind, I'll try again, with some bonus footage of each band.

When I saw the first poster for the Summer Daze events I immediately knew I wanted (Pug Skullz) to be part of it. Olaf Jens, local artist and disc jockey, had created a captivating image with that first poster, and it boosted local interest. Each successive poster generated more enthusiasm and with a simple request to As the Crow Flies Presents promoter Chad Conner Crow, Pug Skullz was in!

SummerDazeSometimes I feel I over-promote, that I abuse my Facebook friendships by being a little too persistent in my attempts to get the message out about certain shows or music releases. If Facebook weren't so intent on hiding posts from friends and followers it might not be necessary to repost events, but as it stands, newsfeed posts disappear in a matter of hours without a diligent search. Point? I pushed this show in ways I hadn't before and felt a little guilty about it. How many of the attendees did my work bring in? I'll never know, but I'm certain I'll over-promote again.

By the time we got to playing there was a good sized crowd of kids and old punks dancing and having a great time. The venue staff was having a good time, the promoter was happy, the bands were relaxed and ready and the audience was really enjoying the venue's sound and lights. Yes, Scott Steuer did a great job with lights and my previous predictions about Greg Cameron's ability to do sound were greatly underestimated...I was completely blown away! I think our community is finally beginning to notice what we've got here.

Pug Skullz are fairly new and we don't mind opening for other bands. We play simple punk rock with a deeper message than most people care to hear. We make mistakes. We don't use pedals, effects or other sound enhancing technologies. We don't promote an image...for me, it's all about expression. It's difficult getting people to come see an unknown band, so opportunities to play with well respected, established artists like the Secretions are a gift. Aside from a couple of blown verses and a simultaneous loss of place in the music (by me), I think the show went well for Pug Skullz. We were followed by Santa Cruz's 'Lightweight'.

Lightweight pushed the speed levels up quite a few notches and were rewarded with a nice circle pit. It's really great seeing younger people playing full-tilt punk rock. There is still melody under all that speed and noise, so I 'liked' their Facebook page and bookmarked their releases on Bandcamp. They're doing some really cool things and are just gonna get better.

Next up was the Devils Train. Since moving north roughly 10 years ago, I don't believe I've watched another band perform as many times as I have this one. Surprisingly, they continue to improve. They play around town a lot, but since they played the Far West Punk Fest, I've been hearing how much Sacramento loves them. The evidence of this lies in the fact that Akasha, pin-up 'devil-girl'/vocalist extraordinaire, was able to convince The Secretions to come back to Nevada City after an unfortunate ten year absence. They have a very loyal local following because they put on an awesome stage show and play an interest blend of punk, jazz and ska. Plus, they're really nice people, so don't be afraid to approach them...they're not as dangerous as they appear.

Haha...I guess I did have some video of the 'masked paparazzi', aka Mike Meals, with the Secretions on "Viva La Lucha Libre"!

The Secretions are a bunch of great guys. I only got to spend a few minutes with Danny while he worked the merch table, but found him to be a very personable, enthusiastic and knowledgable guy. Once they took the stage his sense of humor ruled the evening. The crowd stuck around to the end, which is a huge testimony to the solid set they played. These guys impressed everyone with their originals and nailed their covers...Greg called their Descendents cover on the first chord. The Secretions are a great band and proved to be just the anchor punk needed to regain a foothold in Nevada City.

In the end, there were more people than I've personally seen at a punk show in Nevada City...and that's with the higher than normal ticket price. Because of this show, I see a future for punk rock in Nevada City and Grass Valley...and so do bands from around the area. I'm already getting e-mails and Facebook messages from a wide range of punk acts requesting gigs. If your band is interested in playing this area, 'like' us on Facebook/PunkRetro or Facebook/PugSkullz or e-mail me at doug at punkretrospective.com.

7May/130

Recovered Files: Bows and Arrows Collective 2/2/2013

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

BowsIt's tough to keep things like this blog going without a really reliable stream of income. The winter months destroy us financially, as I do a lot of seasonal building/painting type work. What's that have to do with anything? Well, if I can't keep my truck running or afford new blades for my circular saw, I certainly can't afford a better camera or a computer that isn't on the verge of dying.

Lucky for me, I have a decent knowledge of technology. I've been running computers since the mid 1980's and I'm familiar with pretty much every operating system IBM/Microsoft or Apple has come out with. You still don't care...what am I rambling on and on about?

Toward the beginning of this year, with my Mac G5 Power PC becoming quickly and unusably obsolete, I acquired a used HP laptop. After installing Windows 7 Home Premium on it, I started moving all of my music over to it. Gigabytes and gigabytes of glorious punk rock! I then dumped my SD cards full of recent shows and my pocket recorder full of song ideas, concerts, etc. Things were going really well...I finally felt somewhat organized.

Then the HP fizzled, fried and failed. Goodbye everything I failed to actually back up.

The videos below partially represent what was saved from the February 2, 2013 show at the Bows and Arrows Collective. I say partially because I actually do have the rest of the Charles Albright gig, but they're already well represented on our YouTube page. Sadly, I think the Four Eyes footage is gone. I will save this hard drive for most of what remains of my life hoping to one day retrieve that data...but, realistically, it's forever gone.

