Suburban DictionaryPosted on October 2, 2011 – 2:56 AM | by Admin
I have had a love affair with our Sacramento music scene since first discovering it as a wee lad back in 1979. By the next year, I was in my first band and I haven’t looked back since. Over the years, I’ve seen literally thousands of bands play; from pirate shows held beneath the I-80 overpass and inside laundromats to the echo chamber that is the Memorial Auditorium and everywhere in between. And, oh yeah…four years at this place called the Cattle Club.
When the idea was first bandied around, the idea of a ‘Sacramento Music A-Z’ held a lot of appeal to me. The challenge of finding a couple of entries for each letter seemed daunting at first, but before I knew it, I realized that the hard part was actually who and what would be excluded from the list. So pleeeeeese, no belly-achin’ if your favorite band/person/whatever didn’t make the list. As I said earlier, there have been thousands of bands that have come and gone – some brilliant and some one-show jokes and there’s no way to accommodate all the awesomeness that has graced stages here in the past 30 years. So, without further blahblahblah…
Aftermath Records – Record store that hosted some of the earliest punk rock shows. Dead Kennedys, Flipper and The Young Canadians all played in the parking lot back in 1980-81.
Albright, Charles – Drummer, guitarist, vocalist and Sacramento’s biggest Black Flag fan, Charles Albright has been in more bands then you have records in your collection. The last couple years have seen two mighty garage-scuzz 45s released under his birth name that have collectors and fans clamoring for more, more and uh, more. The coolest/loudest math professor you’ll ever meet/hear.
All-ages Shows – A very, very good thing.
Band Names, Best – My personal fave was a Davis group called Nest of Saws but as a Star Trek fan, I was also pretty smitten with No Kill I. Other fine choices: Corpse Fucks Corpse, Fall of Christianity, Qore, Horny Mormons, Hot Spit Dancers and Duchess of Saigon. Honorary prize: Thin White Rope for referencing a Burroughs description of a cumshot.
Band Names, Worst – Where to start? Ed Hunter’s excellent soul/punk band Barbara’s Bush (who later became the equally retardo Madonnahue) still makes me wince writing it. Danny Poo & the Roto-Doggies, a Club Minimal-era punk band featured Skid Jones from Magnolia Thunderfinger/Go, Dog! Go AND Scott Soriano (who, if memory serves, played a street sign). Other contenders: Feces Munchers, Old Man Homo, and U-Tear-Us
Bert House – On the corner of 19th and ‘I’ Street stood the Bert House, which was a living/practice space for a buncha Midtown bands from the mid to late ‘80s. An odd mix of people lived there – anarchist/animal rights activists, drunk punx, artists and a 15-year-old Ground Chuck. Some of the bands that used to jam/live there included: Sewer Trout, Sins of the Flesh, Pollution Circus and Laughing Jesus. If you had a funny haircut in those days, you probably passed out on a couch there one time or another.
Buick – A criminally under-appreciated instrumental two-piece outta Davis, Buick featured Jeff Clark, now a major – like, really major – US poet, on drums and Scott Lawrimore on guitar. Released one CD, Sweatertongue on the local Lather Records. Post-whatever, Buick’s songs were slow-burning; the leisure unfurling of a menacing tangle of strings and the well-placed thumps reminded me of Slint or Bedhead in their prime.
Club Minimal – The first real all-ages punk rock club in Sacramento. Open for just over 18 months in 1983-84, almost every major US punk band played the anonymous looking concrete building located in some warehouses by City College. Circle Jerks, Code of Honor, Toy Dolls, Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers, Meat Puppets, Dicks, GBH, Agent Orange and even an early Metallica were just some of the bands that pummeled youth into submission every weekend. Just like the cops did. Ahem.
Crash & Britany – A gum chewin,’ trouble-making trio who sounded like what would happen if late ‘80s-era Sonic Youth covered Beat Happening. Crash & Britany made one cool record, 1994’s Kids Luv You, before calling it quits. Best remembered as opening for Pearl Jam (hi Guphy!) in San Francisco because some guy by the name of Eddie something-or-another really liked them.
