Skating Polly #1

So, friends, I have discovered a new (to me) band, and I am in the first flush of band crush. Their name is Skating Polly. I discovered them about a month ago in my YouTube suggestions. I think the first two videos I watched were new ones – Louder in Outer Space and Hail Mary. After that I was pretty much hooked, and watched many videos after that. Please check out the following playlist featuring five of my favorite videos and be prepared to be wrecked by their raw energy and inventiveness!

Skating Polly consists of step sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse. When their respective parents got together, the two bonded over a shared love of punk music like Patti Smith, the Ramones, etc., and they decided to form a band . At the time Kelli was 9 (!) and Peyton was 15 (that was about 6 years ago already). Kelli plays a “basitar” – a kind of 3 stringed bass that was a little easier for a small human to handle, Peyton plays the guitar, and they switch off on drums. They also both play piano, and of course both sing and write songs. More recently, Kelli’s older brother Curtis has joined on drums to fill out their live sound.

Kelli’s singing has quite a range – from soft, whispery vocals to banshee screams. As revealed in the videos, Kelli has a more manic energy than her older sibling, that tends to put her a little more in the foreground. The older Peyton, whose presence is a bit more restrained, can also go for it vocally. Sometimes Peyton kind of hollers, and drifts out of key, but in a way I find really effective. Yet her voice is also rich and beautiful when she wants to express herself in that way.

For me, Skating Polly has all the stuff I care about – great vocals and harmonies, a minimalist sound based on guitars and drums, and songs with inventive structures and killer hooks. They also have a number of softer songs, with vocals layered over piano or acoustic guitar, that rival the best of them.

I had the chance to see Skating Polly about a week ago in San Francisco. I’ll put up my concert review in a subsequent post.

Ian Sweet, Post Life and Horrible/Adorable at the Rickshaw Stop

Ian Sweet

Ian Sweet at the Rickshaw Stop

Here’s a little review of Ian Sweet, Post Life and Horrible/Adorable at Rickshaw Stop last Thursday, April 13. But first, a little detour. Many years ago (~1984) I moved to the Bay Area, and lived in San Francisco from 1984 until 1999. Currently, I live in the Santa Cruz mountains, but my pulse still quickens whenever I visit The City. I love the variety and energy of the people, the scent of ocean in the air, the architecture, the fact that it’s surrounded by water on three sides… The area around the Rickshaw Stop used to be pretty darned sketchy, but now Hayes Valley is bursting at the seams with elegant people, toting yoga mats, going places, laughing, talking, and enjoying gourmet food and drink of every description. My friend Alex and I dined at Patxi’s Pizza, which was a pretty good experience. We ordered a deep dish pizza, since it’s their specialty, but I later realized that Chicago Style pizza is not really my thing – too much like eating a pie crust full of melted cheese and toppings, with some sauce on the top. I mean it was fresh, and tasty, but I think regular pizza is more to my taste. But Patxi’s has a nice atmosphere, and I would go again.

Anyway, we made it to Rickshaw Stop shortly after 8. Jilian from Ian Sweet was there by the merch table right when we walked in. She sweetly introduced herself, and we chatted for a while. I offered that Alex was from Manhattan, so they talked about neighborhoods in Brooklyn for a while. Jilian was wearing a rather homely wide brimmed hat, like you might put on your baby to keep it from getting a sunburn. I should mention that I bought these tickets because I erroneously thought that Cherry Glazerr was going to be on the bill, and I knew nothing about any of the bands, other than looking at a few videos and articles. So despite my disappointment that Cherry Glazerr was not actually on this leg of the tour, I was intrigued enough to go anyway, and had a fun time.


Horrible/Adorable at the Rickshaw Stop

As often happens, the unknown local opening band stole our hearts. Composed of guitarist Kristin “Kiki” Petiford and drummer Candice Kuter, Horrible/Adorable is a perfect lo-fi, cheeky, garage-rock duo from Oakland. Their music is funny, and raw, but also intelligent. And most of all, they kick ass. They sing about Mac n cheese, UFO’s, bowling, and boys among other things. Alex and I both bought their 7 inch debut “Lookin’ Healthy”, and I picked up one of their hand-made shirts for my son.

Post Life

Post Life at the Rickshaw Stop

The second act was Post Life, a four piece band out of Los Angeles. Singer/guitar player Brianna said this was their first tour which was cool. They had great energy, and their music created a vibrating wall of sound, over which Brianna’s vocals soared. The only notes I took were that Brianna’s right hand strummed amazingly fast, and the other guitar play, also excellent, had amazing long masses of light brown hair. Definitely worth checking out.

Sometime around 10pm Ian Sweet took the stage. They are a three piece combo, with Jilian on guitar and vocals, Damien Scalise on bass and Tim Cheney on drums. Jilian still had on her funny sun hat, and Damien and Tim also sported baseball caps. Alex and I decided it was their thing. I will just come out and say I did not connect on an emotional level with Ian Sweet. They are extremely talented musicians, and though the crowd was small, I could tell a number of the attendees were fully committed, enthusiastically jumping and whooping to the music. However, Alex pointed out that a disturbing number of audience members were also talking, or twiddling their smart phones through much of the performance. I think part of the issue is that Ian Sweet’s songs are challenging and complex. Some are catchy, too, but the themes seem to be introspective, searching and somewhat abstract, and the music is shifting, and jazzy, and a little bit more than I could wrap myself around at the end of a long day. But the three of them had a good energy together, and their music is fiery and virtuoso. So if complex, jazzy, introspective rock is your thing, check Ian Sweet out by all means.

