Too many recaps are prefaced with "This will have to be a quick one." Maybe the quick ones are the norm, and instead some should be prefaced with "Brace yourself, I've a lot to say about this one." Or maybe the norm is when I say it is going to be quick, but then it isn't. In that case, here's a normal one.
The flyers advertised a late 11pm start time. That's a ridiculous time to begin a show, but for some reason I always feel dutybound to support international acts when they come through town. For a band from French Catalonia, I'll miss my bedtime. With undue optimism I arrived at 10:45, putting me at Hillsiders just as another show was wrapping up on the patio. Someone announced that they would be circling with a bucket to collect money for the three touring acts, but I didn’t catch any of the acts' names. They must have been country based on the preponderance of boots, belt buckles, and cowboy hats outside enjoying the lovely night. In the middle of that rodeo, I saw a dozen friends, but dense cigarette smoke sent me scurrying back indoors after only cursory hellos. It was there that I ran into another issue – the bar was jumping. Hillsiders is a cozy place with nearly every square foot dedicated to the long bar, the low stage, and the active pool table. Normally a few tables claim the remaining space, but on this night a DJ spinning nuggets and early punk records usurped that territory. Hillsiders wasn't cozy, it was crowded. At least it was until 11:45 when the opening band started, then it was packed.
When Wayne Pain & the Shit Stains finally took stage, it was with some new faces. Kenneth Kupfer still fronts the band. He's the one who screams the strained and scratchy vocals, plays the riffs composed of power chords and the bending solos recalling rock's most primal past, and writes the transgressive songs scraped off the floor of the garage. Previously he's been joined by a rhythm section that was often learning the songs on the fly – they could only hope to follow Kupfer's changes and keep up. This new supporting duo of bassist Isaac Ah-loe and drummer Tyler James not only kept up, but also brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the songs. Bass lines were no longer just the root notes of each chord, but instead they danced around the melody adding interest. In at least one song, the bass carried the melody while Kupfer's guitar dipped out for an extended solo. James' drumming was less lyrical, but still similarly fulfilling. Although the fact that his kickdrum is the size of a personal pan pizza did have me confused. The audience danced a little, lurched a lot, and occasionally sang along. "I Don't Wanna Go in Your Nazi UFO" was a favorite of one pocket of the crowd pressed up against the bar. The finale of the eleven-song set was "Suicide." Before the song, Kupfer explained that he had stolen the riff, and then dropped it down a key to make it sound more punk rock. You know what they say, "good artists borrow, great artists steal." I guess that applies to riffs as well as rhythm sections.
Between acts I went outside to find my friends. The haze of cigarette smoke was just as thick as it was an hour ago, but now it was also in competition with the dank aroma of weed. I abandoned my ginger beer with Jona and returned inside, leaning against the bar, trying to be small. I watched as one bartender looked at the other and mouthed "There's another band?!" in shocked disbelief. There was, and they were in no hurry to set up. So, there I stood watching forty-five minutes of amp placement, volume adjustments, and effects pedal fine-tuning. I wondered how any of that could be important for a garage band. Turns out, it kind of was.
At 1am a four-piece version of Jack of Heart took the stage. The Perpignanais band is led by Piero Ilov who provides lead vocals and most of the fancy guitar work. Bassist Andy California, guitarist Jeff Clarke, and drummer Robin Renard completed the lineup. The band's take on garage is less the punk cudgel employed by the opener, and more of a nuanced psychedelic-infused garage that is period-correct for the 1960s. Those finely tuned effects pedals noted earlier were used to modulated Ilov's voice, not his guitar, allowing the former to nestle nicely alongside Clarke's backing vocals. Ilov strummed his guitar with diligent intensity, picking at each string causing chords to ring out with some jangle. He covered most the leads, and all the solos. Throughout the night, California marched off the stage and into the crowd playing his Hofner-style violin bass. He stuck his tongue out taunting the crowd. He was loud. The whole band was loud. The PA didn't stand a chance, leaving both vocals frequently buried by the guitars or the snapping kick/snare/ride combo of Renard. This sonic haze combined with a thick accent left me unable to identify many of the songs in the band's 45-minute set. I later confirmed a number of the songs played were new, but even favorites or covers could have slipped by without me noticing. The vibes, however, were immaculate. The crowd (only about 30 remained now, but that's plenty in this space) were ecstatic. The narrow space between stage and bar made each passing dancer (or patron going between the front door and the patio) stroll as if they were on Soul Train. Pat Davis wouldn't have been impressed, but the late-night, drunken crowd was having fun and so was the band.
The band ended the set hunkered together on the floor, sawing away at instruments, and delivering one racket of a finale. Afterwards the ragamuffin quartet left their instruments and dispersed into the crowd. They were in no rush to leave, and I suspect they probably continued their party until the sun came up. I, however, was beat and so I rushed home to bed and to beaux rêves or was it to dolços somnis? I should have asked the band. No telling if I'll be able to stay up for the next band from French Catalonia that comes through.