Thirty-five years later, the Melvins are still rockin’ as hard & loud as they ever have

MelvinsPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Melvins with ModPods, Yen Yen //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
July 16th, 2018 //

For as many times as the Melvins have performed in the Bay Area over their extensive career, I just hadn’t gotten around to seeing them. Several friends of mine have praised them as one of, if not THE best band to catch live, and though I admittedly didn’t know their material beyond a few songs that I had heard on occasion, I was happy to have the chance to catch them. With the sold-out gig taking place at one of my favorite venues in SF, that made it all the better.

Arriving at the Great American Music Hall about 15 minutes before showtime, I ran into a few good friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, which made the whole experience that much better. Kicking things off were Yen Yen, a Swedish electronic duo whose ethereal, 25-minute set was a refreshingly different sound when comparing it to what was supposed to be a Monday night of sonic bombardment by the mighty Melvins. As one of the band’s members twisted and turned knobs to manipulate some swelling synth-pad samples, the other waved his hands over what looked like a theremin type synth. Twenty-five minutes was the perfect length for their set, as much more than that might have become long in the tooth, but I did enjoy what I heard and it was pretty impressive to see what they could do with sound.

Next up were the Los Angeles-based ModPods. The three-piece dance/electro outfit proved to be another nice addition to the show’s bill and offered those in attendance a chance to shake their ass a bit. Singer Myriad Slits held court onstage as she delivered some strong vocals that exuded both soul and style. Instrumentalists Mindee Jorgenson and Daniel Guzman switched between bass, guitar and drums, layering sounds over backing tracks to each song. Although they were minimalist in their approach, the songs kept the crowd wanting more and I would venture to say that the ModPods won over the crowd with ease. I foresee them making some big waves in the future.


But the time had finally come for the legendary Melvins to hit the stage. Over the years, the group has undergone quite a few lineup changes, with lead vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne (aka “King Buzzo”) being the one constant member and drummer Dale Crover being a close second. For this roster, former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus and Redd Kross/Off! bass player Steven Shane McDonald signed on to be part of the equation, creating a rich, punchy and crunchy element to the already fuzz-heavy sound. This was one show, after all, that you definitely wanted to have earplugs for.

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music.

I, myself, was pleased see that the Melvins were thoroughly enjoying themselves and weren’t just going through the motions. Their 18-song set in SF included cuts from across their entire catalog, a handful of covers — including David Bowie’s “Saviour Machine”, Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” — and toward the end, “Don’t Forget to Breathe” from their most recent full-length album Pinkus Abortion Technician.

Sesame Street Meat
At a Crawl
The Kicking Machine
Saviour Machine (David Bowie cover)
What They Say (Redd Kross cover)
Stop (James Gang cover)
Moving to Florida (Butthole Surfers cover)
Edgar the Elephant
Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)
Let It All Be
Honey Bucket
The Bit
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad
The Talking Horse
Evil New War God
Eye Flys

A Perfect Circle’s new album ‘Eat the Elephant’ plays a lot better live than its critics might think

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with The Beta Machine //
Event Center at San Jose State University – San Jose
April 18th, 2018 //

Between their two performances at Coachella (read our festival review here) this month, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle made a quick stop in the Bay Area last Wednesday to play the Event Center at San Jose State University as a follow-up to their 2017 gig in San Francisco at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (read our show review here).

With their fourth LP Eat the Elephant — their first in 14 years — dropping two days later, APC were eager to share their latest material, with half of the band’s 17-song set dedicated to cuts off the new album.

Opening the show on this night were The Beta Machine, founded by APC members Jeff Friedl (drums, percussion) and Matt McJunkins (bass, keyboards, vocals). The four-piece is rounded out by Claire Acey (keyboards, vocals) and Nicholas Perez (guitar, keyboards, vocals), and its synth-laden, somewhat soulful music served as a nice prelude for what was to come.

The Beta Machine

The Beta Machine

APC then followed, starting with the title track on their new full length as frontman Maynard James Keenan stood back center in the dark, coiffed in a pig-tailed wig, which has become his standard “look” with the band. Meanwhile, the group’s other founding member and principal songwriter Billy Howerdel (guitar, keyboards, vocals) stood near the front of the stage, directly across from McJunkins and to the left of Keenan, with Friedl to the left of the singer.