Dall, Cynthia – Singer-song-write-tress who released two swell records, Untitled from 1996 and 2002’s Sound Restores Young Men on the Drag City label – both recorded by Jim O’Rourke. She also appears on her then-boyfriend, Bill Callahan aka Smog’s Burning Kingdom EP. A lot of column inches blabbed about her debut which made many a Top Ten lists that year and both albums are still as bittersweet and sad and beautiful as when they were first heard.
Doose, Ken – The unofficial historian of all things punk in Sacramento. A tireless supporter of local punk bands for over 25 years, Ken records shows, makes mix-tapes and tries to collect every bit of Sacramento punk memorabilia. “Lovingly” immortalized by the Sea Pigs on their split 7” with Far, Mr. Doose has a fantastic blogsite with tons of flyers from the early 80’s onward. Check it out at http://loserlist69.blogspot.com
E-Types – Best power-pop band out of Sacto…ever. Super-catchy toe-tappers that straddled the ’60s UK mod/Brit Invasion sounds with a stiletto edge. Dean Seavers was the singer/guitarist/hook-meister and all-around good guy and his current musical non-presence needs to be remedied, like, pronto. Search out their Action Packed 7” EP for proof of their pop genius.
Finton, Greg – Drummer for ‘80s power-pop combos Michigan Impossible and Dig! Moved on to become an in-demand movie editor. Didja see the documentary It Might Get Loud with Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge? Greg was the editor of that award-winning film.
G. Green – Some of the most ear-pleasing sonics going on in town these days, G. Green are positioning themselves to be the Swell Maps of Sacramento. Liz whacks/hits/pounds things while Andrew does his damnedest to hit those high notes while wrestlin’ with his gee-tar. If mere mention of early Pavement, Scat-era Guided By Voices and the entire Secret Center catalogue (see below) makes you seek out your mother’s teat, please give G. Green your ill-earned money.
Griffith, Jackson – Finest music writer that has ever graced pages of the Sacramento press, bar none. His spewage for Pulse, Alive & Kicking, Sacramento News & Review and other rags are some of the most hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness word-fucking ever laid ink to.
Hammond, Ross –A three-time Sammies award-winner as Outstanding Jazz Musician, Hammond consistently raises the bar for himself by collaborating with a diverse pallet of local folks ranging from duos with synth-abuser Wes Steed from Hearts & Horses/Park Ave. Music to his poetry-based trio, Electropoetic Coffee. If that weren’t enough, he also hosts the Nebraska Mondays series at Luna’s, and his annual In The Flow festival, which he started with the late Byron Blackburn.
Hunting Game – In the mid-‘80s this four-piece ruled the Midtown scene with their minimalist No-Wave funk sound and a great front-person in agent provocateur Kele Duncan, who would shriek and shimmy (and occasionally flash) crowds into submission. Besides Duncan, Steve Passerell supplies the liquid dub bass while his cousin, Tony Passerell added angular blasts of sax and trumpet. Nailing the groove was the late, great Tommy VanWormer on drums and their one EP, Rules, from 1983 sounds as contemporary as any current coldwave band going on.
Inbred Sacramento – Good online resource for tracking who’s been in what band. While the page hasn’t been updated in quite some time, it does show what a close-knit musically community we live in. Started by Dave “Smith,” there are a couple hundred bands listed, mostly punk, with some discographical info, list of known band members and links to other bands that individuals have been in. While faaaar from complete, it does show what a dirty lil’ incestuous scene we have. http://www.nokilli.com/inbred/
Instagon, Lob – One of the busiest guys in town – a musician, poet, artist and organizer of the longest running noise music festivals in the US, Mr. Instagon has his feet in many delicious pies. A fan and player of all sorts of music – from the far fringes to the almost traditional – this L.A. transplant is best known for his participation in the NorCal NoiseFest. Also, Lob is the biggest Nurse With Wound fan in town. Big bonus points for that. (photo by Cynthia Jones)
Jackpot – Not sure if these yahoos are still together – it’s been four years since their last CD, Moonbreath was released – but for my money, Jackpot were the real deal when it came to countrified R&R. Take a pinch from few Wilco albums, those two solo Gram Parsons records and Music From Big Pink then smear the whole mess with a severe case of irony, and you’d have a pretty good idea where these guys are coming from. Singer/gee-tar player Rusty Miller has been occupying the drum chair for dream-popper, Two Sheds, as of late, but a solid and rabid national fanbase isn’t going to let him give up Jackpot quite yet.