It was a really great show. Most shows at Bows are. This was my first time seeing the Four Eyes and Scouse Gits, second time seeing Charles Albright, as well as Boats!. Had a really great grilled cheese from the kitchen...crazy good!

I think I'm just going to drop the videos in here and not do too much more commentary...I've got more uploads to take care of before this pile of crap crashes.

I've been meaning to get Boats! on here since they played Reno with Youth Brigade and Adolescents two years ago...hooky punk and humor!

The Scouse Gits were a huge surprise. Trashy garage rock fun!

As always, Charles Albright rules!!

9Jan/130

Bad Daddies & Jesus Christ, Mister! video from The Where House?

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Bad Daddies ripping it up at The Where House? 1/5/13

It was my second trip to The Where House? and I was pretty excited to see Bad Daddies again. Hit Reset, The Enlows, The Community, Jesus Christ, Mister! and Bad Daddies...my first show in 2013 and worth the trip, even in an unexpected rainstorm. It was Matt from Rise Entertainment's birthday. Ken Doose was there taking pictures (check 'em out). Former Enlow, Chris Sabatoni, now of Croissants and Charles Albright fame, also attended the event.

This is also the first show I've attended since my band played it's first gig, so I have a new lens to view performance through. I used to only judge a band on whether I like their music or not, but I've softened a bit on that stance. I know it takes some people a lot of preparation and courage to step out there and be judged by the crowd...apparently not the case with Bad Daddies' singer Camylle, nor guitarist Matt. Both are used to being the center of attention at work, so they easily took charge of the venue from the first squeals of feedback 'til the final shout of their brutal set.

Bad Daddies are the reason I drove all the way to the southern edge of Sacramento to stand in an unheated warehouse. The sounds Matt grinds out of his guitar are just about the coolest thing in California and the confrontational intensity of Camylle's performance put this band near the top of my current favorites. There's a certain chaotic energy surrounding the first part of the set, but order starts creeping in as they progress into their newer material and it just gets more awesome. Here's Saturday's live version of 'Regress,' the song the band released on their Soundcloud account last week:

Next up...Jesus Christ, Mister!, the newest band on the burgeoning Sacramento scene. I've seen Morgan stand in for a lot of missing guitar players over the last couple years, but missed him in what I hear were quite a few good bands in the years before I got here. They were a success...here's video of 'Baby, I'm Bored' to prove it:

I might come back to this one and drop in some video from the other bands, but I've got a bit of a backlog going now that I'm devoting my energies toward my band. I can say, the Sacramento scene is growing and there are a bunch of great bands that deserve your support. If you can, get out to a show and buy the merch...if you can't make it to a show 'like' the bands pages, leave comments and buy their stuff online. Let them know you care!

Hit Reset

Jesus Christ, Mister!

The Community

The Enlows

Bad Daddies

19Sep/120

Lasher Keen – Berserker

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Markus Wolff - Berserker

'Berserker' artwork by Markus Wolff
You belong to the forest that grows immortal trees.

Lasher Keen - Berserker

August 27, 2012 - 'Berserker' arrives
Left to right: Sage, Dylan and Bluebird

December 18, 2009 - The atmosphere in that old convent hall, filled with smoke and the whisperings of something uncommon about to appear, now defines Winter Solstice for me. It was my first time, witnessing the deep, spiritual intensity of Lasher Keen. I remember feeling intimidated and elated by their musical explorations of the dark…the real dark of a less human-constructed reality. Iconic, near archetypal characters, meshed dramatically with multiple, distinct layers of eerie, swirling, shimmering sound, to create something more than mere song. I wish I could put into words what it was that caught my fascination; the way the whole performance became a ritual and seemed to revel in that scarcely known secret truth of our animal nature was profoundly visceral. I walked away knowing I’d witnessed something unique and worthy of great attention.

That night was the official release of “Wither”. I bought a copy directly from Dylan and Bluebird at the show. The feelings conjured by their performance hadn’t faded when I found myself noticing the strangely organic look and feel of the disc cover binding and the artwork. It became startlingly obvious to me that these people I knew peripherally, in the community, were true artists.

By the time the ‘Possessed by the Forest Queen’ 10″ came out, on December 18 of 2010, I knew Dylan and Bluebird well enough that I went to their house to buy a copy. This wasn’t my first trip there, as our children are classmates and friends, but it was the first time I was really able to look a bit deeper into their everyday lives. From just a cursory glance, the fact that their artistry was not confined to the music and its packaging was obvious. They live lives rich in aesthetic beauty and organic texture and somehow seem to take their existence from a place of deeper thematic meaning. Yes, they’re a bit eccentric, odd even, but in a very grounded, authentic and endearing way.

Bluebird dress rehearsal

Bluebird at the 9/18/2012 dress rehearsal.

 

That ‘thematic meaning’ I mentioned is expressed in a very real way in their songs, conjured from the mix of instrumental divination and mythical lyricism. For example, the title track of the aforementioned album, ‘Forest Queen,’ brings to life a Goddess I’d never even known to look for. Not an anthropomorphic deity or creature, but something more akin to the movement of a particular branch of the tree of existence. She is the living nature of new life and growth spread throughout, and between, all matter and time. This is their depth and I find it difficult to express in prose, but it is as clear as awareness on their LP.