To Kennan’s right stood Greg Edwards, who, as Maynard took a moment to point out, is filling in for James Iha while Iha gets ready for The Smashing Pumpkins’ upcoming reunion tour this summer. Edwards is a founding member of both Failure and Autolux (two incredible bands if I may say so myself), and he has a long history working with Keenan. Failure have been booked to play with Tool several times over the years, dating as far back as 1993 when they opened for them in San Francisco at the gone-but-not-forgotten Trocadero Transfer, and then again at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2014.

In San Jose, APC sprinkled in songs from all three of their previous albums and included a stirring rendition of Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” toward the show’s midway point. Having had a chance to listen to the new album in advance, I was a skeptical of what I was going to be in for with the new tracks. However, I am happy to report that experiencing the new music live was a wholly different experience. The band breathed new life and enough vibrancy into the material to cast away any doubts that I previously had. But three Eat the Elephant tracks in particular that stood out to me were “The Contrarian”, “Talk Talk” and “Hourglass” before they hit the road next month for an extended U.S. and European tour that’s scheduled to run through the end of the year.

Eat the Elephant
Weak and Powerless
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
People Are People (Depeche Mode cover)
3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)
The Contrarian
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
The Outsider
The Doomed
The Package

A Perfect Circle make their triumphant return to SF at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with PRAYERS //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
April 13th, 2017 //

In the world of rock supergroups, there are few that have sprung up in the last few decades that can hold a candle to A Perfect Circle. From the onset, APC have been a powerhouse on the senses, combining members from bands such as Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Primus and more over the years. Their body of work has been met with high praise across the board, and they have been able to solidify themselves as one of the most unique and tenured groupings out there, as opposed to bands like Zwan and Velvet Revolver.

It was a bit of an earlier start for a show even with it being on a weekday, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was only half full through the opening act. Hailing from San Diego, Chicano electronic-rock duo PRAYERS, who describe their music as “Cholo goth” and are comprised of vocalist Rafael Reyes and producer/keyboardist Dave Parley, initially seemed like another one of APC frontman Maynard James Keenan’s side projects given how Reyes looked and behaved similarly to Keenan’s “Country Boner” persona that he assumes with Puscifer, but after taking a closer look, it was obvious that wasn’t the case. PRAYERS’ music was a sharp contrast to A Perfect Circle’s, but they did have some awesome lighting, which helped keep our attention. As their set ended, the venue had sufficiently filled up, which wasn’t unexpected given that the show had been sold out for weeks.

A Perfect Circle kicked off their headlining performance with a giant shroud in front of them and a rad backlight on each band member that created five different shadows. They opened the show with “The Package”, the first track from their sophomore studio album Thirteenth Step, which was a great way to build tension. As he usually does when performing with APC and Tool, Keenan opted to stand concealed in a dark area toward the back of the stage and centered between guitarist James Iha and drummer Jeff Friedl, who were also on their own platforms in addition to Keenan’s. Taking center stage was the band’s creator and guitarist Billy Howerdel, who along with bassist Matt McJunkins, kept the energy at a high level by moving around the front area of the stage from right to left throughout the evening.

A Perfect Circle

The Thirteenth Step-heavy set started with APC’s earlier tunes from their debut LP Mer de Noms before leading into the group’s awesome rendition of John Lennon’s timeless classic “Imagine”. Along the way, they ended up covering Brinsley Schwarz’s “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, which ultimately wasn’t much of a surprise.

As the night moved along, Keenan managed to get a few quips in, at one point mentioning that he could smell the marijuana smoke permeating from the crowd. He even stopped the show at one point to give Iha a chance to tell some vaudeville-esque jokes, which included rimshots from Friedl. My favorite was “Where do penguins keep their money?” … “in a snow bank” (ba-doom, crash!).

Although I didn’t get to hear my favorite APC song (“3 Libras”), I was stoked that they played “Magdalena”, “The Hollow”, “Weak and Powerless” and “The Outsider”. They winded down with “Gravity”, and for the closer, APC treated the audience to a brand-new song that’s called “Feathers”. This hopefully means that the rumored new album on the way may be coming out sometime this year, after their tour ends with a grand finale of a show at the Hollywood Bowl. With this supergroup, you never know, but they’ve been great about surprising us in the past, so keep your eyes peeled for more new music on the horizon.

The Package
The Hollow
The Noose
Weak and Powerless
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
Thinking of You
By and Down
(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Brinsley Schwarz cover)
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
A Stranger
The Outsider

Editor’s Note: A Perfect Circle debuted a new song titled “Hourglass” the following night at their April 14th concert in Reno, Nev.

