Live Review: The Story So Far (December 26, 2015, 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA)

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“The youth are not the future, but it is what they become.”

— Enemy You

I finally made it to Gilman after all of these years. I have been listening to punk rock for nearly 17 years, and had never made it to the legendary performance space in West Berkeley. Perhaps when I was younger, I was into the bands that had outgrown the Gilman vibe. Furthermore, over the past few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time away from the Bay Area. I have been back around for the past few months, and took this opportunity to cross 924 Gilman Street off of the ‘ole bucket list.

Flier

Now, I know what you are thinking. This guy is nothing more than a goddamn, trendy-ass poser!

Indeed, on Saturday night at 924 Gilman Street, I felt a bit out of place upon entering the community center. All around, there was a sea of kids, kids, and more kids. At the ripe age of 30, I thought to myself, “Am I getting too old for this shit?” The short answer: “HELL NO.”

I am older, wiser, and a bit more jaded than the average Gilman attendee. I do not go to as many shows nowadays, but I have not lost touch just yet. I am just a bit more selective; I attend the great shows. Saturday night’s bill just happened to feature Walnut Creek’s own, The Story So Far.

While admiring the landscape at this “DIY, cultural landmark,” I realized that I was standing in the same dingy auditorium where Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong had spread “Knowledge and “Unity” amongst the local community. Meanwhile, I stood in the same venue where Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool got their start. And I was, in fact, in the same room where Mike Burkett and Davey Havok  launched their careers. Indeed, 924 Gilman is a Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll institution. It remains a breeding ground for greatness.

The fascinating aspect is that, aside from hairstyles, nothing has really changed in the past 29 years. The global economy is still dictated by which God you believe in. Americans are still politically divided; our education system is still flawed; and violence and corruption are still rampant.

Meanwhile, the kids are still singing along, crowd surfing, and forming circle pits. They are fed up with the status quo, the notion of conformity, and other societal issues.

At 924 Gilman Street, there is no B.S. allowed. No drugs. No alcohol. No graffiti. No stage diving. No violence. No racism. No vandalism. The experience is therapeutic. It is good old-fashioned fun. It is live music for all ages.

It was evident that most everybody in the room came to see The Story So Far. Once U.S. Light Brigade and Culture Abuse (I missed Mobins Child) finished their sets, it was go time. Parker Cannon (lead vocals), Kelen Capener (bass), Kevin Geyer (guitar/vocals), William Levy (guitar), and Ryan Torf (drums) emerged on stage and encouraged the crowd to “get rowdy.” The audience subsequently rushed forward and erupted in unison to the tune of “Empty Space.” The band promptly switched gears and delivered “Nerve,” the lead single from their self-titled album, released in May 2015.

The well-balanced set list featured cuts from all three LPs: the aforementioned The Story So Far, What You Don’t See (2013), and Under Soil and Dirt (2011). New tracks like “Heavy Gloom” and “Distaste” coupled with previous standouts like “Things I Can’t Change,” “Quicksand,” and “Face Value” were received with a great deal of enthusiasm from the sold-out, capacity crowd.

Lacking were classics like “Brevity,” “Mt. Diablo,” and “Rally Cap,” but the band’s professionalism and maturity were on display on this cold December evening. Between songs, Parker and his band mates would clap along with the fans to bid thanks for the overwhelming support from the Bay Area punk rock community.

Frankly, this is what it is all about. It is not about album sales anymore. It is not about going viral. It is about coming together as one, leaving your problems at the door, and simply enjoying yourself for a few hours.

The show ended, as all good things do, after a short encore highlighted by “States and Minds” and “Roam.” The crowd wanted more, but reluctantly filed out of the venue back into the 30-degree weather. As for me, I enjoyed my first time at 924 Gilman Street. I will be back. Apparently, punk rock is not just for kids.

Set List

“Empty Space”

“Nerve”

“Things I Can’t Change”

“The Glass”

“Heavy Gloom”

?

“Bad Luck”

“Distaste”

?

“Face Value”

“Quicksand”

“Framework”

Encore:

“States and Minds”

“Roam”

 

Live Review: The Shell Corporation with Bad Cop / Bad Cop, The Bombpops, Murderland, & Squarecrow (March 6, 2015, The Redwood Bar & Grill, Los Angeles, CA)

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We were blessed with 80-degree weather on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the scintillating conditions carried over into the evening hours. By 9pm, the punks began to congregate at downtown L.A.’s finest pirate-themed watering hole, The Redwood Bar & Grill, anxiously awaiting a stacked lineup of emerging talent.