I include here a performance of the beautiful 'Forest Queen' from the 10" ‘Possessed by the Forest Queen’. All of the Lasher Keen back catalog is available on their website at lasherkeen.net.

While ‘Forest Queen’ is, at least to me, at least today, the strongest song on the 10”, it is exceedingly difficult to rank the 13 songs of the new double 12" LP, ‘Berserker’. The album moves through a range of emotions, constricting into tight, claustrophobic little spaces, then soaring into unbridled flights of hopeful torment. But the song ‘Sun Chariot,’ which may eventually be seen as the crowning summation of the band's output (*disclaimer near bottom of page), passes through so much emotional territory that it’s hard to remember where it began as it falters out of existence. It is at once condensed and expansive, present and eternal. It is epic and successful in its grand ambition and highlights the most elementary aspects of what Lasher Keen is.

Berserker master

Dylan holding the official master of 'Berserker', perhaps the advance copy Bluebird gave me on March 11, 2012.

There do not appear to be any genre constraints with Lasher Keen. The album opens with ‘Ancient Chaos,’ which itself opens with a harp intro, somehow reminiscent of the deeper metal gods of yore, then gracefully slides into a sexy, Motown-inspired romp called ‘Rainmaker’ and later explores growly, twangy, swamp rock with a 3-stringed, cardboard banjo in ‘Fabled Wild Country.’ Plowing through the depths of this album we begin to understand the broad range of puzzling descriptors used in reference to Lasher Keen; “Wood Metal for Scandinavian Tree Troll Folk,” “Medieval Psychedelic Folk,” and “Spirit in Mourning**,” being among those the band use to attempt a coherent self-description. Dylan mentions “inspired amateurism,” perhaps quoting Emerson or Lester Bangs, in a recent interview, while describing the multi-instrumental abilities of the three members of the band.

Rainmaker video

Scene from the April 23rd video shoot of 'Rainmaker'(view video @ bottom of page). Video and photo credit to Lara Miranda.

It may be exactly that “inspired amateurism,” which stirs my respect and amazement at this band of artists. Why else would someone like me, who claims allegiance to humankinds’ greatest art form, punk rock, feel so strongly about the music of a group of mystical folkies? There are no distorted guitars - instead cello, harp, banjo, accordion, barbatos, bodran and Glockenspiel rule the soundscape. Their historic usage of percussion had, until recently, been primarily animal skin drums and a wide range of hand instruments, though they now occasionally employ Adam Torruella to play the trap set. Sage is known to play bass, bouzouki, and banjo along with an array of other stringed instruments I don’t know the names of. Hardly punk, yet it carries within it whatever it is that makes punk great.

Dylan rehearsal

Dylan at the 9/18/2012 dress rehearsal.

I suppose in the end it is the raw passion and artistry I really love, though I can’t presume to tell you that you will love Lasher Keen the way I have come to. I can tell you, it is strange to have found a ‘local band’ doing musical arrangement and performance at this level. There is depth, subtlety, awareness, integrity, intelligence and passion in this work and, for me, that makes it genuine. And, the authentic nature of the music, artwork and lives of this band are well represented in this brilliant album, 'Berserker'. It is beautiful to look at, double LP, full-color gatefold with a 32-page booklet and some stunning colored vinyl, if you like, but the flow and depth of the music is what makes "Berserker' a must-have.

Sage Rehearsal

Sage at the 9/18/2012 dress rehearsal. "Probably not the t-shirt I'll be wearing," he said.

I went to video one of the last practices the band will have together. I could feel an underlying mournfulness, aside from what Bluebird's cello naturally brings. You see, after Lasher Keen performs ‘The Psychotropic Cult of the Oracular Sacrificial Severed Head’ at Stella Natura: The Light of Ancestral Fires, string master/percussionist, Sage Arias, makes his disheartening, hopefully temporary, move away from the band. I am assured we can all hope to hear new songs arising in a yet unknown future as the last note of this incarnation of Lasher Keen falters from existence.

Lasher Keen

Dark Folk Power Trio

Contact the band to get your copy of any Lasher Keen release through these links:

Pesanta Urfolk Records
LasherKeen.net
Facebook
Reverb Nation
Bluebird's Etsy shop!

Lasher Keen~ Rainmaker from lara miranda on Vimeo.

*There are songs on Wither, like 'Animal' and 'Spirit Flesh,' which were critical in defining the sound and feel of the band. 'Forest Queen' and 'Greater Darkness' on the 10" ‘Possessed by the Forest Queen’ are also pivotal in the process. It remains to be seen where the rumored 25-30 minute ‘The Psychotropic Cult of the Oracular Sacrificial Severed Head’ will stand in the overall catalog of Lasher Keen. 'Alone in the Night (Celtic Death March)' seems to be the only hint at what was to come off the first CD, the self-titled 'Lasher Keen.'

**Purportedly a literal translation of 'Lasher Keen'. Why shouldn't I take Dylan at his word? Well, because he also said the definition/translation shifts according to his whim. I like this translation anyway!

Dylan works his magic.

Roadside fun on the way to the Diggins for the 'Rainmaker' video shoot.

15Aug/120

El Dorko – The Crucifixion of Pussy Riot

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

That's right...the folks at El Dorko are at it again...yeah, I'm old, so what? Jump on the bandwagon and grab your free download while it's still there...then go to Amnesty International to sign the petition for their release.