Deftones make their case in Berkeley that they’re still a force to be reckoned with

DeftonesPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Deftones with YelaWolf, Sister Crayon //
The Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
August 26th, 2016 //

Toward the middle of their headlining set at the Greek Theatre Berkeley last Friday, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno took a moment to thank the audience for attending, pointing out that early on in their career, they would often venture south from their home base of “Sacto” (or Sacramento for the normies) to play at the tiny, gone-but-not-forgotten club Berkeley Square (as evidenced here).

Soaking in the crowd like a solid pull off of a bottle of bourbon, the band continued their full-frontal assault, giving it their all and sparing no one. This is just one of the things that makes a band like Deftones a continual hit with the masses. Between their ever-evolving brand of metal and their never-a-dull-moment live show, the icing on the cake has always been their willingness to include the audience, clearly jiving off of its energy in synergistic fashion. Historically, Deftones have always acknowledged the importance of the relationship between the band and the audience, and this night was no different.

I’ve seen Deftones several times over the years, in a variety of venues. I caught them in an outdoor setting when they played at the Warped Tour many moons ago, but this was a much better space to catch the band. Warming up the audience were Sacramento electronic duo Sister Crayon, followed by Alabama hip-hop artist YelaWolf.

A two-piece act from Sacramento, Sister Crayon performed a 30-minute set of electronic-inspired trip-hop, showcasing singer Terra Lopez’s soulful tone that was accompanied by programmer Dani Fernandez’s skilled song-smithing. YelaWolf was up next, offering up his aggressive hip-hop stylings that were peppered with rock and industrial (but certainly not nü-metal) elements. He managed to get the crowd engaged several times with an a cappella rendition of the Garth Brooks classic “Friends in Low Places” and by encouraging audience members to raise their lighters/cell phones in unison to honor the victims of war, racism and police violence.

Deftones came out to a wanting audience; the anticipation was palpable. Going directly into their barn-burner of a song “Rocket Skates”, the pit was whipped into a frenzy and nary an audience member wasn’t screaming along to the chorus chant “GUNS! RAZORS!! KNIVES!!!” Keeping the energy level up, the group jumped right into “Geometric Headdress” followed by what was surely a crowd favorite, the classic and beautiful “Be Quite and Drive (Far Away)” from their sophomore album Around the Fur.


The band was tight, punchy and engaging. Guitarist Stephan Carpenter held down his side of the stage, and if I can use a Who reference, playing John Entwistle to Moreno’s Roger Daltrey and Abe Cunningham’s Keith Moon. Speaking of Cunningham, the criminally underrated drummer was in peak form, laying down bombastic beats with precision. Bassist Sergio Vega’s low end was a bit subdued in the mix, but given the outdoor setting, that was to be expected. In contrast, this was one of the few times I have been able to really catch the additions that keyboardist/turntablist/beat-maker Frank Delgado was contributing.

As they moved around their two-decade-old catalog, Deftones kept a solid balance of their more energetic and brutal tunes (“Rickets”, “Swerve City”, “Diamond Eyes”, “Gore”) with their more delicate but still heavy songs (“Digital Bath”, “Rosemary”, “(L)MIRL”). Switching between playing guitar and strictly vocals, Moreno would often venture out onto a catwalk closer to the pit to join the audience as he is known to do. At one point, he crowd-walked into the pit for a scream-along with a gang of arms reaching out to get as close as possible.

Appropriately, Deftones dedicated their song “Prince” to the recently, tragically fallen musical legend, in which the stage was drowned in a wash of purple lighting. The set ended in a trio of sing-along favorites from my favorite album White Pony: “Knife Prty”, “Change (In the House of Flies)” and “Passenger”, with nearly every audience member gladly assuming Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s vocal part on the latter.

For an encore, the band whipped through four early-catalog tunes: “My Own Summer (Shove It)”, “Headup”, “Bored”, and “Engine No. 9”. This was a treat for anyone who has been along for the ride with the band since its early days. I was pleased with the collection of songs that Deftones offered up this evening, pulling from seven of their eight albums, the only one left out being their self-titled LP.

I overheard a few folks who weren’t that stoked, saying they felt the band lacked energy, but I respectfully disagree. Deftones are one of those rare beasts that have managed to make music on their own terms throughout their entire career, developing their signature sound that often has been imitated but never replicated. Given how much of a workhorse they have been as a band and also how much the individual members are, plus how vast their catalog is, I feel that they did a great job keeping the show engaging and providing something for everyone.