Janssen, Eric – Guitarist/singer for two of Davis’ best indie-pop bands of the past few decades: The Curbfeelers and The LookyLoos. One of the most likable frontmen around, Janssen’s affable demeanor was the perfect foil to the literate and smart music swirling around him. Though he’s kept a lower profile in recent years, we can only hope that it’s because he’s readying his next set of pure-pop heartache.
Karate Party – Chris Woodhouse’s pet project in the late 1990s, Karate Party fell prey to the classic Sacramento syndrome of being appreciated everywhere but in their hometown. Lurching like an injured monster and seething with a nervous negative energy, this is a “party” in the same way Altamont was a “concert.” Influencing a buncha weirdos around the world, it was 2001’s Black Helicopter LP on SS Records that led stern young men, like those in the SubPop band, A-Frames to sit up straight and take notice, and gave Woodhouse the nod to record their first couple albums.
KDVS – Radio station that broadcasts from Lower Freeborn Hall at the University of California, Davis on the 90.3 FM frequency. Student-run non-commercial community radio at its finest. Listening to KDVS changed my life in so many positive ways. A life-long musical education. Thank you for existing. Everyone should listen to and support KDVS and our other community non-commercial radio stations including KVMR in Grass Valley and our local NPR station, KXJZ.
K Street Mall – Used to be a trash-filled haven with low-lifes doing their best speed-bump impersonations and the most exciting place to hang out back in the late ‘70s thru the late ‘80s. And these days? Well…everything is the same except for the ‘exciting’ part. K Street Mall used to have several cool record stores: the famous Records on K, Marquee Records (owned by Donnie Jupiter of Twinkeyz fame),a 45s-only store near the corner of 7th and an odd but cool husband ‘n’ wife owned shop down by The Crest with boxes of records lining the floor in no real order. Adding to the overall ambiance was Topper’s, a really, really seedy gay bar on the east side of the mall, where the Dead Kennedys played their first local show. The Crest Theatre used to be a run-down movie house showing grindhouse double features. Club Can’t Tell, located where the IMAX theater now stands, was a cool but janky spot that had a reputation for good shows and bad drugs. Not too many bands came back for a repeat performance.
Labial Fricative – Along with Hunting Game, the house band at Galatica 2000, the most popular spot for touring punk/new wave bands to play in the early ’80s (and later became know as One Level Up). Labial Fricative had a gigantic female bodybuilder as their singer and she was intimidating to say the least. More new wave than punk, they reminded me of San Francisco’s The Mutants, minus the art-school leanings.
Laughing Jesus – Mid to late ‘80s punk band with a bad acid edge mostly known for being the first band for a lot of now well-known local musicians. Sherman Loper, Neil Franklin and James Telles all ended up in Kai Kln, while Chris Woodhouse ended up a band slut playing with Mayyors, FM Knives and the aforementioned Karate Party, to name just a few. The late, great Jim MacLean went on to start Sewer Trout and Well Hung Monks with his brother Hal MacLean, then later formed country-yucksters Elmer up in Portland. Singer Craig Usher found his way into Bi-Curious George and can still be seen from time to time enjoying a local show. I don’t think Laughing Jesus ever released anything in a permanent format, but their shows were pretty darn fun.