4Aug/120

The ‘Pussy Riot’ Enlightenment Doctrine

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Putin-Protest-Pussy

Iconic imagery, punk rock, feminist messaging and intelligent argument round out the many talents exhibited by heroic art collective, Pussy Riot.

Police presence and public protest marked the opening day, July 30, 2012, of the ‘Pussy Riot’ trial in Moscow. Victims of these ‘banal hooligans with a religious motive’ are hoping to put the group behind bars for 7 years. "When I talk about this event, my heart hurts. It hurts that this is possible in our country," one victim, Lyubov Sokologorskaya said. "Their punishment must be adequate so that never again is such a thing repeated."

The group claims to be a Russian feminist punk-rock art collective, a living counterpart to the 90’s American Riot Grrrl movement. In an interview with The St. Petersburg Times Pussy Riot said, “What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse and a non-standard female image.”

Of the 25 or so people associated with the final YouTube output of Pussy Riot’s performance art, three are on trial. Of the three, two are young mothers. They have been held in custody for five months now following their alleged “hooliganism driven by religious hatred”.

What was their despicable act? Basically, the three hooligans have been charged with praying the wrong kind of prayer in church. Had their prayer been silent and within the confines of the normal congregation, it would only be between Pussy Riot and God. That is not how it happened, and in the end, Pussy Riot, dressed in short, colorful dresses, leggings and balaclavas, entered the soleus, or inner sancum, of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and performed their ‘Punk Prayer’. Two weeks later they were arrested and have been in police custody ever since.

"So…what is Pussy Riot, really?", I hear you asking me. Well, when I’m going through the articles, the photographs, the videos…hearing the testimony of the “victims”…well, what I see is coordinated intelligence building an iconography and a visceral message larger than the sum of it’s parts. I see a group of people using ALL the tools at their disposal to improve their lives and the lives of those around them by pointing out the hypocrisy of their own society and becoming martyrs to awaken the citizenry by proving the tyrannical intent of their ‘leaders’.

They use mystery, fear, sex, brazen acts and abrasiveness to provoke anger and sympathy. This is using ‘shock value’ to awaken…this is thoughtful dissent disguised as mockery. I don’t know that I have witnessed this kind of artistic control…this kind of radical message branding and intent…since the rise of that McLaren brainstorm the Sex Pistols. Here we have another, somehow more fully formed, example of what was called, in 1977, the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium".

Petr Pavlensky

Russian artist Petr Pavlensky sews his mouth together in support of Pussy Riot.

The sheer, subtle genius of using the machinations of the State to expose the machinations of the State is as intriguing as it is terrifying! The success of this tactic, seen again all these years after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, though fascinating and really inspiring, shows that force is the first thing power will resort to to protect itself. Placing their bodies at the mercy of the system, these women have half-awakened the world press. To see reputable news sources’ calling it a ‘show trial’, ‘worse than the Soviet era’ and this ‘Time’ magazine headline today, August 3, 2012, is something amazing, the irony completely missed;

Russia’s Pussy Riot Trial: A Kangaroo Court Goes on a Witch Hunt
Is the ongoing trial of three Russian feminist punk rockers in Moscow a sign of a new tyrannical streak defining the rule of President Vladimir Putin?

Why the Church? Why Putin? Well, these crazy kids grew up with notions left over from the heady days of the 1990’s when Russia appeared to be freeing itself from the kind of repression that’s flowing back under Putin’s reign. The cozy relationship between Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, who called Putin’s time in office a “godly miracle”, and Putin, who promised $120 million to build more Orthodox churches, brought back sour memories and, in February of this year, this highly inventive protest.

The church is now playing the victim card, going so far as to compare the Pussy Riot performance to the persecution the church faced from the Bolsheviks under communist rule. The State is clamping down, arresting those who protest in any meaningful way outside the courthouse, freezing the groups’ lawyer’s bank accounts and ‘disappearing’ Nadezhda’s philosophy professor, who was to testify on her behalf.

The citizenry are responding and their response has evolved since March, when the young women were arrested. The majority of Russians now support Pussy Riot and feel the government is going too far. The swing in opinion is forcing Putin to call for ‘leniency’. There is something of an artistic revolution happening around the group, with hundreds of photos and several videos being generated to venerate the women and what they stand for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do they stand for? Is there a philosophy major in this bunch, or what? When I first began researching/following this story I stumbled upon an interview (manifesto) with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. She happens to be a student in visual arts and a fourth year philosophy student. Punk Retrospective was inspired, using a quote from that manifesto, to create this picture as part of a ‘thoughtful dissent’ meme we’ve been pushing on our Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/PunkRetro

Part of the Punk Retrospective 'thoughtful dissent' meme on our page at http://www.facebook.com/PunkRetro

Here is the article the quote comes from:

Manifesto by N. Tolokonnikova from 05/04/2012

Many news sources are calling Nadezhda Tolokonnikova the face of Pussy Riot, falling so quickly into the traps of the ingrained thinking patterns of the civilized world. The point of the balaclavas is that ANYONE can be a member of Pussy Riot. Today saw the release of video with male protesters being arrested on the rooftop at the courthouse in Moscow. True, the visual artist/ philosophy major obviously plays a pivotal role in the thinking behind Pussy Riot actions, but the other two charged women, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samucevich, are also highly educated and artistic.