Rocket Skates
Geometric Headdress
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
Diamond Eyes
Swerve City
Digital Bath
Knife Party
Change (In the House of Flies)

My Own Summer (Shove It)

After almost two decades apart, Failure are making up for lost time now

FailurePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Failure with The New Regime //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
August 31st, 2015 //

You know those bands that you discover after they have already broken up, only to find out that they are not only fantastic, but also happen to be tremendously influential?

This has happened to me a few times with Far, Refused and Quicksand, to name a few. Failure is another band on that list, and when I found out that they had decided to get the band back together, I was beyond excited.


After a short tour with the mighty Tool (who happen to be very big fans of theirs), and an extensive North American tour in 2014, the Los Angeles band finalized and released its self-produced album The Heart Is a Monster. This album comes nearly 20 years after their seminal 1996 release Fantastic Planet, which at the time was mostly overlooked but has become known as a highly important alternative-rock album.

I had seen Failure in 2014 at The Great American Music Hall on their first reunion tour, and they were nothing short of incredible, so I was very eager to catch them again, particularly at such a great venue. The New Regime, a project led by notable session drummer Ilan Rubin (Nine Inch Nails, Lost Prophets, Paramore) opened up the show. Their set was tight, mostly centered around a garage, psych-rock sound.

After a brief break, the lights went down, and the eager crowd welcomed Ken Andrews (guitar, bass), Greg Edwards (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Kellii Scott (drums) on stage. Opening their set with one of their famous segues (“Segue 4” to be exact), each member had a special dot matrix lighting screen, which lit up with brilliant visuals, and the group busted into their new album’s first hit “Hot Traveler”. Andrews let out a sly smile when he looked up to see the crowd, and I can understand where it came from as everyone was lit up and rockin’ out.


Failure’s set was a solid mix of tracks from the new album, along with tracks from their back catalog. Sonically, they are a band that just cannot be touched. The production level on all of their albums is top-notch, which is a testament to the fact that Andrews has spent a good deal of his time outside of his bands as a producer and engineer. Live, the band uses the Fractal guitar system for its sounds, which runs direct into the PA, a very non-typical way of doing things. But for Failure, it makes total sense since they use a wide variety of tones, distortions and effects. Edwards, who also performs with Autolux, switched between guitar, bass and keys, while Andrews played guitar or bass. Scott’s drumming was on point, and his animated style was a welcome counter to Andrew’s and Edward’s more stoic nature.

As the set drew to a close, the opening key line to their biggest hit “Stuck on You” got the crowd amped up for a righteous singalong, which I gladly partook in. I was happy to see that the audience was a nice mix of people around my own age — some older and some younger, both men and women, all of which had their faces glued to the stage. It was refreshing to not see a sea of cellphones out. Given that these guys had taken such a long stretch of time between performing on a consistent basis, I am blown away at just how natural it seemed for them, like it hadn’t changed a bit. I have friends who had seen the band back in the 90’s and have said that there really isn’t much a difference between them then and now. The world needs more space rock like Failure, so here’s hoping that they press on.

Fat Wreck Chords celebrates 25 years of punk rock over two days at SF’s Thee Parkside

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Strung Out

Strung Out

Photos by Jason Taylor // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Fat Wrecked for 25 Years //
Thee Parkside – San Francisco
August 22nd-23rd, 2015 //

During the 90’s, if you were in the know, you knew about Fat Wreck Chords. My first exposure to the record label was discovering the Fat Music for Fat People compilation album while at our area’s local skate shop, which also served as THE place when it came to finding anything in the independent label world. I already knew who NOFX, Rancid, Face to Face, Tilt and No Use for a Name were, but I hadn’t heard of Lagwagon, Propagandhi, Guns ‘N’ Wankers, Strung Out, Good Riddance, 88 Fingers Louie or Bracket.

Twenty-one years later, I’ve been more than exposed to all of these bands and eventually became a very big fan of the majority of them. Fat Wreck Chords was a huge part of my musical journey and have been the home of several bands that I would most certainly say are major influences when it comes to my musical taste and my approach to writing music. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a few bands that released albums through Fat Wreck Chords and have seen many of the bands multiple times over the years. When I found out that this festival was happening, I didn’t hesitate one minute to get tickets. The label had mentioned that there would be more bands announced as we got closer to the date of the fest, and they did not disappoint when it came to announcing the final lineup.