Loft vs Old Ironsides – A ridiculous feud that went on waaaaay past its expiration/exacerbation date. The Loft was a small volunteer space where many a local and touring band played in the early ‘90s and as such it was un-licensed and shows were all word-of-mouth events. Eventually, lines were drawn in the sand and bands were either seen as ‘Old I’ bands or ‘Loft’ bands and this actually continued for years after The Loft closed its doors in the mid-’90s. The end. Please.
Matranga, Tim – Record collector extraordinaire, scene supporter, KDVS DJ and one of the most knowledgeable fans of 6Ts music and garage bands – both older and current – on this or any other planet. If you can’t catch him spinning wax around town, be sure to catch his Kicksville 29 BC show on Sunday nights from 10PM till Midnight on the mighty KDVS 90.3 FM for a heavy dose of psych, garage, soul and funk.
Miller, Scott (1) – Davis-based guitarist/singer/songwriter best known for his psych-pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. His first band was Lobster Quadrille who broke up without releasing a single note. He gained some notice with Alternative Learning from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, who released one EP, ALRN in ’79, then the OK-ish Painted Windows LP two years later. He didn’t really hit his stride until Game Theory got together and fit in well with the other Paisley Underground bands that started up around the same time like The Suspects (who later became Dream Syndicate), Thin White Rope and True West.
Miller, Scott (2) – Sacramento-based guitarist/singer/songwriter best known for his punk-pop bands Nar and The English Singles. His first band was Sunlight Release who broke up without releasing a single note. He gained some notice with Nar from the late 80’/early 90’s, who released one EP, Nar in ’91 then the great Nar/Lizards split LP one year later. He really hit his stride after founding his Secret Center label (see below) and playing in more bands then you have fingers and toes, all of whom fit in well with the other pop-punk bands that started up around the same time like The Bananas, Horny Mormons and Yah-mos. Currently swooning dads ‘n’ grads alike in The English Singles and who knows what other one-off he’s conspiring on.
No Kill I – Sacramento’s premier Star Trek tribute band and the only group on this list to have been in a feature film: 2004’s Trekkies 2. Featuring a plethora of chumps and chumpettes from Midtown bands, every show was like an alcohol-soaked fight scene against the mighty Gorn and the chaos that ensued wasn’t a theory but a fact, Jack. Banned from most clubs for their single-minded quest to destroy that elusive ‘final frontier,’ No Kill I left a trail of dead red shirts behind them. Read more about their incredible besotten and liver-aching adventures, complete with some great “action shots” at http://www.nokilli.com/index.htm
O’Neill & The Realities – One of the more interesting bands from the early local punk scene, this Davis band was led by wheelchaired singer T.J. O’Neill, backed by gtr/bs/dms, and were a great live band, especially when T.J. would start doing wheelies around the stage and drive his chair into a crowd of slam dancers. With pretty intense songs, bass-driven and propulsive, this quartet never failed to work the crowd into a lather. And a cursory search on the Internet finds Mr. O’Neill still writing and performing down in Los Angeles.
Offer, Danny – Brother of Yahmos/!!!/Out Hud singer/bassist Nic Offer and in my humble opinion, the best male vocalist to front a local band. His group, The Big D, with Jay Baker on drums and bassist David Aslanian only released one CD-R while they trod the planet, but his clear pure-pop vocals were like a breath of pine-fresh mountain air, a perfect compliment to Big D’s hook-filled ‘n’ happy music. A voice sorely missed…come back soon, Dan-O!
Paisley Underground – A groovy lil’ sub-genre of music in the early to mid ‘80s that revived ideas first bandied around by psychedelic/garage bands in the late ‘60s. While Los Angeles is often sited as the birthplace of this pretty cool movement, the facts show that the Sacramento/Davis area is where the roots and first offerings took place. To whit: The Suspects were a Davis band circa 1979-81 that was led by two KDVS DJs (guitarist Steve Wynn and bassist Kendra Smith), with Russ Tolman on 2nd guitar and Gavin Blair on drums. Steve and Kendra split for LA and formed Dream Syndicate, a fantastic band that combined the Velvet Underground, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the energy of punk and influenced a bunch of musicians that wanted to move on from pro forma p-rock but keep the intensity. The other two guys, Gavin and Russ, stayed in town and started up True West, whose version of Pink Floyd’s Lucifer Sam 45 got a ton of play on KDVS back in the day and they went on to make a few really solid pop-psych albums that has stood the test of time.