So, what does it all mean? To me this means Pussy Riot must be studied and revered, even as we fight for their release in whatever ways we can. The force of change moving through the situation created by the minds of these artists and thinkers is more than impressive. This is what ‘punk rock’ is supposed to be at its most fundamental level. This is what I see as the beginning of the Pussy Riot Enlightenment Doctrine: Do not be fooled into thinking that you can accomplish anything by pure shock value. Your motives must be clear in your mind before you attempt to create on this level…but do not let that frighten you away. It would be a shame to allow the momentum and lessons of Pussy Riot go to waste. Choose your issue, educate yourself, question the dominant paradigm, create a meaningful stance and iconography to go with it, but this cannot be faked…do all of this with your full heart and mind and freedom and you may achieve something as glorious as the hooligan art collective known as Pussy Riot.

Go to Amnesty International to sign the petition for their release.

FreePussyRiot.org

Art and Human Manifesto (different from the previous manifesto)

Free Pussy Riot Now! (Putin, fear no art.) on Facebook

Free Pussy Riot Two on Facebook

FreePussyRiot.org on Facebook

30Jul/120

Interview with Sucker Punk Productions’ Benjamin Abel

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

The internet is a double-edged sword. It makes some things increasingly easy, while making other things more difficult. Almost any kid in America can access the tools required to record and distribute a song for free, which is amazing, but there is now a feeling of entitlement that has risen with that ease...music is now considered to be free. Intellectual property is bullshit, according to a huge swath of the world's music listening public. So, easy as it's become to make a record and put it in front of people, for a person whose genuine calling in life is to be a musician, it's nearly impossible to focus in on your art without holding a "real job". Now, instead of releasing an album and touring to drive up record sales, bands record and release albums to drive up attendance at shows and sell t-shirts. This is a recipe to kill music, or at least the music of the underground.

I have had an overwhelming love of music since I was a small child, so supporting truly independent musicians, venues, labels, bookers, etc. is very natural to me. I don't need to be convinced of the importance of music in my life, so helping support the creators of music is a no-brainer. I know that every dollar I spend at a local event makes it that much more likely another event like it will happen. I know that my buying an LP, digital or physical, from Bastards of Young makes it that much easier for them to record another. Free downloads are great, but supporting what you love has to become the logical response as we step out of our self-centered collectors' mentality.

Over the last couple of years, we have all watched the music scene in the Sacramento region growing. Bands from Stockton to Reno, Nevada City to Davis, play shows in small and large venues ranging from the storage closet of Luigi's Slice in Sacramento to the awesome basements of Luigi's in Davis and the hip, new Haven Underground in Nevada City. There were a handful of promoters/bookers on the bill at Luigi's the other night...a show that worked out spectacularly, shiny walls and all. We're lucky to have such punk friendly venues.

Behind the venues, promoters and bands is another line of people doing promotion work on the internet. I do this in a haphazard, directionless way, but others, like Sacramento Punk Shows and Undie Tacos pull everything together to make it easy to know what is happening in town. A couple months ago I saw a note pass through the Sacramento Punk Shows Facebook page asking people to submit their flyers for a weekly video magazine. I was immediately jealous that I hadn't thought of this. It's the brainchild of Sucker Punk Productions...and I'm lucky enough to have had a couple of chances recently to talk to Benjamin Abel.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Hello Benjamin…thank you for taking the time to talk to Punk Retrospective. I really enjoyed our conversation the other day and still wish I had recorded it. Hopefully we’ll be able to get into some of this stuff at near the same depth as last time!

Benjamin Abel: Thanks for having me and oh man, I gotta have you on a podcast at some point. It's those kinds of conversations that can really instill change in people. The more I learn about people doing similar things, the more it drives me to do more. It's amazing how something as simple as a conversation can seed the energy to really start taking action.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Exactly! OK, cool, so...first off, can you tell us a little bit about you…give us your bio, how old, where from, etc?

Benjamin Abel: I'm 29 years old and I've been in and out of Sacramento over the last 20 years. I helped put together Sucker Punk Productions last year in the hopes of making some short films, movies, etc. Different parts of the company have kind of spun off and become their own giants, including our local music scene ideas. Which I suppose is what has gotten me here.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: At what age did you become aware of your love of art? I guess I’m assuming anyone who would devote as much time and energy to promoting other peoples’ music through their own art…anyway…You love music, you run around with a bunch of punks filming shows…where does this passion come from?

Benjamin Abel: I started writing around... Fuck... 10 or 11... The art of story telling, that's what hooked me. I got into poetry and song lyrics a few years later and guitar a few years after that. By 15 I was writing acoustic songs no one liked, and continued doing that for around 10 or 12 years. I played bass for a while, but no one seemed to like that either. All in all, I probably have enough material to come out with an album, but I don't think my mother would even buy it. She'd probably re-gift it to me on accident at Christmas. I've painted and drawn on and off for the same amount of time, but I've never been too good at that. What I'm really good at is script writing. I shut myself in for three days and wrote out my first script when I was 18. I never stopped. Last year, one thing led to another, and a bunch of other story tellers joined me as The Sucker Punks, and we began trading ideas about what we wanted to do. I think Tony Del Valle (from The Walking Dead) urged us to do a documentary about his band, but that idea soon fell to the side of an even larger idea Andy Harrison (also from The Walking Dead) pointed out. But we had all this footage of the band and Brett jordan and I didn't want it to go to waste. So I cut a video of it together of the live footage. And it made sense. We just kept doing it. The love of music was always there, we just never thought to apply our love of film to it.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: So, what exactly is Sucker Punk Productions? How many people are involved, who are they and what is the agenda?