The Muffs Part 1

Less than a year ago, fun-loving 90’s band the Muffs came on my radar. I don’t know why I was unaware all this time, but it happens. I put the first Muffs album on my Christmas list (and my family dutifully bought it for me), and I’ve been listening to it a bunch since then. A couple of weeks ago it clicked that I really liked the album, and I’m currently in the ‘I play this album every day’ phase of the relationship.

The band in its current form is fronted by Kim Shattuck (formerly of the the Pandoras) on guitar and vocals, with Ron Barnett on bass guitar and Roy McDonald on drums.

I’m just going to talk about The Muffs self-titled first album, since that’s the only one I know at this time. However, I intend to buy the second and third Muffs albums, Blonder and Blonder, and Happy Birthday to Me at a minimum, since they seem equally well-loved, and there are many newer ones to discover as well.

I don’t think I can get all music critic poetic in this moment, but there’s something about this album that just feels like coming home – like settling in to 16 satisfying cuts of succinct, pure and satisfying rock and roll. It is Ramones-like in the sense that nothing is wasted, and every note contributes to the effect.

Shattuck’s voice kind of has one raspy, loud timbre that rarely varies, yet every lyric is delivered with clarity and a brassy smile. She sings like she’s enjoying herself. And I guess there’s a forthright, happiness about this Muffs album that makes me feel good.

And can they write hooks? Standouts on this album include “Everywhere I Go”, “Baby Go Round” and “All for Nothing”, but really there are so many great songs on this album that I could practically list them all.

So if you haven’t been exposed to The Muffs yet, and could use a dose of pure, happy tunes, you could do worse than to pick up The Muffs first album and give it a spin. And they are still performing, so by all means if you get the chance, go to a show. I plan to next chance I get.

Muffs website

Potty Mouth at the Rickshaw Stop March 27, 2017

Hey, new concert review here. I saw Potty Mouth last night at the Rickshaw Stop in SF. I ended up going by myself because I couldn’t find anybody else who wanted to spend Monday night watching a rock and roll show (buncha losers). I guess I wasn’t the only one, because the show was pretty lightly attended, or should I say “intimate”?

Click to Expand

Potty Mouth at the Rickshaw Stop

Openers Shutups were a three piece thrash punk kinda outfit from Oakland. I thought they rocked hard, and played with conviction. I liked them. As often happens to me, I like the first opener more than some of the subsequent bands. Tennis Systems played next, and they had a kind of cool new wave sound with vampy guitars and vocals with the echo turned up. But I felt they lacked conviction (this is my new word) and also the singer wasn’t that great IMO. The last band before Potty Mouth was Party Baby, who I guess were kind of co-headliners? Anyway, I decided that Party Baby wanted to be Bon Jovi with a big rock and roll sound and some good hooks. The lead singer looked like John Belushi, with a giant mass of hair. They weren’t really my thing, but they kind of won me over with their enthusiasm and cuteness.

Finally Potty Mouth took the stage. I should mention that this was the last show of a 5-week tour by Potty Mouth, Tennis Systems and Party Baby, so there was some emotion around that. Apparently they all got along, which I’m glad to hear. Two guys from Party Baby did join in on Potty Mouth doing “Long Haul”, which they also apparently helped write. However, somewhat dampening everybody’s enthusiasm was the fact that the audience had about 50 people in it. I mean, we were enthusiastic, but when the venue is like a quarter full, I guess the band maybe is not going to play every song in their repertoire.

I was sad that Damage and The Bomb, two of my favorites, were not in the set. What I jotted down (not complete) was Cherry Picking, Truman Show, Black and Studs, Long Haul and the Spins, which was the finale. There were two new numbers, Do It Again and 22, both of which rocked. The band kicked ass as I knew they would – they were loud, looked badass, and like they were having fun. She tended to be hidden behind front-person Abby, but Victoria the drummer kicks booty, and also sings backup which is cool. Ally the bass player is tiny on the other hand, but I love her playing and her rock and roll look. They didn’t credit the lead guitar player, but apparently they recruit different players to fill in for live shows. She definitely had the chops whoever she was.

I’m glad I made it to the show. I discovered Potty Mouth relatively recently, but I really like their music, and their attitude, and I’d like to seem them do well. Check them out if you get the chance!

Pussy Riot Revolution

Flyer for Pussy Riot Theatre Revolution

I’m trying to document some of the musical and cultural things I’m doing on this blog. That was always the intent of Girlbandgeek, but as you know, we don’t always carry out all our plans. Anyway, I recently saw a performance by Pussy Riot Theatre of their piece “Revolution”. The piece was written by Masha Alyokhina, and produced by Sasha Cheparukhin. The performance included members of the band Asian Women on The Telephone as we as a member of the Belarus Free Theatre.

Masha is one of three infamous members of Pussy Riot who spent time in jail after performing anti-Putin song “Punk Prayer” in the Moscow Cathedral in 2012. Revolution documents their story using word, dance, music and images. I guess you could call it sort of a political rock opera. The words were all in Russian, which made it hard to follow at times, despite translations that were projected on a screen above the stage, along with photos, drawings and slogans that complemented the story.

It was a very powerful and exciting piece, which documented their story from before the performance in the cathedral, through their arrest, trial and imprisonment, and subsequent release. The music was percussive, funky and very well done. The parallels between the political situation in Russia, and what’s going on in the US with our current administration heightened the impact and relevancy of the piece significantly. Masha, Sasha and one of the musicians came back after the performance to answer questions, which was cool of them, but pretty cringeworthy as these things often are.

Anyway, I am totally awed by the bravery of the Pussy Riot collective in standing up to one of the most brutal and thuggish governments, and shining a light on the injustice and repression. I found it both inspiring and humbling. I feel very lucky that this performance came to our little podunk town!