Pounded Clown – One of the most singularly original bands that have ever sullied a stage, Pounded Clown were a force of nature – punk rock with a horn section that numbered up to a half-dozen folks. Vince di Fiore, of Cake fame was a pretty constant presence on trumpet. Dave Downey made a perfect ringleader to the circus sideshow that was ‘da Clown, turning boys into men with his slinky evening attire and come-hither glances. With Ed Hunter on guitar, Hal MacLean on drums/cowbell, Rick Edwards on uh, whatever, you just knew the good times were going to eventually sit in your lap and wiggle around a little. Yeah, that good.
Punk, First Local Show – That would be The Ramones at Slick Willie’s in August of 1976. Next year they came back and played The Entertainment Factory on March 2nd. Soon after, The Twinkeyz and Ozzie formed, the first “punk” bands in Sacramento. The rest as they say is, uh, something.
Qore – Hardcore band filled with quirk and vinegar. Fronted by good ol’ Kendon Smith fresh from Deep Six with a couple of young lads from Platypus Scourge and Insurgent, Qore were both smart and smart-alecs, throwing in a few bars of a surf tune in the middle of one of their metalloid thrashers, kinda like a low-rent Mr. Bungle.
Qwertyuiop EP – Scene-defining 7” that was co-released by Secret Center and Very Small Records in 1991. One track each from Sea Pigs, Nar, Lizards and Gün, (full disclosure: the band this writer “sang” for) four bands that played together with alarming frequency. All copies had labels that were hand-drawn in one night by various members of all four bands, a side-splitting, liver-aching night that I semi-remember fondly to this day.
Rebel Truth – The best-known hardcore band from Sacramento (7 Seconds were from Reno, er, I mean, ‘Skeeno’) and the first to release a record – the Rebel Truth EP in 1983, now a big-time collectors item. Opened for Dead Kennedys at the American Legion Hall in 1981. Also appeared on the seminal NorCal hardcore comp Not So Quiet On the Western Front.
Rosebuds – The best shoegaze band our fair city ever produced. With Dustin Reske on gtr/larynx, the brothers Berkeley – Josh and Ben – abusing yet another guitar and bass respectively and “Gentleman” Jim Rivas as the poundy guy, these sullen teens took sheets of feedback and origamied them into a loose pop structure that owed as much to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. as it did My Bloody Valentine and the squalling side of the 4AD label. Lush yet razor-edged, they only released a solitary cassette, which I would love to wallow in again. Reske ended up forming Rocketship, a fantastic group that started off as breezy pop that sounded like a Swedish advert for PanAm Airlines from 1972 with sweet boy/girl vocals before taking a more experimental bent that droned and shimmered and confused and eventually exhaled.
Secret Center Records – Not so much a label as it is one person’s love letter to the Midtown Sacramento music scene, Secret Center was the work of one man, Master Scott Miller (see above – the second one) and this was his way of documenting our finest to share the ‘Sacto Sound’ with anyone who cared. And they did. Bands that recorded for Secret Center included: The Four Eyes, The Bananas, Boulevard Park Trio, The Knockoffs, Los Huevos, Tiki Men, Lizards, Nar and Bagpipe Operation. For a full list of releases go to: http://www.nokilli.com/inbred/labels/secret-center.htm
Sewer Trout – If you wanna trace/blame the ‘Sacto Sound’ to one band, it would have to be the much-loved trio, Sewer Trout. More sarcastic than angry, more pop then punk, and more cowbell then, uh, whatever, Sewer Trout sorta sounded like if The Feelies first album, Crazy Rhythm was recorded under the influence of cases of Schaffer beer at Gilman Street. Jim & Hal MacLean were the rhythm section and Keith Lehtinan was the strum-meister. They were actually fairly prolific, lots of tracks on compilations put out by Very Small and Lookout! Records, but for my hard-earned moo-la-la, I’d have to say that their Songs About Drinking EP is their best.