Benjamin Abel: Sucker Punk Productions is a group of 5 individual artists whom help one another try and bring their film visions to life. We are all writers, directors, editors, videographers and idealists. When one person has something they really want to do, we rally around one another and do everything we can to make it happen. You can find out more about the crew at our web site, www.suckerpunkproductions.com. Our agenda is... To entertain. We push the local music scene because the scene itself seems to be an extension and an inspiration ot all of us, but we're much more than that. We do comedy (which is admittingly suffering right now), we have ideas for short movies, full length films, animated features, documentaries... Many, many things we want to do.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: We were talking about financial ‘problems’ on the phone the other day, but you seem remarkably calm for a guy who can’t really even make it to all the shows you’re actively promoting. You are a driving force in the local music scene, you encourage others to respect the music and bands by supporting shows and buying merchandise, but you do all of this stuff for free…I’m not sure what my question is here other than maybe…why?

Benjamin Abel: Well as much as I appreciate it, I wouldn't call myself a 'driving force.' I'm still new to promotions, and everything we do from the music videos to the video magazine to the podcasts... The popularity fluctuates from one episode to the other. We're still trying to get a foothold in the Sac music scene. We barely have an audience, and we're not sure how to get one except to keep doing what we're doing. Why do we do it? Why do I do it? It's ingrained in me. I have friends in the scene, and I want them to do well. I enjoy their music. At some point it became, “well, if you want them to do well, and you enjoy their music, lend a fucking hand.” It's the way I hope people think about me and the company. It's a thought I've applied to the people in the company, and in the scene. The scene isn't dead kids, you just need to get up and support local music. The bands are out there, you're not. And it's not because these bands suck, believe me.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: You mentioned working on a specific documentary film project the other day…are you ready for people to hear about this yet, or do you want to wait?

Benjamin Abel: No, we can talk about that a little. We can't really go far in depth with it until we get an LLC, but I can tell you we've already been working on a documentary about the local music scene, and we have an interesting angle we want to try utilizing many of the people promoting the scene. It's something we want to be good enough to send to film festivals and such... I'm not sure I should say more than that, but we'll have an LLC next month, so hopefully we can talk about it more soon.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: I told you a story the other day about a friend of mine who was harshly and unjustly criticized for floating the idea of a Kickstarter project to make physical product available from her record label. Then we spoke at length about each of our initial forays into mp3 collecting and our current beliefs about buying what we like after streaming a first listen. How do you view the internet as a tool for artists/labels/production companies, etc. and how do you think fans can best support bands and the continued creation of actual LP’s, EP’s, CD’s, DVD’s and films?

Benjamin Abel: I actually experienced this first hand today. We have a kickstarter for a short film, Fighting through the Zombie Apocalypse, we started a few days back. Some artists I truly deeply respect dogged me for 'asking for a handout,' and for a moment it broke my heart. I shot back with a comparison of bands asking people to go to shows and buy merch so they can continue producing art for their community, and how what we were asking for wasn't much different. Overall, they were just kidding, but that attitude is more of what I disagree with. Don't just say you support a band or project or idea. Do things that show that support. Sometimes it's as simple as a good friend saying “I'll check my wallet, but don't expect much.” Someone said that to me. Fuck if he even has a dollar to give me, at least he's showing with his actions and saying with his words, “you're worth me at least saying i'll try.” Yes buy merch, yes go to shows, no downloading illegally. That all goes without saying. But also, be what you want to hear in your own life. Be a pillar and a moral support. Tell bands you love them and you want more, encourage the things you love to persevere. Be the catalyst of difference in your community. That's what makes change, that's what changes ideas into actions. It's not standing on the sidelines heckling the players, it's being knee deep in the game.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Let me just say…I’m a big fan of the SPP Video Magazine. I like Sacramento Punk Shows listings and the constant barrage coming out of Punch and Pie into my stream…I like Bows and Arrows and Undie Tacos, but there’s something about just listening to who will be playing that hits my brain harder…maybe it’s the background music…I don’t know, but thank you for sending that out! It looks like it must take hours…days…all those links! Thank you…invaluable!

Benjamin Abel: Thank you for being so supportive. I WISH I could reach the audience Sacramento Punk Shows has. Right now it's great to have so many bands and musicians watching what we'll do next, but we've yet to make it over that wall where we're drawing in real fans, the show goers and film lovers, people interested in everything we're doing because they stumbled upon us and we actually entertained them. I could seriously do SPP Video Magazine until I die because I love it so much, but it's a different story with our other shows. We have to find our own fans at some point, and that's the most frightening part for me. You can't tell if it's going to happen until it hits you.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: OK, so…I know we’ll talk again soon and that you will be contributing to Punk Retrospective…is there something I should have asked you that I didn’t? I feel like there is…but I just can’t find the question…final words on current music or some another project you have going?

