Local poet and punk, Brian Sheffield, checks out the Feedback Loop gig, featuring Odder, Parasite, A.P. Tobler, Jacuzzi Cat, George Crustanza, and The Scalps. With some musings on the mosh pit and local punk.
The building that houses the Paper Wing Theater is an old, red, tin paneled converted cannery turned shopping center. Across the street each way are two mainstays of Cannery Row and proof of its inconsistency: Sly McFly’s and its constant Dad Rock; the upstairs children’s party room that was once the back end of the Blue Fin, home to a handful of good shows and a decent open mic. All along Cannery Row is this same strange imagery, only starker. The stone remnants of buildings’ foundations like an excavation site for a lost civilization sit on the outskirts, surrounded by ever-changing tourist traps and souvenir shops. It is at once a Capitalist doldrum and a Post-Civ dream forcibly stitched together at the hip.
I live in Seaside, so I rarely take the time to come to this area. I arrived early to take in the drizzled scene between storms and sit along the forgotten structures beside El Torito, watching the waves open their great fists against Casa Verde beach on one far side of the bay. As the time approached for the venue’s doors to open, I left my dilapidated perch and moved on. The first folks I saw arriving were members of Parasite and Odder, lugging amplifiers and drum sets up the side stairs. I quickly said hello and made sure I was in the right place before sheepishly wandering through the area in search of food, otherwise completely unaware of the tasty $2 tacos provided.
I finally decided on an overpriced plate of warm vegetables from Andronico’s, which I would foolishly eat with gusto in the venue.
Feedback Loop (@feedbackloop831) is a new promoter in the area looking to put together great underground shows in a region of California that is hungry for more independent acts. Everyone I spoke with this night was in agreement that there were just not enough punk shows in the Monterey area. There used to be Jose’s Underground, but that place has been closed for some time now. East Village Cafe used to throw some good indie shows, along with their infamous Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam and Open Mic, but even these were a mixed bag of stuff, and rarely ever allowed space for punk rock, heavy metal, and the movements these genres demand.
And while Other Brothers Beer Company have been putting together some good shows, including The Ajimas’ triumphant return, these also seem to be a wide array of different moods, missing out on the careful curation of an experience that a punk or metal show could bring.
But last night’s show and zine release party at the Paper Wing Theater in Cannery Row was just what many of us have been wanting out here.
Below I have a breakdown of what all the bands were like, as they were the focal point of the experience. But beyond that, there were also product releases from Lowpass Magazine and Virgo Magazine, along with wonderful stuff from local jeweler 1222 Jewelry.
Lowpass Magazine (@lowpassmagazine) has been out here for a few years, run by Kiki (@7kikizinatree) and her brother Nando (@nandointhebando). They also have a pretty dope musical duo together who play around various open mics every so often. Lowpass Magazine covers the goings on in the local music and skate scene. Something that I really like about Lowpass is how interactive it feels. Their latest issue includes a word search and a Spotify playlist featuring their favorite local artists. In this particular issue, they cover the resurgence of Ska in its fourth wave. They were selling magazines, tote bags, stickers, tiny booklets, and other cool stuff. You can submit writing to their zine by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lowpass Magazine merch set up Image from @lowpassmagazine
Virgo Magazine (@virgo_magazine_) is another punk zine that’s been around for about two years. They have a really solid aesthetic with a lot of neat art and poetry included. They seem to focus primarily on the music scene, with their art and photography really documenting local spaces. Their latest issue digs deep into Salinas punk band The Scalps, featured later in this article.
1222 Jewelry (@1222jewelry) was selling beautiful handmade, stainless steel, hypoallergenic jewelry inlaid with genuine gemstones and high quality glass beads. Since I’m broke right now, I couldn’t afford to pick up any of their material. That doesn’t mean their stuff is expensive. It just means that I’m super broke. Most of their stuff seemed to start around the $20 to $40 range. Considering they’ve been going strong for about six years now, I’d say they’re someone to check out.
EP: Soundproof Caverns out on Spotify
Odder, as the name suggests, is a little odd, when trying to pinpoint their sound. They’re definitely a noisy post-punk outfit ala The Cure and Joy Division with some emo vibes thrown in. But they also seem to borrow from the likes of R.E.M. and The Strokes. Hell, they even mixed in a Title Fight cover, with the keyboardist taking up and absolutely killing the hardcore vocals on this. And this amalgamated sound works phenomenally well. By the end of the first song, there was already a pit happening, which bodes well not only for the band, but also for the vibes of the audience. An audience ready to take in a good show is part catalyst of what makes a good show possible to begin with.
