You know, it’s a funny thing when you first develop a curious interest in a subculture and want to learn more about it. You have all these ideas about what that subculture is all about as well as all these negative preconcieved notions that you’ve developed from your family, the media, and the rest of society. It’s like hearing about that bully who transferred to your high school that apparently got expelled from five other schools and made a student paralyzed, or hearing about that monster of a dog named The Beast who apparently ate a number of people and now has to be chained up behind the sandlot for-e-ver. It can truly be an intimidating, even terrifying thing for someone who has an increased intrigue toward a particular subculture they know little about that is continually ridiculed, written off, and has developed a bad reputation from the majority of mainstream society.
Such is the case with punk rock, a genre and a subculture that is often regarded as childish, senseless, and idiotic whose participants are a bunch of pissed off, spiky haired, leather jacket wearing, glue sniffing, drunken boneheaded freaks who hate everyone and everything and have no cause. But just like the bully who turned out to be harmless and is just tall for his age, or The Beast who turned out to be like every other giant friendly dog who licks your face off, punk rock goes beyond the assumptions and defies the stereotypes its been burdened and blessed with. There are so many talented, clever, and aware punk bands all over the U.S. and the world that foster strong, welcoming, and charitable communities who take action to stand for the ideals they believe in and stand against the issues that they don’t. The Bay Area is no exception to this. So without further adieu, I give you what is only the tip of the iceberg of all the legendary and upcoming Bay Area punk rock bands who defy convention, covering each corner of the Bay Area.
The Phenomenauts- Oakland
Hailing from Earth’s capital (Oakland, CA), these East Bay galactic pioneers have been on a mission since 2000 to win over audiences an induct cadets into their ever growing army with “rocket-roll”. What is “rocket-roll” you ask? Imagine if new wave, garage rock, rockabilly, and punk rock were thrown into a blender, then decided to have a baby with Sci-Fi songwriting and there you have it. The Phenomenauts quickly garnered a notorious reputation early on for pulling off such daring missions as setting up in front of big music venues like The Fillmore in San Francisco and playing impromptu sets from car batteries and brilliantly sneaking into the 2003 Vans Warped Tour (to which led Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman to be so impressed by the band that they were invited back to play the 2004 incarnation of the tour). Not only are The Phenomenauts known for their daring and courageous nature, but for their innovative and thrilling live show as well. CO2 seeps throughout the entire crowd as vocalist guitarist Commander Angel Nova, additional vocalist/guitarist JoeBot 2.0, stand-up bassist/vocalist Captain Chreehos, drummer/vocalist Major Jimmy Boom, and Moog and special effects master/keyboardist Professor Greg Arius take the stage dawned in each of their own space uniforms and launch into their set like a rocket blasting into orbit. And just like a rocket blasting into orbit, the crowd is blasted by ingenious homemade weapons such as The Streamerator 2000, which shoots out rolls of toilet paper, and The Theramatic Helmerator, which is a wireless theramin that creates sounds which bring to mind old Sci-Fi episodes like Star Trek.
As if these guys weren’t legendary or cool enough at this point, they also drive around in The Phenoma-Bomber Beta (a Dodge van painted silver and adorned with different recycled electronics like keyboards and remote controls) and resign themselves to The Command Center in West Oakland (a one of a kind house, rehearsal studio, and every so often, the spot for local shows curated by the band). I can guarantee you that The Phenomenauts will put on one of the best live shows that you will ever see. It’s a good thing they chose to reside in Earth’s Capital to bring forth their special brand of science and honor. For fans of Devo, Reverend Horton Heat, The Kinks.
Sabertooth Zombie- Rohnert Park/Santa Rosa
(Reader’s Note: For some reason, this video has three minutes of silence after the song is over with)
Lurking in the depths of the North Bay to unleash a vicious sonic assault on your eardrums come Sabertooth Zombie, a five piece band of tough as nails rock n’ roll, punk rock fury. Sabertooth Zombie (STZ) is one of those bands who truly lives up to their name. Like a zombie, they vary in their pace, at times creeping along at a snail’s pace while other times barreling at you with full force. Like a saber tooth tiger, they snarl at the twisted world around them and dig their teeth into your veins, making it impossible to resist their unique, infectious sound. Forming in 2004, STZ have done what most bands only dream of doing; taking the influences that inspire them and crafting them together into their own distinctive style instead of merely imitating them (which is best evidence by their current series of seven inch records entitled Human Performance), all without alienating their dedicated fans from all over the world. Starting off as a straight forward, adept hardcore/punk rock band, over time, Sabertooth Zombie have gradually incorporated psychedelic, hard rock, blues, and stoner metal stylings into their songs.
