Sunday, January 26, 2014

FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL with Tribute Set by No FB

Back in November I saw a piece of news that a Descendents rockumentary would be coming to VA Beach to be screened in an actual movie theatre for one night only.  This excited me highly and I secured tickets the same day.  Why was I excited?  From my high school freshman year on, The Descendents created a permanent dent (pun intended) in my musical ideology.  I had heard plenty of pop punk, but these guys really stood out because their attitude seemed very over the top in their humor, sarcasm, and emphasis on their own private jokes.  And farts.  All this along with swooning over women and some of the strongest songwriting and playing I've ever heard in the wide punk genre was a formula that resonates and influences me till this day.

As the screening date drew closer I became more excited that there would be a short tribute set after the screening by the one-off band No FB (name based on the Descendents song, which stands for No Fat Beaver).  Cinema Cafe in Pembroke was hosting the event in two screening rooms and everything went off without a hitch.

(apologies for the crappy photo guys!)

The film was a treat.  It told the whole story as expected, and filled in gaps that I had always been curious about.  For instance, my first Descendents tape was Somery, a sort of "greatest of" compilation.  I noticed that the liner notes were huge because there were so many different players credited to so many different songs.  But somehow most of the songs sounded like the same band.  So, roughly 25 years later, as I watched Filmage, the lineage of those players (I believe the total was 11) was spelled out and the story of the band was finally clear to me.  And, I realized that for most songs, the principal or co-songwriter was Bill Stevenson, the band's drummer.  The film also went into great detail about the band ALL, which is basically the same band as Descendents with a different singer, and questioned the reasons why it never found the legendary status of the same band with the same songwriting when fronted by Milo Aukerman.  With plenty of interviews, live performances, anecdotes, and everything else you'd expect from a rockumentary, Filmage left me satisfied with the backstory of one of my all-time favorites.  I will be looking out for this DVD release because it is worth another watch and several loanings to buddies.

(Video footage by Paul Unger)

Immediately following the screening, No FB began setting up in front of the screen and took the stage within 10 - 15 minutes.  The band was fronted by Charles Glover (The Larchmont Trash), the same man who arranged for the film to be screened in VA Beach (with help from Hardcore Norfolk queen Debra Persons).  On bass was Forrest Lucien (Unabombers) and on drums was Hoyt March (also of The Larchmont Trash).  They played a fairly short set consisting of Descendents crowd pleasers "I'm not a Loser," "Silly Girl," "Clean Sheets," and of course the one chord/one note anthem "ALL."  The band was rowdy and blew through the songs as if second nature, and the large standing audience in the cinema responded fondly.

Big props go out to Charles, and all the others that I don't know about behind the scenes for making this happen.  There were two screenings last night and both were sold out!  We could stand to see more special events and screenings like this in Hampton Roads.  Keep your eyes and ears open!

Descedents Website:

All Website:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Boneske, Honorary Girl, and Peak

I found myself drawn once again to the Taphouse in Ghent for a 3 act show that I was certain would deliver the goods.  I have played shows with Boneske a number of times, and had seen a brief set by Honorary Girl in "The Kitchen" during their YourMusicShow performance.  Those two were enough to sell me on the show, and the third band, Peak, definitely piqued my interest so I drove over to Norfolk at 10pm to see what it was all about.  I am glad I attended, although the end of the night left me scratching my head with mixed feelings about whether to laugh or be disappointed.  More on that later.

The show began with Peak, a power/punk rock four piece who was performing for their second show ever.  They introduced themselves as not being a local band but rather a band from Outer Space, and proceeded to hammer out tight 4 chord power rock that I can best equate to late 80's early 90's Lookout Records pop punk (my personal coming of age soundtrack).  The vocals by Rob Ulsh Jr., formerly of The Super Vacations, were reminiscent of classic bands like The Queers, and to me bore a striking resemblance to a lesser known Lookout band called Juke.  On top of the power chord jams, a cock-rocking lead guitarist added the essential gritty rockabilly meets Maiden style runs, and let me tell you - this guy manhandled his Gibson cutaway.  He is a bigger dude and played a tiny small scale model that looked like a toy on him, but his solos shredded fast and fearless, bendy and far from childish.  The floor was packed with a receptive, let-it-hang-out dancing audience, and Peak plummeted through their set with energy that never slowed.  For their second show, the band seemed pleased with themselves, Ulsh thanked the crowd, commenting "We finally got to play the Taphouse, it's our dream come true!"

