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Talking Head Housewarming: Deep Sleep, the Spider Bags, the Golden Boys, Hollywood, CPC Gangbangs, Vincent Black Shadow, Talking Head, May 14

May 16, 2008
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As previously reported, the Talking Head recently left it’s longtime Davis Street location for new digs inside Sonar. Earlier this week, a couple shows were held in Sonar’s smaller-stage Club room, but Wednesday’s show went down in the space’s former lounge, the Talking Head’s official new home.

Upon arriving at Sonar, the only notice of a new tenant was a hand-lettered sign propped up at ground level next to an alley entrance. The narrow, dimly lit passage, nearly blocked by a parked van, gave the evening a clandestine air apropos for the punk-rooted show bill. Stepping inside was disorienting–the lounge’s posh leather sofas and pool table were haphazardly jammed up against one wall, requiring a quick side step as one entered the lounge proper. A rough foot and a half-tall platform–flanked by a splotchy, unfinished wall–was set up opposite the intact bar. A tiny merch table was squeezed into a corner beside a hodgepodge of amps and other audio equipment. Clearly, it was a room in transition, like a basement storage space that just happened to be lit with the golden ambiance of fancy, crackled-glass ceiling lamps.

Having heard that hometown act Deep Sleep was opening with a surprise set, Noise arrived early, catching the band in midsong. The band nailed that tightly wound, thrashy Southern Cali punk like the past 20-odd years never happened. Think: Descendents-esque bass lines and unrelenting vox courtesy of singer Tony Pence, who got in an impressive jack-knife jump without fumbling a word. Like most good things, Deep Sleep’s set was over just a little too soon.

Next up was another unbilled addition, Chapel Hill, N.C.’s the Spider Bags: a twangy foursome complete with slide guitar and a singer affecting that booze-wearied drawl. While pleasant enough, the group didn’t impress. To be fair, the sound in the lounge was borderline terrible–the space is, essentially, a concrete box, for now at least. Assumedly, this explains why the singer’s guitar sounded scratchy and fuzzed out in the worst way. Then again, the slide guitar rang out silver and clear. The drummer fascinated by pulling some excellent, pained faces as he pounded away, and the wiry lead singer went all mad scientist at set’s end, throwing his guitar to the ground, clambering precariously atop the drum kit, and conjuring some wavering feedback from his amp during the extended outro.

The Golden Boys , from Austin, Texas, were up next. Like their tourmates the Spider Bags, this group played country-tinged rock, complete with booze references. However, the Golden Boys hail from a markedly rowdier, garage rock sound prone to lo-fi messiness. Throughout its set, the group would drop the twang in favor of cacophonous, vaguely psychedelic midsong breakdowns punctuated by monkey-house yelps. The keyboardist seemed promising at first–and again, maybe it was a sound issue–but didn’t seem to bring much of anything to the set. All in all, the Golden Boys came off as a bit silly and muddled.

After a longish break, the crowd rallied ’round for skrunky degenerates Hollywood, including a few curious interlopers from Sonar’s local hip-hop show, who seemed torn between fist-pumping or creeping back out the door. Loud and surly with a touch of butt-rock glamour, Hollywood specializes in heavy riffs and dude-vox pile-ups reminiscent, at moments, of early Suicidal Tendencies. The five-piece spilled off the low stage–the singer perched on an amp surveying the crowd with a hint of bitter amusement, the guitarist slid on his knees across the floor in fully serious rocker pose. The set was roiling, willfully meatheadish party punk perfect for those nights when you can’t remember how you broke your arm and mortally offended all your friends.

Next up was Montreal’s CPC Gangbang, which likewise played chaotic, anti-social garage punk–though far less convincing than Hollywood. Noise didn’t catch too much of its set as the affected nihilism came off as merely obnoxious. Luckily, CP music editor Michael Byrne was there to fill in the details for the rest of the night’s acts:

Given the above about Hollywood–missed by myself–CPC Gangbang was definitely overaffected, almost to the point of being showy and shallow: lots of jumping around, hitting guitars against this or that, you’re-all-dead sneering, and half-convincing way-too-long feedback attacks that didn’t make a whole lot of sense in a garage-punk song. A tiny girl in a cut-off T-shirt with underage X’s on her hands went crazy at some point and tried to start her own circle pit. This was more funny than anything else given one of the more disinterested punk audiences in recent Talking Head memory. She got hosed with beer and was way too pissed off about it.



The music is trad garage done well, and, in fairness, it takes a lot to do trad garage better than “well.” Even the master himself, John Reis (Hot Snakes, Rocket From the Crypt), is having a hard time with it these days. I dig on the riffs, though, swapping between straight-out arena style and snarly, jagged tears. And when Paul Spence and co-vocalist name-unknown drop the “creepy” singing and just breath fire, it’s bad-ass. (And, given the bunker sound of the room, anything “clear” is anything but.)



By the time Vincent Black Shadow went on, the crowd was getting real thin. As in, there may have been more band members/employees/music writers in there than fans. The show was not what you’d expect from VBS on record, for better or worse–there’s not much in the way of processing, so the whole getting-raped-in-the-ear-with-a-bit-sander effect isn’t there. But hearing Adam Savage sing-scream live makes you wonder if he was processed at all on the last VBS record (More Deeper)–he turns his throat into some kind of trashed static filter on cue so easily that it’s almost startling. The band itself live is rock-rock rather than the claustrophobic, noisy punk rock of its records.



Savage–long greasy hair, slouch, T-shirt, and jeans–as a spectacle is more convincing than Spence, who looks like your average indie kid turned punk in a sport coat. He’s more awkward about it–hard to explain, he’s just a mite goofy in a charming way–but he’s got confrontation down. Just a light touch; he’s not screaming in people’s faces or spitting on the sound guy, but you gotta love his quick snip at the standoffish crowd: “So, you’re gonna make me come all the way out there to fuck with you.” Nice.



Maybe one of the best parts of watching Savage perform is how slyly happy he looks. Even if he’s spazzing around the club floor, he’s got a certain affability. It’s nothing obvious–he’s not grinning or dancing or anything–but you can tell he understands this as a party, not a fight, or even a spectacle for the sake of a spectacle.

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