As far as performers, this five piece absolutely delivered. The singer’s charisma came out in the way they masterfully controlled the audience. The lead guitarist showed off their chops in a Pink Floyd-esque psychedelic guitar solo that was followed by an almost Black Flag-esque breakdown with Rush style synths accompanying.
As I would learn with (almost) every band, their set felt too short. I could easily watch this band headline their own show and play for an hour. But the show wasn’t about them. It was about everything else around them. By the end of it, the last note closed abruptly and the bass player shouted into the mic, “That’s it!” An unceremonious, yet unsurprisingly punk rock, ending to their set.
My first bias towards this band is that the lead vocalist sported a NoMeansNo patch on the front of their jacket. If you have any awareness of Canadian punks, NoMeansNo, then you know damn well how difficult it is to find other people who also love this band. So going in, I had pretty high expectations for Parasite.
Much of this band’s aesthetic would further push me towards an assumption that, while wrong, was more so in a surprising fashion than a disappointing one. During sound check, I couldn’t help but notice the absolute crunch of their guitar sound. The lead guitar player had the look of an old school thrasher and even toyed with a Slayer riff while setting up.
It was during sound check that I played a little guessing game with myself: will this be a Hardcore punk band, a Thrash Metal band, or some kind of Crossover Thrash outfit?
However, I found out that the answer was the invisible fourth choice when they opened with a cover of Blink 182’s 15 second joke song “Pool” off their California record. It was a goof of course, but it was also progenitor for the varied, and unexpected, sound this band would deliver. They were like Scream with dual vocals, sometimes even with an energy reminiscent of The Unseen. But that pop punk sound they carried was undeniable.
This was also the point when I began to realize something: a lot of punk and hardcore bands have been borrowing heavily from an early emo sound. And this makes sense because that itself stems from early hardcore punk. When they allowed themselves to slow down just a little, when they let their fingers run through an almost math inspired chord, I heard that subtle, perhaps even unspoken or unrecognized, influence.
The singer here was an absolute performer. By the end of the second song, their jacket, with all of its Wrong glory, was gone. And before the halfway point of their set, they were shirtless. Their movements on stage kept the band’s performance alive. The drummer was also a unit of intense movements and flailing arms. It was hard not to watch them.
The rest of the band just kind of stood around, which happens a lot. I remember recently seeing an old recording of a Dead Kennedys show and East Bay Ray stood still in a corner, mouth agape, staring out blankly at the audience as he effortlessly thrashed through the riffs. I had that impression when watching the bass and guitar players.
But in the end, Parasite is a killer band and put on a righteous show. The finished off with a cover of Black Flag’s “My War” which got the room roaring in fierce energy. And then that was it. The crowd dispersed and moved on to the next stage to watch A.P. Tobler.
A.P. Tobler (@ap.tobler)
E.P.s Devoid and Alternate Vision both out on Spotify
As a teacher, two of my favorite things in the world are hearing parents talk about how wonderful their children are (far too many parents take an unenthusiastic backseat to their children’s artistic endeavors), and watching young people realize and live out their passions to great success. And especially as it pertains to punk rock music, this feeling is increased ten fold as it’s an approach to a genre that holds a special place in my heart. So when I was talking with A.P. Tobler’s mom, her excitement shone out tremendously and made me all the more excited to see what this band was about.
A.P. Tobler is the name of the singer and guitar player. The rest of the band is whatever name A.P. Tobler decides to give them in that moment. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the name they spontaneously decided upon here. It was something like the Nasty Hags. Tobler themselves said they made it up right there as they were introducing their band to the audience.
They launched immediately into an incredible, heavy melodic rock and roll sound that was fucked up only because the sound person hadn’t quite gotten the vocal mic right yet. So the first song went by with inaudible vocals. That was corrected pretty quickly and it didn’t seem to phase the band’s joyful attitude at all.
AP. Tobler Image from @feedbackloop381
Once the vocals were fixed though, the sound came together nicely. Tobler sings in this gruff style a lot like Bikini Kill meets early 2000’s pop punk.* The bass tone was thick and reminded me a lot of Rob Wright’s sound. The bass player and drummer were way in tune with each other and showed a lot of interesting camaraderie on stage that helped to solidify the feel of the band as a whole.
*I should note, in terms of A.P. Tobler’s singing voice, the sound was quite different live than it was on their E.P.s, which I listened to later. Their E.P.s, by the way, are fantastic and highly recommended. Their sound, and especially Tobler’s singing style, became much more akin to Paramore, with a few Weezerisms tossed about. Their first E.P. includes a killer cover of “Hate to Say I Told You So” by the Hives.*
Notable pieces in this set included a homerun cover of Nirvana’s “She Said,” a pop punk anthem to the trans community called “Claustrophobia,” and a cover of the theme song to the 90’s Scooby Doo reboot.
