Well, it only took us five years, but we finally hosted our first-ever Weird Band Night, and it was amazing. Why didn’t we do this sooner? Because we’re control freaks and booking live music is the art of wrangling chaos. So many things are so completely out of your control that all you can really do is line up the bands and the venue and tell everyone you’ve ever met that they need to be there and then sit back and hope for the best.
But despite a setback or two (we forgive you, Haunted Garage), Weird Band Night was a rousing success. OK, the venue could have been a little fuller, and the show could have run a little more on schedule. And Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra’s name could’ve been spelled correctly on the marquee. But no one died and the bands were on fire. Plus the California Institute of Abnormalarts (CIA) might literally be the Weirdest Venue in the World (complete with its own oddities museum containing no fewer than two actual mummies) so we couldn’t have asked for a better place to host it for us. We’re putting this one in the win column!
First up we had the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra from San Diego, playing their first L.A. show. As with all opening bands, they had to contend with the lower energy of a small audience, but they powered through a hilarious set that answered such burning questions as “What’s the most expensive way to feed a zebra?” (answer: Pop Tarts) and “Which species of bird are potentially poisonous?” (answer: all of them).
For a one-man/one-robot act, SPO had quite the impressive setup, complete with their own lighting and an audiovisual presentation that included vintage educational videos and lyric subtitles, so you could decipher the Stephen Hawking-like vocals of the band’s frontrobot, SPO-20.
Next up: The Rhythm Coffin, the ghoulish cavalry who swooped in and saved the day when Haunted Garage were forced to cancel on short notice. Their set was a big horror-punk/surf/rockabilly singalong with lots of great audience interaction, especially when they tossed what felt like about 300 styrofoam dummy heads into the crowd. This was ostensibly only for one song, “The Headless Head Bop,” but once the heads were unleashed, you pretty much had to keep your own head on a swivel for the rest of their set, lest you get beaned from behind by an overeager Coffin fan.
Last but certainly not least: The Radioactive Chicken Heads. What can I say about these guys? Every single song was a show unto itself. They broke out so many props and costumes and extra performers that, had I not met lead singer Carrot Topp in street clothes before the show, I might have started wondering if Dave Brockie faked his death and was now playing in a chicken-themed punk band from Orange Country. Their show was GWAR-like in its mind-boggling parade of wacky characters and costumes.
Thanks again to all the bands, Carl and everyone at the CIA, and most of all, all the friends and fans who came out to support the show. I hope you had half as much fun as we did.
So we kinda blew this one, guys. For the past three years, the weirdest hip-hop band on the planet has been Death Grips. And before we could get around to adding them to the Weird List, they broke up. Oops.
It’s not like they were toiling in obscurity. If anything, I think we were inclined to pay less attention to them because they were getting so much goddamned attention. Nothing that hyped, that embraced by the mainstream—signed to Epic Records, downloaded over 124 million times on BitTorrent, named one of the best albums of 2012 by NP fucking R—could possibly be that weird, right?
Wrong. Death Grips were a defiant, aggro, unheralded mix of rap, punk rock, noise and electronic glitch that almost gets more mind-blowing the longer you listen to it. And for their short lifespan, they churned out material at such a breakneck pace that even now that they’ve broken up, they’ve still promised fans one last double LP later this year, to go with three full-length albums, an EP and a mixtape, all released over the course of about two and a half years.
They were also totally uncompromising in the way they managed their career. Yes, they signed to a major label, but when that major label wouldn’t release their second LP, No Love Deep Web, less than a year after their first one, they leaked it themselves via BitTorrent (hence that record-breaking number of downloads), complete with cover art featuring the album title scrawled across a half-erect penis. Not surprisingly, Epic Records dropped them shortly after that little stunt.
Then came their breakup last week, which they announced via a scribbled note on a dinner napkin, posted on their Facebook page. “we are now at our best,” the noted began, “and so Death Grips is over. we have officially stopped.” This just weeks before they were scheduled to embark on a massive North American tour opening for Nine Inch Nails. Most of the 5,000-plus comments on the breakup note are variations on this one: “WHY?????” But Death Grips clearly felt they never needed to explain anything they did to anyone.