Fat Wrecked for 25 Years

Thee Parkside is the ideal place for such a festival. The local rock club hosts a good amount of punk and hardcore shows every month and has become a hangout for many SF musicians associated with Fat Wreck Chords over the years. “Day 0” of the fest took place last Friday, which served as a party to host a pre-screening of the new NOFX documentary “Backstage Passport II”. I was not able to check that out, but I assume it was one hell of a party (Fat Wreck Chords is well known for its partying skills, after all).

On Day 1, as I was walking into the festival, it felt much like the first time I had been to a Warped Tour. Mohawks and beards were plentiful. It was a sea of black clothes paired with patches, studs and the occasional fanny pack. The sun was shining bright, and the beer was flowing. Inside Thee Parkside were a few DJ sets, along with some acoustic sets from the likes of Joey Cape, Chris Cresswell and Sundowner. Outside the venue, we had Toy Guitar, Night Birds, Western Addiction, Bracket, $wingin’ Utter$, Strung Out, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Sick of It All (who were a last-minute replacement for Propagandhi) and NOFX.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Good Riddance

Good Riddance

Day 2 kicked off with a bit of a light fare. Spike Slawson of $wingin’ Utter$/Gimme Gimmes fame has a new group, the ever-so-cleverly-named Uke Hunt. Slawson’s smooth vocals fit nicely with his ukulele and some other accompaniment as the band glided through covers of The Carpenters and Hall & Oates. With it being another nice summer day in SF, the crowd was lit up with anticipation for the day ahead. Inside Thee Parkside, a few DJ sets started things off, followed by sets from Pears, Darius Koski and Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Outside after Uke Hunt’s set, Masked Intruder brought the energy level back up and were followed by The Flatliners, Dead to Me, Tilt, Good Riddance, No Use for a Name (with special guests), Lagwagon and once again, NOFX.

Bands like Tilt and Bracket hadn’t performed live for over 10 years (Bracket had played only one other show in that time). Other bands had seen lineup changes, members pass away and hiatuses, but the one thing that most bands on Fat Wreck Chords have in common is that they have pretty much universally only released albums through the label itself. Several bands made it a point of thanking Fat Wreck Chords co-founders Fat Mike (lead vocalist and bassist for NOFX) and Erin Burkett (read our interview with her here), along with the label’s staff for their never-ending support and hard work. The word “family” was thrown out many times, and that’s really the way it should be.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Dead to Me

Dead to Me

As for my experience at the show, I had an incredible time. I ran into friends I hadn’t seen in years, plus I got to see a few bands that I had never seen (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Dead to Me, Uke Hunt) and a few that I never thought I’d ever see again (Tilt, Bracket, No Use for a Name). It was nice to know that Fat Wreck Chords has continued to live up to its tradition of offering something you could count on — just good quality music and good times. I can’t say that I have been a fan of every band that has released an album on Fat Wreck Chords, but I would say that a good 85 percent of them I have enjoyed listening to at some point in my life or another. I personally would have loved to have seen Propagandhi since I have never seen them before. I would have also loved to see a Screw 32 reunion at the festival. Bands like Mad Caddies, Face to Face and American Steel also would have been a treat, and I don’t say that to complain at all since you really could not beat this lineup.

Here are a few highlights after celebrating 25 years of Fat Wreck Chords at Thee Parkside.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - NOFX


Given the fact that there was a very strict curfew in place, Fat Mike, who is normally very talkative and always ready to heckle the audience, had to take a back seat with all of that to save time. That didn’t stop him from getting a few good ribs out there, though. My favorite had to be “Hey Dad! Don’t take your 12 year old to a NOFX show!”, which was pointedly said to the father and daughter a few rows back from the barricade on Night 2. Anyone familiar with NOFX’s lyrical content knows exactly what he’s talking about. This was said just prior to the band performing “Louise”, a track from the band’s album Pump Up the Valium, which details the relationship between two lesbians that clearly have a dominant/submissive relationship. The song is “colorful” to say the least.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Lagwagon


While I was in a punk-rock band fresh out of college, Lagwagon was THE band that we were drawing the most inspiration from at the time. I had never really listened to them much before joining this band, but I quickly grew to love them, particularly their album Trashed. When I heard that they were intending to perform that very album from start to finish at this show, I was stoked! As promised, the band ripped right into “Island of Shame”, which got the crowd into a frenzy, and followed with “Lazy” and “Know It All”. But then singer Joey Cape asked the crowd if they’d prefer to hear the album or a bunch of other tunes. The crowd gave a stronger response to the latter, which despite breaking my heart a bit, ended up not being a letdown in any way.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