They even successfully guided the audience into pulling off the infamous wall of death, in which everyone in the pit separates into two sides and charges at each other. The last time I was part of a wall of death was at a Metalcore show in Soledad about twelve years ago. Moria was playing. I had to get stitches above my left eyebrow. It was a rad experience, and one I’m glad A.P. Tobler is keeping alive.
By the end of their set, they were undoubtedly my favorite band of the night.
Jacuzzi Cat (@jacuzzi.cat)
Jacuzzi Cat was the only band I’d heard of before coming to this show. They’re a straight ahead pop punk outfit borrowing unapologetically from the bands that came before them. They opened up with “Hell Song” by Sum 41 as their mic check and then launched right into their set.
They did this whole thing where they were wearing Hawaiin shirts and passing out leis in celebration of the “Monterey Island” due to the recent flooding of the Salinas River. It was clever, but when they started leaning in on the island thing and speaking in Jamaican accents, it just kind of got weird. The bit didn’t last long though, so that was a relief.
They pulled all the late 90’s, early 2000’s pop punk stops: the quick drum beats, the driving rhythm with poppy stop and go sections as the drummer lays out a 2 handed snare beat between the silence of the guitars. It was all very derivative in that nostalgic sense. I began to ask myself whether or not this band brought anything new to this sound. And I think I have to conclude that they didn’t. They were just a fun pop punk group worthy of their reputation. And there’s not much to say, except about how they ended their set.
Jacuzzi Cat Image from @feedbackloop831
A small tangent on music and time
I have always been a fan of Blink 182. But when they released “All the Small Things,” it had a similar reaction from the fans as the release of Green Day’s Dookie. Core fans thought it was an awful sellout move. Blink 182 was this really fast, kind of raw pop punk group that leaned more heavily on their punk elements than their pop. And when Enema of the State came out, it was like a shift – they were beginning to focus more on pop than on punk. Since I was 13 or so when this album was released, I was effectively part of the target demographic. So I loved the album. But I also heard a lot of the hate.
Yet, as time does the thing it always does, old (harmless) things we used to dislike soften and begin to remind us of either a youth we shared, or a sense of youthfulness that almost doesn’t exist anymore. “All the Small Things” was post Columbine, but pre 9/11. It was the close of a millennium that really represented this separation from an outdated version of the human being. Despite whatever the “truth” of it is, the twentieth century feels now like it was a shift towards faster technological advancement, and the burgeoning of the information revolution. There was still a sense of connectivity with something natural perhaps? Or maybe that’s just the boomer in me talking.
Either way, when Jacuzzi Cat closed with “All the Small Things,” it was the only moment of the night in which every soul in that space was singing along enthusiastically.
George Crustanza (@georgecrustanza)
Music available at georgecrustanza.bandcamp.com
Can I say it? This is my article, of course I can say it! I fucking love the name of this band. Okay, that’s it.
George Crustanza is a five piece Crust punk band with one of the dirtiest, wheezy ass sounds I’ve heard in a long time. They moved flawlessly from Black Metal-esque blast beats to the occasional “tough guy” 2 step. Their songs were appropriately short, and shot from one to the next with no pomp and circumstance in between.
Back in Lancaster, CA, when I was but a young punk in another samey band, there used to be this Crust outfit called Corned Beef and Hash. They refused the stage and set up their equipment right in the middle of the standing room floor where they’d thrash through their set. The singer got right up with the audience and made them a part of the show. I remember this almost twenty years later, and was reminded of that same energy. Granted this venue was too small to allow for that kind of set up, but I felt like this band would easily pull something like that off.
A small tangent on the nature of the pit:
The mosh pit serves many functions at a punk show, but, to me personally, is primarily informative of two main things: the quality of the band playing, and the presence of the vibe. The better (or more popular, depending on the situation) the band, the bigger and more intense the pits. And the better the vibe, the safer the pit is to navigate.
For instance: I remember seeing Cannibal Corpse at the House of Blues in Hollywood. The pit was itself nearly the size of the venue and could easily contribute to one’s running of an entire mile within the span of just a few rotations. People were hyped and ready to move to the intensity of the music. Meanwhile, take a first time, unknown punk group opening for a big local band, say OneWordSolution, at the Cobalt Cafe in Canoga Park. The largely unknown band has the misfortune of playing for a small handful of people who either are there early, or are showing necessary diligence in being present for their friends. I’ve both seen and been in this band, and it can be tough. You just don’t have the chops yet, but it takes playing shows to get them.
On the other hand, the audience could just, like, not be pretentious, and just enjoy the show and dance along anyways. And that’s where the vibe comes in.
If the vibe of a space and an audience is good enough, people will dance anyway. And that’s something I really like about this scene: there are so few punk shows out here, that people are hungry for the camaraderie of dancing in the pit.