So what happens now? The band’s most famous member, freak-of-nature drummer Zach Hill, will probably go back to any number of his other projects, the foremost of which is his experimental math-rock band Hella. Producer/keyboardist Andy “Flatlander” Morin will probably make a synth-pop album. Tattooed frontman MC Ride can probably do anything he damn well pleases now, although it’s hard to imagine him ever coming out with anything that matches Death Grips’ intensity.
For those (probably few) of you who still haven’t experienced Death Grips in all their craziness, we’ll leave you with a couple of videos. The first features one of the glitchier moments on their debut mixtape, Ex Military:
Now here’s “No Love” from No Love Deep Web, which captures their balls-out live show. Kinda sucks that these guys may very well never perform together again, doesn’t it?
Finally, we must end this post with a shout-out to the many readers who tried to convince us to pay attention to Death Grips sooner: Patrick S., KrazyTrilla, Matt S., Frostoriuss and Steffon R. You guys totally called it. Death Grips is dead, long live Death Grips.
So we had bad news and good news this week regarding our first-ever Weird Band Night. You know, the one happening Friday, July 11th at the California Institute of Abnormalarts here in Los Angeles, that you’re totally gonna be at? Oh, you live in different time zone? Excuses, excuses! If you’re not there, you’re dead to us.
Wait, what were we talking about? Oh right, bad news and good news. So the bad news is that one of our headliners, Haunted Garage, had to bow out due to, uh, personnel issues. Or more specifically, bass player issues. In fact, if you happen to see Haunted Garage’s ex-bass player in line at Starbuck’s, and you happen to have a sudden uncontrollable urge to, oh I don’t know, pull his pants down, point at his junk and laugh laugh LAUGH hysterically…well, who are we to tell you what you can and can’t do at Starbuck’s? It’s a free country.
So that’s the bad news. Pretty bad, right? For a minute there, we were sure Weird Band Night was dead in the water. Now for the good news: We have ALREADY found an awesome replacement for Haunted Garage in the form of groovy ghoul rockers The Rhythm Coffin. Imagine The Misfits meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets a zombie Ramones cover band and you can see why the reanimated corpse of Weird Band Night is going to be even more fun than its mostly animated original incarnation.
Here’s just one of The Rhythm Coffin’s many dance crazes that are sweeping the underworld.
And here’s a song they do about coffee, which is basically just “Coffin” with two different letters. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? But if you think that’s crazy, get a load of this video. Who knew the undead drank coffee? Finally, something to look forward to in the afterlife. I thought it was all just clouds and harps and shit.
So thanks for rescuing Weird Band Night, The Rhythm Coffin! See you on July 11th.
These day’s, it’s pretty common for veteran bands to dedicate entire shows to a single album. Everyone from the Pixies to Cheap Trick to Kraftwerk have jumped on that particular nostalgia bandwagon. What’s rarer is for bands to focus an entire tour around their earliest, most obscure material. But that’s exactly what DEVO have chosen to do for their Hardcore DEVO Live tour, which is based entirely on songs they wrote and/or recorded before the release of their first album, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! And judging from the audience response at the Wiltern Theatre here in Los Angeles last night, it was a smart decision. Turns out plenty of DEVO fans are super-excited to hear the band playing material that they mostly haven’t performed live in over 30 years.
There was no opening act, so the band took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m.: Original DEVO-ers Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, plus drummer Josh Freese, who’s been with the band more or less continuously since 1996. The stage set was cleverly made up to look vaguely like the Ohio basement in which the band started, with backdrops painted to look like cinderblocks, topped by translucent panels doubling as dirty windows. Mark sat at his keyboard reading a newspaper. “Nixon says he’s resigning,” he announced, his voice distorted to sound robotic and cartoonish. “I think 1974 is gonna be a good year.” Then he proceeded to hurl packs of cigarettes into the audience. “Got any Chesterfields?” Jerry asked. “I already gave away the one pack,” Mark quipped.