Simmons, Karen – Guitarist for Moist, a rambunctious trio that included Sunita Bhardwaj and Wendy Powell, all long-time Tower HQ employees and ass-whoopin’ musicians. Moist reminded me of the great, underrated Midwest trio, Scrawl – no-nonsense sweet ‘n’ sour pop-punk with understated vocal interplay . Simmons later found herself in No Kill I (see above) as Yeoman Rand, the calm at the eye of the shit-storm. Six strings never had a better friend.
Thin White Rope – On paper it shouldn’t work – fusing the cosmic end of Krautrock to Bakersfield-styled C&W and leaving the whole thing out in the desert sun until its bones are bleached – but it did. Guitarist/singer Guy Kyser has one of the most distinctive voices in rock – a gruff, frazzled and tense bark – that framed his stories of simple folk pushed over/beyond the edge perfectly. Kyser and 2nd guitarist Roger Kunkel, had an amazing and powerful interplay together, throwing off spiraling flights of string damage that scraped the stratos like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd on Televison’s Marquee Moon. Their last US show was at the Cattle Club in ’92 and was the best set of music I ever saw from a local band to this day. For a teaser of what it was like, go grab the 2LP/CD set, The One That Got Away from their last show ever, for a massive dose of some of the heaviest and best guitar psych ever recorded.
Tiger Trap – One of the best known and influential bands from Sacramento, Tiger Trap were the right band at the right time. As four female musicians stuck smack dab in the midst of all things Riot Grrrrrls, they politely acknowledged that scene while striking out on their own, never feeling the need to be more explicit about their feminism than just being in a band together and succeeding on their own terms. Which they did. And how. Their sound was a seamless mesh of the sonics emanating from early Creation and Postcard singles from the UK, the innocent bedroom pop that K Records were releasing and a love of vocal harmonies. When combined, it made for a sugar rush of pop euphoria, the happiest break-up songs ever. Singer/guitarist Rose Melberg went on to Go Sailor, The Softies and released a few low-key classics under her own name –seek out her Portola album to get a dose of autumnal wistfulness – and drummer Heather Dunn ended up in the reformed Raincoats for an while.
Uberkunst – I never knew what Uberkunst translated into, but if I was to harbor a guess, it’s probably something like “exploding half-naked crazy people.” Uberkunst is (or was?) Sacramento’s longest running performance art/noise collective fronted by the not-really-that-insane, Bill Burg, who surrounded himself with a revolving cast of characters that just loved to pound, scream, distort, break and create general chaos and mayhem. Shows usually ended with Mr. Burg blowing himself up in one way or another.
Vick, Cory – In addition to being the guitarist for chamber-pop darlings Baby Grand and former member of Forever Goldrush and the X-Teens, Mr. Vick has one of those minds that can recall every band on the Flying Nun label or tell you the what song was on the b-side to the first Swell Maps 45. Years of handling new releases for Tower HQ and Valley Records has given him an encyclopedic knowledge that lays to waste any hipster with an iTunes account. And he’s a pretty good writer, to boot.
Whorelords – Terrible band that is only being included because 1) Rat’s Ass from Tales of Terror was their singer 2) Mike Farrell played drums (!) and 3) their fat, hirsute bassist used to perform bare-nekkid all the time which was made especially disturbing since he was hung like a toddler. Big hit with the ladies.
X-Men – Davis trio from the late ’70s that had early appearances by Donette Thayer (later in Game Theory, The Veil with Paul “Go, Dog! Go” Niklewicz, and Hex with Steve Kilby from The Church) and Gavin Blair, who would go on to start True West. Heard ‘em play once at a show at Norwegian Hall in, which almost every local punk/new wave band appeared at.
Zat’s all folks.