Sunday, July 17, 2011

East Bay Geezer Punk Kings and the Tye-dyed in the Wool Set

"Tonight you are going to hear two sides of Berkeley rock," I said as I stepped to the microphone to begin our set opening for the Unreal Band at the Starry Plough on Saturday night."We'll start with the evil side. We're the Happy Clams." I belted out the first line of our song "Bud Uggilley" (which is on our CD and also can be heard at our much neglected page) and we began to play before a house of friends, crossover fans, and some people who would probably never come out to see us in the first place.

Leading up to the show, I was excited to have us described by the Plough booker as the Eastbay Geezer Punk Kings. We had been using the term geezer punk in fun because somebody had called us that once. It sounded like we owned it when ended with "kings". We're not geezers yet, but it does seem to be in the cards. Gail and I have pledge to keep doing this as long as our future walkers can hold us up and beyond. "Eh?..Whaddya say Sonny? Why I oughta....."

I had painted new backdrops for both us and the Unreal Band. Our backdrop was an evangelical image of joyous cult members dancing to the Clam god and for the Unreals I depicted Nefertiti in front of the dollar bill-eyeball pyramid with fish dancing on the red sea.

Our set included only a few songs from our CD and the rest was peppered with newer material, both originals and covers. Gail and Robert blasted out their usual, uncompromising backbeat. One of the things we like to do at our shows is add something extra to the mix when we play. This time we had the additions of Alex Day (saxaphone) and Stephen Munoz (lap steel/melodica) on our raft of clams. Gail rolled out her version of Faron Young's "Wine Me Up", ably assisted by Stephen on lap steel. We did our new song, "I Saw Him Kill Jesus". Eyebrows were raised when wild, wigged-out strains came flying out of Stephen's lap steel in the middle of "Porn Again". Alex added bouncy punches to Porter Wagoner's "Rubber Room" as well as other songs. Bongo Barry joined in on the last songs of the set. In the middle of "Killer", our bluesy number (co-written by Gail), I found myself thinking, "Is this our band?" I had so much fun.

After a quick change, aided by the fact that we used much of their equipment, the Unreal Band took over. It was now time for other side of Berkeley rock; the good feeling, jam-based, smoke some weed, dance all night kind of thing. Okay I admit, that back in the 80's, it was not my music. I was more into all-or-nothing punk music. I didn't look the punk, but that was the music that spoke to me. Though I did listen to all kinds of music before punk hit, I kinda wore the ear version of blinders for about a decade (at least). I was late to coming around to the Unreal Band. A few of the Unreal were even friends of mine (one from high school) before I started going to their shows. I've come back around to all kinds of music now, especially if it is done well. That's why I like the Unreal Band. I like how they do it. I am a fan of their rhythm guitarist, my friend Gary Robinson. He infuses the music with his infectious energy and he draws me right in. Maybe it's because he loves what he does as much as I enjoy what I do (and I hope that I show it as much as he does). That excitement comes through every time. My special faves of the evening were their renditions of the Beatles' "Things We Said Today", Gary's "Nefertiti", the classic
"Turn on Your Love Light", and a song by lead guitarist, Ron Kresh, that I don't know the name of, but they sing something to the tune of "I don't like" in the chorus. Sorry about the vague description of that last song, but you are getting a report from somebody who doesn't even know all the lyrics to his favorite Rolling Stones' songs.

It was a lot of fun. I hope we do it again.

One of the drawbacks of the eastbay music scene is the lack of places for a hungry musician to go after a show. Many times I have heard myself say, "Naw, the only place open around here is Dennys." I've heard there is an all night sushi place, but I can never remember it when I need it. So there I was at the end of the show, my bandmates all gone home, finding myself alone and hungry. I stopped by Safeway and picked up a pre-made roast beef sandwich and some macaroni salad. When I woke up the next morning, I looked at the labels. My simple roast-beef and cheddar sandwich contained the following: unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin (folic acid), water, sugar, nonfat milk, yeast, butter (made from milk and/or cream, salt and annatto), potato flakes, contains 2% or less of the following: wheat gluten, sea salt, soybean oil, sodium stearoyl lactylate, soy flour, mono and diglycerides, calcium sulfate, cultured wheat, (milk), and soy lecithin, Then we go on to beef, water, salt, potassium lactate, sugar, sodium phosphate, sodium diacetate, sodium ethorbate, garlic powder, extracts of spices coated with: (coriander, black pepper, caramel color, garlic powder, natural smokeflavor, extractives of spices), sliced tomatoes, fresh pasturized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto (color), and lettuce. *** contains soy and milk ****. Thank god for the natural smoke flavor and what is meant by .... (milk)? We won't even go into what it said on the plastic lid from the macaroni salad. Dennys doesn't sound so bad after all, does it Mr. Pollan?