With the scene set and the hijinks out of the way, the band launched into “Mechanical Man,” the first track from the highly sought-after Hardcore Devo compilation that collected all their early demos onto CD for the first time back in 1990. From there the band proceeded to tear many of Hardcore Devo‘s best-known tracks: “Auto Modown/Space Girls Blues,” “I Been Refused,” “Bamboo Bimbo,” plus a few true obscurities like the bluesy “Beehive,” which someone at the Denver stop of this tour was smart enough to capture on film:
Serious DEVO fans probably also known this song from Jerry Casale’s Jihad Jerry side project, which revived the track in 2006. Throughout the Hardcore show, it was fun to see Jerry taking lead vocals duties as often as Mark—a reminder that, in the band’s early days, they didn’t have a true frontman. Bob 1 got a few turns on the mic, too, including “Baby Talkin’ Bitches,” one of several guitar-heavy early DEVO tracks that reveal the band’s roots in Midwestern proto-punk:
About midway through their set, the band got up from their stools and changed costumes, putting on the blue “workmen’s” suits and blue hardhats that served as their earliest band uniforms. From there, they launched into some better-known early tracks that definitely got the crowd more revved up (up until that point, apart from the one guy dancing like a lunatic directly in front of me, it was clear that most in attendance weren’t very familiar with the material).
This was the part of the show that included their brilliantly off-kilter cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” as well as several tracks from the 1974-77 era that eventually found their way onto Are We Not Men? and Duty Now for the Future: “Timing X,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling.” The crowd also knew many of the words to “Be Stiff,” a longtime live favorite, and “Fountain of Filth,” a punk rave-up with a shout-along chorus that could almost pass for a Ramones song. (In the video below, you can see Jerry wearing the creepy, transparent doll masks they donned earlier for “Jocko Homo,” another nod to the theatrics of their early days.)
They only played a two-song encore, but it was a pretty great two songs. First, Mark Mothersbaugh came out dressed as Booji Boy, one of the band’s early representations of devolution. This time around, he was dressed up sort of like a Teletubbie, in a pink hooded jumpsuit with cartoon eyes drawn over the hood. He also came onstage pushing a walker, perhaps an ironic nod to the fact that DEVO first introduced the character nearly 40 years ago.
After Mark’s solo performance of “Booji Boy’s Funeral” and “U Got Me Bugged”—definitely two of the weirdest songs in the entire DEVO catalog—the entire band came back out to wrap up the show with a rousing rendition of “Clockout,” featuring Bob Casale’s son Alex on bass. (A song they hadn’t played live since 1977, according to Jerry.) It was one of several nods to Bob 2 (and to late drummer Alan Myers) sprinkled throughout the evening, all of which felt fitting but never heavy-handed.
Overall, the band did a remarkably good job of keeping the show from lapsing into one big nostalgia-fest. The sheer rawness of the early DEVO songs probably helped in that regard, but so did the high-energy performances of the band. Even if they need to sit on stools these days to make it through a 90-minute set, the surviving Casale and the brothers Mothersbaugh can still rock out pretty convincingly for a bunch of guys well into their sixties. In my blurry Instagram photos, you’d swear they haven’t aged a day.
Since there was no opening act, the show ended on the early side, around 10:00 p.m. I heard a few protests from the crowd—a few people had probably hoped they would play some more “hits” in the encore—but as far as I’m concerned, the Hardcore DEVO show delivered exactly as promised. For the truly hardcore DEVO fans in attendance, especially that one dancing lunatic right in front of me (“How can you not to dance to this?” he shouted to no one in particular during “Ono”), it might have been their last chance to hear their heroes resurrect those songs they created back when they were a bunch of restless art students in an Akron basement.
Radioactive Chicken Heads, The Rhythm Coffin and the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra are playing our first-ever Weird Band Night
[Update: Due to circumstances beyond our control, Haunted Garage had to cancel their appearance. The Rhythm Coffin will be rockin' Weird Band Night in their place. Our apologies to all you Dukey Flyswatter fans out there. We'll try to book them for the next one.]