To see them live is a passionate experience you’re not going to forget anytime soon. Lead singer Cody Sullivan commands the stage full force with raw intensity as he cartwheels, ninja kicks, and lightheartedly jabs at the audience all while guitarists Jay and Eric, bassist Blaine, and drummer Jason kick out the jams and wail on their instruments. These guys are the real deal, check out all their releases on Twelve Gauge Records and do not miss them when they play your town. The ‘Tooth is out there. For fans of Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, and head banging.
Comadre- Redwood City
Arising from the midpoint between San Francisco and San Jose in the small South Bay town of Redwood City (or RAD-wood City as listed on their Myspace page) comes Comadre, a screamo and punk rock infused whirlwind of a band. Now whenever the words screamo or emo are mentioned, many people tend to think of whiny, high pitched, long-haired self indulgent band members. Comadre is anything but as they push the limits of what screamo, punk rock, and hardcore music are perceived as with their own creative take on heartfelt, emotional, and frenzied music with all the above listed genre characteristics. Live, Comadre take it up a notch with frantic yet controlled playing, creating a velocity of chaos, stage diving, and sing a longs from the audience that are louder than the band itself.
Since forming in 2004, Comadre has put out a number of releases on their own record label Bloodtown Recordings, with international releases from Cosmic Note Records in Japan and ADAGIO830 Records in Europe. In addition to numerous releases, Comadre has collaborated with bands such as Dead to Me, P.O.S., and Broadway Calls and put out a number of mixtapes for free — with the exception of their last one in 2011, with a minimum $3 donation with all the proceeds going to Sendai Birdland, a volunteer run venue in Sendai, Japan that was helping the victims of the devastating tsunami in Japan that occurred last year. While Comadre is an unstoppable musical force in the Bay Area, they’re also an unstoppable touring force as well, playing all over the world in places like Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, and Australia. If you’re looking for a exciting band that continues to push the boundaries of punk rock and hardcore, keeps you guessing, keeps you pleasantly surprised, and who is one of the most hard working, dedicated bands going, check these guys out. For fans of Rites of Spring, Refused, At The Drive-In.
Face The Rail- San Francisco
Do you like skateboarding and/or surfing? How about punk rock? Would you like it even more if they all fused together their best genes and had a love child? If you answered yes to all of the above, then look no further than SF’s own Face The Rail, which shares members of other notable San Francisco punk bands such as Yadokai and Ecoli. To put it in perspective, just imagine sitting in a dark living room with some of your best buds drinking some brews watching classic, worn out 80’s surfing and skateboarding VHS tapes. Face the Rail would easily be the soundtrack to those VHS tapes, no contest.
With their fuzzy dissonant guitar and bouncy rhythm, these guys have the grandeur of a vintage 80’s skate/surf punk sound. However, while Face the Rail might have a feel of nostalgia about them, they have the rare, special quality of being able to make refreshing music that isn’t dated whatsoever with the ferocity of a modern day hardcore punk band as evidenced by their self titled album on Tank Crime Records that they released last year. It’s like two different eras of sound teaming up and joining forces to create some of the most enjoyable punk rock that your ears have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Face the Rail hasn’t played too many local shows recently, but when they get back into the groove again, you best be checking out what this band has to offer. For fans of Husker Du, Adolescents, Circle Jerks.
Hopefully these are the bands that will provide a good basis on where to go off of for what true, genuine, heartfelt punk rock really is. Just because there are a few bad apples that put punk rock in a bad light doesn’t mean that they’re representative of punk rock as a whole. What is it going to take for people to realize that punks aren’t just a bunch of knuckleheads who don’t know any better, that we are actually forward thinking, caring, passionate individuals who just happen to dig leather and like to have fun?