A band I had yet to ever see and was incredibly stoked for, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes had hands down the most fun set of the festival. The notoriously fun cover band features members of various Fat Wreck Chords groups, and this year featured Scott Shiflett filling in for his brother Chris, who was once in No Use for a Name and currently plays with the Foo Fighters. Dressed up in white pants and tropical shirts, the band whipped the crowd into a glorious sing-along, which lasted the entire set. Busting out gems like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, it was one classic after another. There’s nothing like seeing a sea of punks belting out “Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys at the top of their lungs.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - No Use for a Name

No Use for a Name (with special guests)

The elephant in the room at this show was the fact that Tony Sly, lead singer/guitarist of No Use for Name and also a key figure in the Fat Wreck Chords family, had sadly passed away a few years ago. When it was revealed that the surviving members of NUFAN were going to perform with a rotating cast of singers, I couldn’t help but be moved. I had always liked NUFAN and remember being quite affected by the knowledge of Sly’s passing. Several bands had taken a moment during their sets to give a shout-out to the late singer. Strung Out even covered the NUFAN song “Soulmate” during their set. You could feel the energy when they took the stage; both band and crowd were eager to release, and release they did. Among the guest singers were Joey Cape (Lagwagon), Fat Mike and El Jefe (NOFX), Russ Rankin (Good Riddance), Karina Denike (Dance Hall Crashers), Chris Aiken and Jason Cruz (Strung Out), John Carey (Old Man Markley) and more.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Tilt


Tilt was the band I was most excited to see at the festival for a few reasons. The East Bay quartet was one of the earlier additions to Fat Wreck Chords, releasing four albums through the label. I remember being turned onto Tilt back in high school by a dear friend of mine who has since passed, so the band has always held a place in my heart for not only that reason, but also an old band of mine once shared the stage with them at The Phoenix Theater back in 2001. In what has historically (and tragically) been a boys club, Tilt have always been a good reminder that women fucking rock, too! Cinder Block’s voice was as beautifully raw as ever, and the band whipped through a tight set spanning its entire catalog. It was a treat to see all of the band’s former members come up on stage at one point or another, and Tilt ended their set with “Berkeley Pier” and all of them on stage.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Bracket


Another band that I had shared a stage with at one time, Bracket from Forestville, Calif., made their triumphant return on Saturday. One of the earlier bands to sign with Fat Wreck Chords, Bracket’s sound embodies the melodic side of things. Though the band likely wouldn’t think so (they are all very humble guys), they sounded right on point. I was personally bummed that there wasn’t a bigger crowd for them, as they have always been one of the more unique bands on Fat Wreck Chords and had some of the best songwriting in my opinion. However, this did not stop them from having a killer set, and those in attendance were very stoked to see them to perform.

Fat Wreck for 25 years - Masked Intruder

Masked Intruder

Masked Intruder are one of the more recent groups to join the Fat Wreck Chords lineup, and I hadn’t heard anything from these international men of mystery. I knew about the masks they wear and I had a few friends who had talked them up, so I was eager to see what they were all about. Right off the bat, I was impressed by these guys. Not only was their sound infectious and super tight, but they also brought a cop on stage with them to keep the peace. No joke. OK, so the cop is part of the act, but it’s still hilarious and doesn’t at all take away from the fact that they are writing really great tunes.

Minus the Bear show they still bring it after rocking Slim’s

Minus the BearPhotos by Diana Cordero // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Minus the Bear with Mansions //
Slim’s – San Francisco
November 20th, 2014 //

Becoming attached to any particular album by an artist is a natural event, but not always so easy to do. For fans of Minus the Bear, it could be tough to say that any of their fantastic albums is really their “best”, but I think it’s fair to say that their most fun album would be They Make Beer Commercials Like This. The seven-song EP turns 10 years old this year, and along with promoting the release of their latest album Lost Loves, the band has been celebrating with a tour that has featured the EP in its entirety and a grip of tunes from their vast catalog.