First up was Squarecrow, a three-piece, straightforward power-pop / pop-punk band out of San Diego. At this point, people were still filing into the venue, and others were huddled around the back bar, conversing with one another, and securing their first round of drinks. As is the case with most openers, there wasn’t much of a reception. Generally speaking, I think they could have benefited from another guitar player. It would have really rounded out their sound. The trio ended abruptly with “Wayside,” which is actually a pretty catchy song. It’s featured on their self-released EP, B-Sides (2013).

http://squarecrow.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/squarecrowmusic

RIYL: Banquets, American Hi-Fi, Jimmy Eat World

Next up was Murderland, a horror punk quintet from L.A. I had never heard of these guys, but I was thoroughly impressed with their performance. The riffs reminded me of Strung Out. The energy exuded by lead vocalist “Mike Murder” was reminiscent of Jim Lindberg (of Pennywise). As they moved through their 30-minute set, they delivered an authentic rendition of a genre defined by the Misfits, Samhain, and Blitzkid. Hey, it’s pretty cool when a band can attach an addictive melody to songs like “Hacksaw Romance,” “Die Screaming,” and “Fetus Eaters.” And of course, the second band of the night always has the best on-stage banter, or so they claimed. Indeed, Murderland might be on to something here.

Murderland at The Redwood Bar and Grill in Los Angeles, CA (March 6, 2015)

Murderland

Find Murderland on Spotify

https://www.facebook.com/wecametoparty

RIYL: Misfits, Samhain, Blitzkid, Calabrese, AFI (Black Sails to Art of Drowning era)

After a quick sound check, The Bombpops graced us with their presence. Instantly, Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam (who share the vocal duties) launched their trademark “call-and-response” format, and assured the crowd that – yes, girls can rock out, too (and quite effectively, I might add). The duo layers their songs with sweet “oohs” and “ahhs,” while simultaneously shredding on guitar. Paired with bassist Neil Wayne and drummer Josh Lewis, the pop-punk quartet wasted little time, delivering an array of crowd-pleasing anthems, such as “Outta Hand,” “Like I Care,” and “Grocery Store.” They played a handful of new songs that I didn’t recognize, and strategically placed the radio-ready “Can O’ Worms” (via the 2014 self-released 7”, Can Of Worms) towards the end of the set. Hailing from Oceanside, CA, The Bombpops have since relocated to the L.A. basin, and are primed for a serious run. Stay tuned, folks.

The Bombpops

The Bombpops

http://thebombpops.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheBombpops

RIYL: The Queers, Teen Idols, Screeching Weasel, Descendents

The estrogen level was cranked up even further when Bad Cop / Bad Cop hit the stage. Stacey Dee (lead vocals / guitar), Jennie Cotterill (vocals / guitar), Rinh Re (bass/vocals), and Myra Gallarza (drums) provided the audience with an engaging set, peppered with an assortment of wonderfully catchy songs. Their execution was spot on, resulting in a very tight performance. In between the witty on-stage banter, the girls played highly contagious cuts like “Rodeo” and “My Life,” both derived from the Boss Lady EP (2014, Fat Wreck Chords). They also played a ton of new songs, which are slated to appear on a “new record,” which is due out “later this year” on Fat Wreck Chords.

http://badcopbadcop.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/badcopbadcopband

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

RIYL: Enemy You, Good Riddance, Love Equals Death

Finally, it was time for The Shell Corporation. Unfortunately, the crowd had thinned out a bit by the time they took the stage. Lead singer Jan Drees wondered if they were actually the “headliner” or if they just had “the privilege to play last.” It’s a shame that more people didn’t stick around, because these dudes rock. Period. Regardless, Drees spent most of the set pacing back and forth between the stage and the audience, gesturing the crowd in a Greg Graffin-type fashion. Drees, Curtiss Lopez (guitar / vocals), Sean Moore (bass / vocals), and Jake Margolis (drums) were precisely on target. They ripped through a handful of songs (“The Death of Us,” “Maguire’s Plea,” “Appetite for Distraction,” “Trust Us”) from their latest release, Mandrake (2014, Paper and Plastick Records / Solidarity Recordings). Towards the end of the set, Drees vented some frustration with the world at large, sensing that “nobody is listening,” and “nothing ever changes,” and furthermore, this was his time to “bitch about the fact that nobody’s listening.” I couldn’t agree more.

http://solidarityrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/mandrake

https://www.facebook.com/TheShellCorporation

RIYL: Bad Religion, Goldfinger, Banner Pilot, Red City Radio

The Shell Corporation

The Shell Corporation

As I exited the venue, I noticed the temperature had significantly dropped, probably into the low 60s. But I didn’t need a jacket. The community, the camaraderie, the comic relief, and the tunes ringing in my ears provided a nice blanket. Yeah, shows like this keep you warm for a long time.