Next up was Honorary Girl, an enjoyable trio who's sound and attitude is difficult to nail with words.  The main configuration has Will Huberdeau (formerly of Digging up Virgins) on guitar and lead vox, Sean Collins on bass, and Logan Laurent (Hissy Fits, Karacell) on Drums.  On the surface, yes, they are a punk trio and subscribe to in your face changes of feel, raw and sometimes loose-in-a-good-way jangly riffs, and appropriate cuts and stops.  Laurent's drumming is especially energetic and she is a monster when it comes to double-sticking that hi-hat funk-style punk.  But there is something humorous and playful about many of the choice of chords and bouncy riffs in Honorary Girls' sound.  Think about the weirder side of Weezer in their Blue Album/Pinkerton era, but ramp up the tempo and add a lot more stops and oddball non-radio friendly hooks. Huberdeau's vocals stay interesting as well.  He delivers what are obviously heartfelt but humorous lyrics in a style that tells the world that he just doesn't really give a shit.  I'm not sure that deadbeat is the word, but if it is possible to sing beautiful high pitched moving melodies in a manner that sounds like you are ready to lock your bedroom door and go to sleep, Huberdeau is the man to do it.  A few songs into the set, Collins switched over to guitar and lead vocals and proceeded into "Youth Group," a very short ditty about how his church youth group taught him how to play guitar.  It sounded like it was straight off a Dead Milkmen album and the next few songs followed suit before switching back to the original lineup.  For their final upbeat song, Huberdeau's lyrics repeated continuously "I don't wanna eat, I don't wanna sleep, I don't wanna ... (whatever, insert your own basic needs here)" before busting out a reggae-punk style finale, singing repeatedly "All I wanna do is sleep with you!"  Classic, perfect, and a definite crowd pleaser.

As if the first two acts were not interesting enough, Boneske finally took the stage for what would be a baffling half-performance, and possibly their unanticipated final performance.  I admire this four-piece for many reasons.  They seem to be completely uninfluenced by any musical convention and throw all ideas of accessibility or pop-sense out the window.  They create a strange off-time groove among themselves that can be nearly impossible for anyone off the stage to follow or predict.  I would best describe their sound as jazz, but any dead jazz greats might roll over in their celebrated caskets to hear that. Aside from the drummer, they play largely with their backs to the audience and vocals are scarce.  Their orator, Aaron Burgess, often takes on a controversial alter-ego persona for rants in between songs (for the previous Boneske set I saw, he took on the role of a family man who had taken his wife and kids to the zoo and was very offended that the zoo allowed homosexuals because his children and the animals should not be exposed to that).  The riffs are largely discordant, muted and accented loops that travel from one weird time signature to the next and (maybe) back again.  It feels like a madman running around in circles with two guitars and a bass while drummer Bobby Rangel eggs him on with off time fills that might last as long as half the song.

All this stuff I love, and I was enjoying the puzzling and unpredictable sounds as much as the rest of the packed house for about 15 minutes.  Then things actually started getting confusing.  From the best I could gather, a song may have been started too fast, so Burgess abruptly stopped the song and said he wouldn't start it again, to move on to the next song.  The following song was probably cut short as well, based on Burgess' comments that the band likes to stop before the song is over, whenever they feel like it.  Obviously there was some sort of discontent on stage, but as an audience member I heard nothing wrong the performance.  If something was too fast or too short, I would have never known.  About a minute into the next song, Burgess put his guitar down and started singing in and out of a falsetto voice something akin to "Don't fuck with my song, la la la la la, Don't fuck with my beat, la la la," (etc. etc. with many profanities and unintelligible mocking.)  At this point, bassist Blair Munden took his bass off his back, threw it to the ground and walked right out the door and out of sight somewhere down 21st street.  Second guitarist Mark Perron stopped playing and everyone in the room looked confused as the song came to a halt.  "I think we've played this room one too many times" muttered Rangel as he got up and followed suit out the door.  Burgess continued "I think Boneske just broke up, folks," and then picked his guitar back up and continued playing and singing a couple Boneske songs by himself.

