Thursday, December 17, 2009
Longtime promoter Meana Sanchez-Verducci is hoping to serve Monterey County a new platter of music – seasoned with punk, rockabilly, psychobilly and surfabilly.
Tonight’s “Rock N Roll X-mas Show” at Giovane’s – featuring La Plebe (San Francisco), Season of Nightmares (Seattle) and The Arkhams (Queens, New York) – marks Sanchez-Verducci’s first local show in more than six months and a flashback of the spirited, eclectic lineups she put together in the past. She spent the past half-year fine tuning her skills in business classes, tour managing The Mutilators and Stellar Corpses and working at a booking agency in Seattle. She has no immediate plans for future local shows as of now, but ensures her dedication to Monterey County’s live music scene.
“These bands are the future of what’s going on in underground music,” Sanchez-Verducci says. “And it’s important to introduce them to this area.”
La Plebe (Spanish for “The Mob”) is made up of bilingual, political punk rockers with a horn section. Its latest album, ¡Hasta La Muerte! (Until Death), was largely inspired while the band was on tour in the Balkans. Antonio Cuellar, trombone player and a Mexican national, was held in Bulgaria for three days, while the other band members, who are U.S. citizens, were given clearance to leave the country.
“[Antonio] had to miss three shows just because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen,” says his brother Alberto, trumpet player.
The situation in Eastern Europe spawned furious tunes like “Reject/Refuse,” laden with lyrics that pound the air like an angry fist: “All these politicians of all colors and all size/ who take away our rights to fight a war and watch us die.”
The group’s anti-authority force-of-nature sound approaches a south-of-the-border Dead Kennedys; some songs are completely sung in Spanish and some are sung in English. Cuellar says the band feels it’s important to keep its heritage alive.
“Even though everyone in the band has political differences, we are all anti-authority,” Cuellar says. “Our songs are a direct response to what’s going on in the country.”
“WE’RE NOT INTO SINGING ABOUT MADE-UP MONSTERS; THERE’S ENOUGH SCARY STUFF IN REAL-LIFE.”
The quintet’s bilingual element has even spawned a large fan base in Mexico over its nine-year incarnation – La Plepe has toured central Mexico more than five times and is planning to go back in January for part of its tour.
The psychobilly trio Season of Nightmares was recently featured on American Psychobilly Archives Vol. 1, a compilation of psychobilly bands playing ’80s covers songs. SON chose to play the new wave, narcissistic anthem “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads.
“At first, we just learned the song cause we wanted to play it live,” says Bill Muhlstein, lead singer and guitarist. “Then, after [the producer] saw us play it, he invited us on the album.”
SON’s cover of the Heads’ tune integrates rockabilly and jazz, forming a mesmerizing take on the 30-year-old song.
“It’s become so popular that we usually start every show with [‘Psycho Killer’],” adds Muhlstein.
Monster Mash into the Fifth Dimension!, SON’s debut LP, is a pitch-perfect blend of a generous range of genres: punk, rockabilly, surf and jazz, with a tongue-and-cheek overtone.
The surf-rockabilly tune “London After Midnight,” rich with vocal harmonies, crisp, jazz-like guitar solos and Buddy Rich-inspired-showcasing on the snare drum, offers evidence of just how talented these guys are. They fuse blues into the psychobilly style “Heartbreak From the Black Lago.” Muhlstein belts out teary-eyed vocals as if he were singing The Crew-Cuts’ “Earth Angel.”
The Arkhams, who have played on many bills with SON, takes its name from the fictitious town of Arkham, Massachusetts, an innovation of the prolific horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The garage punk rockers from Queens have a grittiness similar to past New York City bands like New York Dolls and Murphy’s Law – they would have fit in perfectly at CBGB’s.
“We all were in other, more eclectic bands and The Arkhams started as a fun, psychobilly side project,” says drummer Sean O’Connell, as the band drives through the Crazy Mountains range in Wilsall, Montana. “[The Arkhams] eventually became our main band and it’s actually become more eclectic.”
Their second album, Valley of the Arkhams, due out in April, is a high-energy, insanity-themed bout of psychobilly and surf rock.
“We like to focus more on real-life horror,” O’Connell says. “We’re not into singing about made-up monsters; there’s enough scary stuff in real-life.”
“The Art of Getting Even” – from Valley of the Arkhams – is a catchy tune that jumps around like a rabid meerkat on a surfboard, recalling the whacky pace of old-school psychobilly acts like The Meteors.
The lyrics – featuring blood-curdling acts of revenge – definitely depict horror that feels “real.”
“Insanity,” begins with a Dick Dale surf riff before growing into a full-fledged, rockabilly epic complete with Queen theatrics. The song’s mantra (“Baby you’re driving me insane/ My mind is gonna blow, baby you’ve gotta go/ You’re driving me insane”) – sung with psychotic vibrato, is simple, effective madness.
LA PLEBE, SEASON OF NIGHTMARES and THE ARKHAMS play 8pm Thursday, Dec. 17, at Giovane’s, 348 San Juan Grade Road, Salinas. $6. 444-6717.