Yet, with all this, there is one last point about the nature of mosh pits: in their best form, they are a wonderful example of anarchist politics in practice. There are no written rules, and an organized chaos is the truest tendency here – everyone is expected to respect each other and, relatively absurdly, each other’s space. We’re all close in and our bodies are crashing into each other’s, but we also respect the apparent needs of others. You can see when someone wants out, so you shove them where it’s safe to take a breather. You see someone fall down, and everyone stops what they’re doing to help the person back up, no matter what. There’s a sense of community and inherent trust that goes into the pit. And while it can be male dominated due to the nature of excessive force and how we collectively interact with and are both blatantly and subtly informed by the patriarchy, all people are welcome and all people respected.
I don’t know if it was in a pit or just in the crowd, but somebody was groped relatively early on at the show. The bass player to A.P. Tobler took the time to go on stage between sets and make that fact known, along with the fact that if this individual was found, they would absolutely get their ass beat down. One asshole made their piece of shit selves shown, and nobody in the room wanted that energy in this space.
The pit is, in fact, an extension of the experience. If the room is full of assholes, the pit will reflect that. It is a mirror. It is a barometer for the kind of show you are at, and probably one of the most important functions of the punk and metal show in general.
George Crustanza easily had the biggest and most consistently wild pits of the night. And it was wonderful!
Their set went by extremely quickly, yet was, for me, one of the two most memorable acts of the night.
The Scalps (@thescalpsofficial)
The Scalps cover an absurd amount of ground in their music. On one hand, they are an incredible hardcore punk group with a hard edge and a penchant for crushing riffs. On the other hand, they dabble comfortably in psychedelic rock, 60’s style proto-metal, surf rock, and the blues.
About ten years ago, I used to frequent the Goodwill on Lighthouse Ave exclusively for their eclectic CD section, now completely done away with. It was there that I discovered bands like Nerf Herder, and other punk and garage rock weirdos. One band that stuck out to me, however, was The Urge. They had a way of pairing Ska, Hardcore Punk, and Funk music. But they didn’t fuse it together. Instead, they acted like three separate bands in one, where each song on an album would carry one of these distinct genres. It was cool, but also had a way of making the album feel clunky and difficult to follow. If I was in the mood for funk, the punk and the ska got in the way. If I really wanted to hear a punk album, the ska and the funk ruined the mood for me. They were a band I could only listen to if I was feeling aesthetically adventurous, and so I rarely took the time to appreciate them. In the end, when the time for materialistic reckoning came, and I had to get rid of some things to make space for whatever, The Urge was ultimately tossed away.
The Scalps Image from @feedbackloop831
I do not at all feel that way about The Scalps. They are masters of their sound and owned that space with their stage presence.
The singer/guitarist sported a painted face that was less like KISS and more like the badass corpse paint of some Black Metal outfit. The bass player, on the other hand, looked like they were plucked right from a 60’s performance, complete with a black turtleneck; a small bodied bass; and wide, dark sunglasses that took up a majority of the top portion of his face. Unfortunately, I can’t describe the drummer because these two were too busy taking up my entire attention.
The bass player danced around in their excited chaos, more pounding away at the bass than plucking the strings. It was like watching a contemporary Chuck Dukowski paired with this one bass player who I only ever saw once, on TV, in a Guitar Center in Lancaster: a nimble man with precise fingers, effectively flying across the stage in his dancing movements. As I remember it, there was a slow motion kind of grace to his movement. The bass player to The Scalps gave me that impression, except punk rock with a precision more violent than graceful.
Their set flew by and ended with the audience rushing the stage out of love for the music and night.
In a way, The Scalps were a perfect closer to this incredible night, tainted only by that worthless sack of shit and nameless loser who felt the need to grope an audience member halfway through the show. They were called out, though not found, unfortunately.
Beyond that, Feedback Loop helped to start this year off perfectly with an incredible punk show.
In their sixth volume, Virgo Magazine covered The Scalps and interviewed lead man Stevo. In the interview he says “Punk Rock, especially recently over the past few years, has made a huge resurgence, I think because of the obvious political climate.”
Whatever the reason, I welcome the resurgence and hope for more.
Feedback Loop’s next show is going to be in March at Other Brother’s Beer Company in Seaside. Follow them on Instagram and stay informed. They look to be a group of folks trying really hard to keep the punk and hardcore community alive. And we need folks like them.
Brian Sheffield is a performance poet generally based out of the central coast in California. He is co-founder of Mad Gleam Press, a French-American small press. He is also co-editor of POST(blank) and an editor with the Boukra Collective. He has performed and been published internationally, among predominantly independent circles.