They Make Beer Commercials Like This was the first album that I had every heard by Minus the Bear, and I have always loved it, so I was very excited to be able to see the album performed live from front to back. Opening up the evening was Mansions, an indie-rock trio from Seattle by way of Louisville, Ky. They were a perfect pairing for the night, bringing an alt-centric set of songs at just the right length. Singer/guitarist Christopher Browder’s refreshingly clean vocal approach set nicely atop the steady drums and fuzzed-out bass. I would highly recommend this band for fans of Death Cab for Cutie, HUM, Ume and Placebo — just to name a few.

Minus the Bear

As Minus the Bear took the stage, the sold-out crowd let out a mighty roar in approval, ready to rock. Singer Jake Snider greeted the crowd and said, “They Make Beer Commercials Like This”, to which the crowd gleefully responded in delight. As the band maneuvered through each track on the album, the crowd gladly sang along and at many times began dancing (it is OK to move around at indie-rock shows, FYI). Every member of the band was on point. Guitarist Dave Knudson’s signature tapping and guitar-pedal manipulation has always been a focal point for (musical) gearheads out there — yours truly included. The sounds he is able to create and replicate live are continually impressive. Bassist Cory Murchy and fill-in drummer (and drum tech for the band) Kieffer Matthias kept the rhythm high and tight while synth player Alex Rose filled in the gaps with spacey pads and buzzy square waves. A key ingredient in the Minus the Bear mix has always been the smooth vocal stylings of Snider. Never abrasive, but also never subdued, Snider lets you know that tonight is going to be fun — and you believe it.

Following the completion of the album, the band continued with cuts from Menos El Oso, Infinity Overhead, Planet of Ice, Omni, and from its latest album Lost Loves. Lost Loves is actually a collection of never-before-released tracks, all of which bare (but not bear, haha) that familiar Minus the Bear quality of dynamic instrumentation, crystal-clear vocals and high-quality production. Ending the night was the song “Knights”, which in this guy’s opinion, may be one of the best songs ever written. It’s the perfect length, has a hook that just kills and is just damn fun to move your feet to.

As the band left the stage, they thanked the crowd and the crowd responded in kind. Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening and proof that Minus the Bear are still bringing it live.

Interpol play it cool with Rey Pila at Fox Theater Oakland

interpol-post1Photos by James Nagel // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Interpol with Rey Pila //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
September 20th, 2014 //

The best part of seeing bands that you’ve never seen before is that you can take what they are offering and not have to compare it against anything else. Having never seen Interpol before and being an appreciator of their music, I was excited to see how the show would go. The Fox Theater in Oakland was an ideal setting for this new experience, with easy views of the stage and top-notch sound.

Rey Pila was the night’s opening act. The five-piece group, which hails from Mexico City (now residing in New York), were a complete mystery to me prior to catching their show. It was immediately clear why there were tapped to support this tour as their sound was complimentary to that of Interpol’s but different enough to add some variety to the night.


The majority of their set was full of post-punk/early alternative style cuts à la Echo & the Bunnymen or The Church, with less emphasis on synths. Energetic frontman Diego Solórzano did his best to engage the crowd, at several points jumping off stage to meet the fans at their level. The performance was solid and the songs were enjoyable, though it felt like they weren’t connecting with the audience as well as they may have hoped.

After a brief intermission, Interpol took the stage, dressed to the nines. A large video screen displayed the cover art from their new album El Pintor for the first three songs, and there were a few rotating strobes filling the otherwise black stage with red, blue and purple throughout their set. The set itself was a solid mix of tracks from the new album, along with material from all of their prior releases, mostly from Antics. Throughout the set, the visual element on the video screen offered minimalist/modern psychedelia and geographic landscapes that paired well with the mood of the music.


Lead singer Paul Banks’ vocals were a bit “pitchier” than I expected, but that didn’t affect the music in much of a negative way as the band, on the whole, performed splendidly. The set was shorter than I anticipated, but in many ways, that was a good thing. Interpol’s songs are not drawn-out epics — they are nice and tight. I think they are wise to offer up a concise, well-packaged set instead of doing a marathon worth of material. Though they’re not the most energetic band on the planet, what Interpol lacks in conventional stage presence they made up for by setting a consistent mood and feeling of “cool.”

1. My Blue Supreme
2. Say Hello to the Angels
3. Evil
4. My Desire
5. Length of Love
6. Breaker 1
7. The Lighthouse
8. Anywhere
9. Everything Is Wrong
10. Lights
11. Narc
12. Not Even Jail
13. Slow Hands

14. All the Rage Back Home
15. NYC
16. Obstacle 1