So how’s this for sweet? After many months of trying to track down a venue
dumb cool enough to host a show for us, we finally hooked up with the good people at the California Institute of Abnormalarts to bring you our very first Weird Band Night. It’s all going down on Friday, July 11th, so if you plan on being anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area that night, get your ass down to the CIA or I will personally hunt you down and make you watch One Direction videos until you’re begging for the sweet release of death.
Our lineup is pretty excellent for our first time out, if I do say so myself. Co-headlining are legendary poultry punks the Radioactive Chicken Heads and monster rockers The Rhythm Coffin. And to open the show, we’ve got the unholy man/machine duo of the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, up from San Diego and making their L.A. debut. All this for a mere 10 bones, and possibly a dry cleaning bill if you stand too close to the stage.
For more info or to RSVP, check out our event page on Facebook. Not that you have to RSVP or anything. It’ll be first-come, first-served at the door the night of the show. But RSVP anyway so we can show our parents that some people actually take this blog at least somewhat seriously.
And now, to help you get as pumped as we are, here are some videos from our bands. You know you gotta come out and see this shit.
You know how that Misfits “Fiend Skull” logo is available pretty much everywhere? You can get yourself a Fiend Skull alarm clock so you can wake up early to go fishing in a stupid Fiend Skull bucket hat while you sip your coffee out of a frickin’ Fiend Skull thermos. OK, the Fiend Skull thermos and matching lunch box are actually kinda cool. But my point is, somebody is making a shit-ton of money off Misfits merch.
Well, as it turns out, that somebody is not original Misfits lead singer Glenn Danzig. Now, Danzig is suing his ex-bandmate, current Misfits frontman Jerry Only, for his share of the profits. And you will be shocked to hear that Only is reluctant to let Danzig in on the untold millions in the burgeoning Misfits shower curtain market.
Only has been licensing shitty Misfits merch for years, so why the lawsuit now? Since the suit alleges Only breached an earlier contract by trademarking Misfits logos way back in 2000, that’s hard to say. Maybe Danzig saw this article and said to himself, “Misfits bikinis? Where’s my piece of that action?”
At any rate, Only is predictably responding to the suit with a statement claiming that Danzig is full of shit and signed away his rights to all things Misfits years ago. The lawsuit, according to Only and his lawyers, is just “a sour grapes tantrum based on outrageous allegations” and “nothing more than a calculated attempt to unfairly and improperly enrich himself from revenue streams to which he is not entitled.” That’s right, bitches. The current lead singer of The Misfits just used the phrase “revenue streams” in a sentence. Punk as FUCK!
The punchline to this story, according to Billboard? Danzig is only asking for $75,000 plus interest. So maybe the market for Misfits shower curtains is less hot that we thought.
For our 250th Weird Band of the Week, we decided to go the crowd-pleasing route. Over the years, a metric fuck-ton of you* have said we should add Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana to the Weird List. Well, today, you freaks finally get your wish. Now please stop posting embeds of “Sick Zip Everywhere” in the Submit a Band comments, will ya?
Now in fairness to all y’all, Melt Banana are indeed a pretty weird band. In fairness to us, “Sick Zip Everywhere” is nowhere near their weirdest track. It’s just one of the few with an official video, and it does that whole B-movie karate flick “Hey, let’s badly dub American actors trying to sound vaguely Japanese over actual Japanese people!” thing that everyone can’t get enough of.
Here’s a better example of Melt Banana at their weirdest. This is from a “live” album they recorded with John Zorn in 1998 called MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity and yes, those squeals that sound like turntable scratches or dive-bombing Roland 303s are all coming from Ichirou Agata’s guitar.
Pretty cool, right? The only other guitarist I know who can get tones like that out of his effects pedals is Tom Morello, although I’m pretty sure in a dueling guitars fight, Agata would kick Morello’s ass. Even though he always performs with a surgical mask over his face. What am I saying? Especially because he performs with a surgical mask over his face.