Benjamin Abel: Yes! Keep reading Punk Retrospective because people like El Dorko give a shit, and want to see the scene flourish, and do everything they can to be an active part of that flourishing, And he's not even getting paid! So keep coming back, and share this page with your friends. And if I can plug our current project, find more information on Fighting through the Zombie Apocalypse at https://www.facebook.com/events/153284038128511/.

ElDorkoPunkRetro: Thank you again for visiting!!

Benjamin Abel: Anytime. Thanks for having me.

27Jul/120

Luigi’s Slice Super Show – 7/24/2012

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

So beyond broke, you can’t even believe…and we really want to see this show.

I know we have already mentioned Sneeze Attack several times because they were so great in Davis and they have theoretically released the new EP, Aurora, on July 22. We have never been to an Arts & Leisure show yet, but Nacho Business were pretty damn good last time we saw them and someone in our office is freaking out because Crystal Stilts are coming all the way from Brooklyn. Can’t go…we simply can’t afford it. Hmmmm…

We really did agree to skip this show, and we were bummed, but then, Tuesday afternoon, bands started getting added to an already stellar lineup and we had to make the drive to Luigi’s…immediately, because the start time for the show was pushed way ahead! I tried to get Benjamin, my new friend from Sucker Punk Productions, to ride down with us, but he had to work.

So, yes, for another shot at seeing La Sera, and our first opportunity to catch Tim Cohen, of The Fresh & Onlys, in his new project called Magic Trick, we threw caution to the wind and used some of our remaining gas to go to the show we wanted to see…now with more!

When we arrived, I saw Sean Hills, from Punch and Pie Productions, postering the wall at Luigi’s…thought I’d talk to him, but he was gone before I could catch him. Sneeze Attack started at about 7:40, which was, apparently, a few minutes before the doors actually opened. Just a slight mix-up made us miss the first two songs…I forgive the kids at the door and their myopic customers.

Anyway, Sneeze Attack has a new drummer, Christine Shelley, and she fits the band just right! The songs we missed were the faster numbers (maybe I haven’t forgiven the door kids yet), but I liked their whole show. Dinogirl broke a string and had to borrow the Nacho Business guitar to complete their set…hey, Sacramento…this is a band ready for some big recognition. Here’s a video sample:

Next up, Nacho Business. These kids are funny, funny, funny. Self-deprecating from word one…Heather says, ”Can’t wait to disappoint you”…and they started off in a way I was almost certain would disappoint me, but turned it around so fast that until now I’d almost forgotten those a cappella moments. They broke down the fourth wall, if there was one there to begin with, and played jangly, pop punky-ness with some sweet harmonies.

Yes, I really enjoyed all the bands, but the biggest surprise of the night was Arts & Leisure.(Previously Baby Grand) There was something about this band that brought the Muffs to mind, no Shattuck scream, just energetic, simple rock songs with a duo of female singers. Gerri White and Becky Cale harmonize beautifully, but each carry the band when singing alone, their own individual attitude shining through. There always seemed to be some sort of endearing, inside joke happening…not sure what it was exactly, but they wore smiles throughout the performance and made everyone like them. Cory Vick is actually a really good guitar player, and some of my favorite moments came when Gerri would join in to finish off a song with a little more growl to her guitar. Maybe it was because I was right in front of her amp, but there was some real power there! Got one song on video:

[play-button:http://www.hardlyart.com/mp3/MagicTrick_Torture.mp3] Magic Trick - Torture direct link to free mp3 from Hardly Art: Magic Trick - Torture

Magic Trick, well…I haven’t seen Tim Cohen play since New Year’s Eve and never in his solo project. What was I expecting? Nothing…I actually had no idea he had a side project, so, even though he played on an acoustic guitar w/ a pickup ( I do love electrified punk distortion, ya know...), I was blown away. This guy is such a talented songwriter…the underground music scene is filled with talent…Tim is in a league with guys like John Dwyer and Mark Sultan. Genius. No, this isn’t ‘punk rock’ in the limited sense, but neither is Johnny Cash or Neil Young, and I still like them. And like them, there is a touch of Americana here, a melodic sorrow stringing everything together. When I spoke with Tim later he called it “sentimental”. Here’s a piece of video I shot when Katy Goodman joined them onstage:

[play-button:http://www.hardlyart.com/mp3/LaSera_PleaseBeMyThirdEye.mp3] La Sera - Please Be My Third Eye direct link to free mp3 from Hardly Art: La Sera - Please Be My Third Eye

Then Katy took the stage with her bandmates in La Sera. She’s always so happy and nice, even when inviting a timid audience to come closer. She writes catchy melodic pop songs and carries the band with her bass lines and smooth, strong voice. But…you know how, on the Ramones first 3 albums, there were songs that really stood out and the rest all kinda blend together. Something like that happens with La Sera, but probably only to me because I’m not too familiar with the material. Don’t get me wrong…it’s good:

And then the Crystal Stilts took the stage. Wooden keys on his keyboard, you say? Oh, and look…there’s Charles Albright helping the band get set up! Sacramento is a wonderful place and, even though I’m going to be deaf for the next couple of days, Luigi’s is not as bad a venue as I originally thought. Anyway, I looked these guys up online before I left, so I had an idea of what they were going to be…boring. I watched part of one video and made up my mind and, as usual, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Again, not punk…maybe more garage-y, but really, this is a psychedelic band, at least live. They opened the curtain behind the band to allow the projection system to cover the stage and band in wacked out patterns…like they do at the big city psych shows and the keyboard player just started making noise. I was still a little afraid when the band started…there was an overwhelming Doors vibe coming over the place, but that was just the visual atmosphere and look of the band. It’s pretty damn amazing what a group of primates with musical instruments can do! Here’s a sample:

So, the show ended, Charles Albright helped the band tear down the drums, while Jerry Perry went around paying the bands and cleaning up the mess. I don’t know how many promoters and bookers put this show together, something like 7, but it flowed as smoothly as any show I’ve seen this year. Big compliments to everyone who made this happen. The audience was great, too…just happy to be seeing live music and getting a chance to dance around a bit.

Now the depressing part, for us…walking past all the merch and not being able to afford one of Katy Goodman’s shirts…can’t get the Crystal Stilts new EP or LP…no art from Dino…but, we did get to talk to Katy, Kyle Forester (keyboards @Crystal Stilts) and Tim Cohen..for a couple minutes while we passed down the line. I told Katy we’d been to her show at Bows and Arrows earlier in the year and asked if she’d been touring the whole time since. She told me she had. Man, I think I’d be tired of touring…I asked if she was and she said no, she loves it and that had only been in March.

Kyle broke in and said Katy’s crazy…she loves to tour and she will stay out for more than five months and still love it. We were asking about merch prices as we worked our way down, just in case something was priced low enough…I said to Tim that I wish we weren’t so broke right now…and that we’d been to the Fresh and Onlys show at Brick and Mortar on New Years. He said,”well buy something from one of these guys, because I live in San Francisco and you’ll probably see me again before you see them.”

That kind of blew me away…most people are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t even consider someone else. I suppose they’ve all become friends on this tour, I mean Katy was singing along throughout the Magic Trick set, but still…I was affected by the gesture.

I told Tim I was impressed with his solo work from the show, but that I had only heard the Fresh and Onlys stuff before tonight. He said this project was, like I mentioned before, more sentimental, ballads, stuff the full band might not really want to do. I made the mistake of saying, “But you write some stuff in Fresh and Onlys, too, right?” He corrected me…he writes all of it. He wasn’t being egotistical, either. He really is a regular guy…looks a bit rough and tough, but clear-eyed and honest, and I believe him when he says he writes it all. I will be holding him to his insinuation that he might play in my neck of the woods if I contact him…but that’ll probably only happen if he remembers our conversation…good thing I wrote it down!

So, Sacramento, thank you! And please continue to support your local venues, bands, bookers and promoters. The more shows you go to, the more shows there will be. You are voting with your dollars for more music every time you support a show like this one. Every dime you put toward the Sneeze Attack EP makes it that much more likely you’ll see another one put out. Anyway…that’s enough out of me!

I did not see this at the show, might be some weirdness surrounding it? Can't buy it, but you can listen to it!


22May/120

Lasher Keen Northwest Summer Tour 2012

Posted by ElDorkoPunkRetro

Bluebird handed me an advance copy of 'Berserker' on March 11, 2012 and allowed me to photograph the original Markus Wolff artwork. I will not post any of that data until the new album, ‘Berserker’ actually comes out in May (postponed), but it really is quite beautiful.

I've spent a pretty good amount of time with the band over the last couple of months and will be writing up a piece on 'Berserker', my experience helping out on the Lara Miranda directed video for 'Rainmaker' (song at the bottom of this page) and what it's like to live within (the outer shell of) the bubble of one of the most creative groupings of musicians I have ever witnessed.

I have been collecting my own video and stills of the band. I've attempted several interviews and have recorded portions of several practices on video. As always, the best conversations seem to happen when no recording device is rolling and the deeply human aspects of all parties rise to the surface...but the depth of this band is always there, even in the physical spaces they create for themselves to live.

Then there is the live performance aspect of Lasher Keen. This is where the band really shines and where you (Portland, Seattle, Eugene, Nevada City and Sacramento) get to witness the current incarnation of this band playing their most intense songs with an incredible variety of instrumentation. Below the ShakyCam® video you can find the tour schedule for roughly the next month. It starts Thursday, so look now and enjoy!!

Thursday May 24th Portland Oregon
Alberta ST. Pub. 1036 NE Alberta St. Portland OR
With Waldteufel & TBA. 8:00 show starts

Friday May 25th Seattle Washington
Northwest Folklife Festival on the Vera Stage
playing from 9:15 ~10:00 pm
As part of the Underground Cascadian Folk Showcase. Visit http://www.nwfolklifefestival.org for more info.

Saturday May 26th Eugene Oregon -Private Event-

Friday June 15th Nevada City California
Stonehouse 107 Sacramento St.
scheduled to perform 9:00
As part of an all day festival featuring many great local Nevada City acts!!

Saturday June 16th in Sacramento California
Luigi’s Fun Garden 1050 20th Street
Show starts at 8:00
With In The Silence

OK...I will post this snippet of the album cover Bluebird posted on the Lasher Keen Facebook page.