Not sure where to go from here, magically a hip-hop beat came from the PA and Burgess began his infamous freestyle rapping which I'd seen on one occasion before.  Included in this free-form were plenty of jabs (on his band?), general flowing of how great of a flow-er his is, and a reference to his pubes complete with flashing of said pubes and a portion of what lies below them.  As I said in the intro, I  was confused, entertained, somewhat amused, and disappointed all at the same time.  Part of me wondered if it had all been staged. I definitely hoped that was the case.  But the rest of Boneske never showed back up, at least not as long as I was there.  Before this incident, my one complaint about Boneske was that they do not have any recorded music available (POST UPDATE: I was wrong, see link below), but I was happy to hear the news earlier that night that they planned a recording session in New York City later this very month.  Will that happen?  I hope so.  Is Boneske over?  Please don't let it be.  I hope these guys can work out whatever their problems are, get that recording done, and return to the stage.  Also guys, more than one single song would be fantastic, if you can manage.  You are one of the most truly original and carefree bands in the area and although you may not be the world's most accessible cup of tea, you score high for many fans here in the 757.

Check out the music:
Honorary Girl:
Boneske:  (thanks Bobby for sending this link, I wasn't aware of the Magnets EP that is available on the website)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Framers at PFAC Art After 5

I've heard it said that Tom Petty is an artist that music fans from all walks can agree is good.  This post has nothing to do with Tom Petty, but I concur and would propose after their show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center that the Hampton Roads band The Framers are also a band that EVERYONE can agree on!  That being said, I must submit a disclaimer before I go any further.  The Framers have the most beautiful bassist in the world, and very luckily for me she happens to be my wife, Maria H. Thomas.  Obviously I am biased heavily towards this band, but listening to them in a crowd of all ages, I cannot imagine how anyone could hear and watch this band and despise it.  Alt-Country/Americana Rock may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the ingredients that make up The Framers are natural and basic enough that it just feels basic and natural to enjoy them.

What are these magical, musical ingredients?  Start with the beat.  Rather than employing a drummer behind a kit, The Framers' front man Matt Scruggs uses his right foot to pound the kick drum while lead string man Mike Howland does the same with a hi-hat/tambourine combo.  That's it for the percussion section, and this is accomplished while the guys simultaneously play their guitars, or whatever stringed instrument Howland happens to be playing.  As a result, the beat is typically a very simple pattern, about as simple as rhythm patterns get.  For you musicians, this means kick on beats 1 and 3 and hi-hat on beats 2 and 4.  Not always, but very often.  This is far from a bad thing.  It is an instinctive pulse that is familiar to all humans who were born into the world of modern music.  I can say this with confidence because my nephew, who is barely over one year old, was spotted correctly stomping his foot in time along with Scrugg's kick while the Framers played PFAC Thursday evening.  Amazing!

Adding to the simplistic foundation of the band, Maria is admittedly and proudly a simplistic bassist.  Again, this is an enhancement to The Framers' sound rather than a drawback, as her lines and rhythms sync perfectly with Scrugg's steady kick drum thumping.  She rarely brings her walking lines to the forefront of attention and instead lays back to provide a rock solid bottom end that solidifies the hard-hitting yet uncomplicated rhythm section.  It works fantastically and only an ego-addled bass shredder would say otherwise.

Then, of course, there are the songs themselves.  Scruggs' songwriting stands on its own.  I'd pay to see him perform these songs solo and acoustic because I know they would still shine.  From a technical music theory standpoint, most of the songs do not break into new musical territory that has never been heard before ( I said MOST ... I am particularly fond of "Bad Taste" where Scruggs and Howland build tension and groove based on an accidental wrong chord played during a late-night drunken jam session, but that's another story!).  The fact remains: a great song is still a great song even if it follows a chord progression that has been done hundreds of times before.  The structures, melodies, and lyrics are delightful and fresh, and the familiarity only helps the songs to work their way into your head where they will be stuck for days on end.

And finally we have the delicious icing.  While Scruggs stays put on rhythm guitar, Howland switches instruments between most songs.  Whether it is banjo, mandolin, or electric guitar, his lead work is incredibly suiting and adds the necessary texture to the already solid foundation described above.  You may not see him shred quite as hard and fast and loud as in his other successful band, Broken Mouth Annie (which Scruggs is also drummer), but his consciousness of what he is enhancing is clear and he knows how to switch gears appropriately.  From the simple yet driving banjo on "Blue Nightgown" to the rowdy mandolin romp on "It's Mutual" the variety keeps The Framers' repertoire sounding diverse and interesting.