Agata formed Melt Banana in Tokyo in 1992 with Yasuko Onuki, a singer he had been playing with for about a year in another band called Mizu. With the addition of bassist Rika Hamamoto and a rotating cast of drummers, they developed a balls-out style that made even their one-minute songs sound kinda epic. Here, for example, is an early track called “Dust Head”:
By the way, Melt Banana’s first two albums were produced by none other than Steve Albini, the punk-rock “super producer” whose other credits include Nirvana’s In Utero. But he’s also the guy behind this band, so don’t hold that against him. He recorded MxBx (as the kids like to call ‘em) in his basement studio in Chicago and the albums definitely have a dirty, Midwestern basement vibe to them.
Melt Banana are also famous for their covers. Here’s my favorite.
After 20+ years, Agata and Onuki are still at it…although they cut Hamamoto loose in 2012 and now operate strictly as a duo. They released their last album, Fetch, in 2013, and their music is still completely…well, bananas. Sorry, I had to go there.
So there you have it, weirdos! Think we can get to 500 bands? Stick around and let’s find out.
*Metric fuck-ton including but not limited to: Frostoriuss, Spoon, Josh Gold, Alex, Lou and Genericus. Thanks for your patience and suggestions, dudes and dudettes. You complete us and shit.
Today’s weirdness comes from our new MVR (Most Valuable Reader), a dude by the name of William who emailed us a list a few weeks back of approximately eight gajillion weird bands, most of which were new to us. We’re still combing through William’s list but so far, the one that blew our minds the hardest is an all-drums punk band from right here in Los Angeles called Foot Village.
Now usually, all-drum bands are one baton-twirler away from just being a glorified college halftime show. But Foot Village are punk as fuck. They’re like Lightning Bolt minus the bass or Crash Worship minus the naked hippie dance party.
Turns out they’re affiliated with the Deathbomb Arc label, which should come as no surprise. They’re also the folks behind our favorite noise-rappers clipping. and Black Pus, the solo project of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale. So yeah, we pretty much have a huge label-crush on Deathbomb Arc at this point. Those guys know how to tickle our earholes.
I know a lot of you foreign types read this blog, so let me explain something. Here in America, we have this thing every year called “March Madness” where suddenly everyone is expected to care about college basketball. It’s a tournament and the team that wins gets to bone every chick at the losing team’s school…at least I assume that’s what happens, because there’s no other explanation for why everyone gets so fucking excited about it.
Anyway, around here we had our own little version of March Madness with our latest Weird Band Poll, and the band that gets to cut down the net (look it up) is a little combo from Upstate New York called Well Worn Boot. I am excited about this because I grew up in that part of the world and these guys represent my favorite part of Upstate, which is the white trash part. They’re from Buffalo but they may as well be from Pigfuck, Arkansas. Except they’re probably a little too weird for that.
Well Worn Boot’s lead singer is a flute-playing hillbilly named The Plainsman. Their guitarist is a horse called Horse. Their bass player is a big baby called Baby Buckingham. Their drummer is a dead guy named Billy Klubb who, for reasons no one can explain, wears a tiny cow-colored top hat. They play music that has been described as “Johnny Cash meets Captain Beefheart,” and yes, it is very nearly as awesome as that sounds. Especially when The Plainsman lets rip with a flute solo. Then they’re like a cowpunk Jethro Tull.
They release comic books with their EPs, which chronicle the adventures of Well Worn Boot like they’re a bunch of drunken Upstate superheroes. The first comic/EP was called Fully Torqued and you can preview it here. The next one comes out next month and will be called Boot in Space. I assume it’ll be set in space but from what I know so far about these guys, it might just be set in Billy Klubb’s basement and guest star a nitrous tank.
Oh and they also have their own festival. It’s called the Wild Wild Fest and it’s happening this year Aug. 29-30 at the Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek, NY. I’m usually more of a beer and bourbon guy, but I’ll drink whatever that place is pouring.
We’ll leave you with the video from “Drunk on the Highway,” which is pretty typical of the WWB catalog in that it features aliens, drinking and sex. Not necessarily in that order.
Actually, hold up. That one didn’t have enough flute in it. So here’s another one.