Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bakersfield on a Friday, Fishlips and Lunatics, Jerry's and Jenoah, Gigantic the New Factory

Last night I got antsy and had to get out of the house. I had heard a rumor that a friend was going to be roaming the angry streets of Bakersfield looking for trouble wherever he could find it, and so I slipped on my kicks thinking I'd cross paths with Nick, this old school punk and Star Wars buff. Never saw him. But what I did see . . .

10:15 -- FISHLIPS AND LUNATICS -- Wandered into Fishlips because I heard some sick 80's metal guitar screaming from the stage. Dark, as always, so I let my eyes adjust till they focused on the ocean treasure decor mounted atop the bar. Then I checked out the crew on stage. It was Lunatic, Bakersfield's favorite metal cover band, in all their old school glory, playing "La Bamba" with Randy Roads lead guitar tones! Mix Ritchie Valens and Ozzy, and you've got a very strange concoction. "Try back later," I thought. "They do a mean 'Rainbow in the Dark'."

10:25 -- JERRY'S AND JENOAH --Checked out Jerry's Pizza. Walked up and read the fliers outside while some scream metal band screamed away downstairs. Talked to a skinny young guy outside with frazzly old bell bottoms and grunge cowboy boots. He turned out to be in a traveling band called
Jenoah. Asked for their elevator pitch, and he said "I don't know. Our music is very hard to explain." Typical. So I asked him, "If you got to choose the ideal band to tour with, who would you choose?" He said Death Cab. Alright! I'm down. That puts me in the ballpark.

So we networked a little, and then I got in for free somehow and descended into the dank pit under Jerry's. Reminded me of the basement of a WW II era building somewhere in Eastern Europe, a place that's never been refurbished after the war, just maybe swept of fallen plaster and dust once or twice in 1962 or something -- grungy walls with gum all over them, chipping black paint, a chalky concrete floor, and no place to sit. Have I read a description similar to this before? . . . So I leaned up against the one dirty pillar and checked out the band.

The PA sound sucked! Tinny high ends and mushy vocals, like stabbing needles and oatmeal. So I stuffed some napkin shards into my ears and listened as best I could. Jenoah turned out to be very fine stuff regardless. Less Death Cab for Cutie, more Jeff Buckley jam band. Frontman Stephen Martinez plays a thrashed Fender bass and sings so hard the sinews of his neck pop out. Now I know why his boots look so trashed. He shuffled around like crazy, particularly during the small bass licks between verses.

Between songs he panted and wiped sweat off his brow as he talked and sniffled. He sounded sick, like he'd been catching a tour cold from all night drives in a grungy van. The twelve people listening didn't seem to mind; they nodded attentively and moved, ever-so-slightly, to the energy-driven tunes. On broadjam, Martinez says, "Our songs will never make complete sense to anybody. All of our songs are just complete feeling." Yup, and it's workin'. I hope they make another album. Maybe we can work out a show swap.

10:50 -- GIGANTIC -- Wandered down 19th Street, stepped over the black-clad punks laying down on the sidewalk and walked up to Gigantic to see if there was some music. Sign said closed, but Sapo let me in. AJ and a few other guys were just hanging out. AJ filled me in on the new dance floor plans and the Northern Soul and other free dance nights they had planned for the future. Finally, an alternative for Bako! A few dance/stage lights, and some snacks and drinks for sale, and this place could really take off. This could very well become Bakersfield's own Warhol-esque Factory.

11:25 -- RONNIE JAMES DIO -- Decided to head home. Passed by Fishlips on my way to the car. Heard, "Do your deeeemons / do they ever let you goooo / When you've tried, do they hide, deep inside / Is it someone that you know oh oh oh oh ohhhhhh? . . .

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Matildakay said...

NL tried to get me to go downtown with him last night... but my car was being fixed and so we were both without wheels. Sounds like you heard some good music though...

Nick Belardes said...

Holy crammoli this is a great write-up! When I get back to Bakersfield I'm gonna link up to your review! This is amazing writing from a top notch creative writer. I love it! Sounds like a perfect night to wander the downtown mist... I never made it out. Got too wallowed in sleepsville.