The show at PFAC was part of the center's "Art after 5" series, and was very well attended.  Glancing around during The Framers' set, the room was all smiles.  The age group was about as widespread as it gets and everyone seemed to truly appreciate what they were hearing. It's those basic instinctive ingredients that please us humans' ears, I tell you!  Keep an eye out for The Framers and check them out the first chance you get!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Black Book and Daniel Neale

My first post for the new blog/journal/adventure magazine brings us to a hard tried and true staple of the 757 underground music scene, Norfolk Taphouse. My buddy Mike Anaya's new band Black Book was playing, and up to this point I had neglected to catch them live. Mike was one of my cohorts in the relatively short-lived project Lord Bowler, and sang on the title track of The warehouse Brian EP. Listening in advance to Black Book's Songs on bandcamp, I noticed striking similarities in his wailing, discordant vocal style as well as his guitar playing. My curiosity about their live performance was peaked. 

Opening for Black Book and providing sound was the Norfolk busker Daniel Neale.  I knew I was in for a treat before he even graced the stage due to a continuously running gerbil-in-a-wheel toy he had set up in front if his getup. With an old school suitcase for a kick drum, a platform of noisemakers on the floor for a snare, an accordion, a sampler of some sort, a synth pad requiring approximately one finger, a tambourine, and probably a few other toys I didn't even notice, Daniel rocked and sang all on his own and created a sound more textured than many three and four piece bands could dream of.  Several audience members compared his vocal style to Justin Timberlake, but I thought his voice contained natural folky tendencies. Mixed with electronic overtones and droning accordion it was a unique mesh.  And the songs were well thought out and catchy too. Daniel told me this was only his third time performing plugged into a PA system, and typically he brings a single speaker to busk on the street.  My guess is that he makes a killing in the busking-friendly city of Norfolk.  I'd drop a buck or two into his cup for sure!

Black Book quickly took the stage after Daniel's set, and the room suddenly got extremely loud.  Anaya's guitar sound was mostly what I expected since I had worked and jammed with him plenty of times before.  Layers of buzz and distortion, discordant solos, a powerhouse of sound with each power chord he banged out.  His wailing vocals stayed low in the mix at his request.  Earlier in the evening Mike told me that this band was not vocal-centric and his one qualm with their recording was that the vocals were too up front and that they should be considered like another textured instrument in the song, but not the center of attention.  While Anaya mostly swayed, sang, and played with his eyes closed, much of the energy on stage came from Matt Hobson on bass.  Complete with rock n roll "what are you looking at?" faces, punk rock attitude, twirls, extra low bass strap, and quick walking riffs on the bass, Hobson laid down the solid thumping foundation and visual excitement for Black Book.  Last but certainly not least, Adam Parcel kept it real behind the drums with the skill and mastery needed to hold this whole crazy ruckus together.  I had also worked with Adam when he drummed with Popular Vultures (a demo which I believe was never mixed was tracked in my home studio).  Although he was steady and solid in the Vultures, he has vastly improved since then and his fills and hooks have gotten much trickier.  Most of Black Book's songs were short, probably well under 3 minutes.  It was a treat to hear a cover of "Freak Scene" by Dinosaur Jr., probably one of the bands I could safely compare them with (along with Pavement, Sebadoh, and Sonic Youth "Goo" era).

Unfortunately I was not able to stick around for the final act, Feral Conservatives, but I hope to catch the duo soon around the scene.  All in all it was an exciting night of music and well worth my $5.

Check out the music!
Black Book:
Daniel Neale:
Feral Conservatives:

Nice to meet you: Masi of Reckoner, Matt of Black Books (although I believe we met before), and Sarah, friend of the Black Book crew.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A welcome message to squealers from the author


As an active participant and avid fan in the local music scene of Hampton Roads, VA, I feel it is time to begin documenting experiences and feelings I get from shows and other musical related adventures. I'm doing this for two reasons:

1) Local independent musicians can NEVER get enough exposure, and 
2) The older I get the worse my memory becomes. 

I can't tell you how many times I've been telling someone about a show I attended and damned if I can remember the name of the band I saw, the people I met, or something else important that has run far away from this brain of mine. So, ideally, if I can keep my motivation up to stay on top of this blog, I will have a nice little journal of experiences for myself. And hopefully along the way someone somewhere in these seven cities will discover some really cool music they didn't know about!

I'm not a journalist and this is going to be full of errors, oversights, and likely a small amount of incorrect information.  I'll do my best.  Also, it is unrealistic that I will be able to write about every show I attend (even though that is the goal).  It will be amateur at best.  I will appreciate your feedback and comments as I begin and continue this blog. Feel free to drop me a line at

Thanks squealers!