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NOISE POP, SAN FRANCISCO, NIGHT 1, FEBRUARY 27 BY JERRY CONNOLLY; R.I.P. MIKE CONLEY, SINGER OF '80s PUNK BAND M.I.A.

3 March 2008

As he did last year, our own JERRY CONNOLLY has kindly agreed to file a report from his experiences at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival, our favorite music festival in the U.S. hands down (for the reasons Jerry cites below, which I agree with).

Those looking for photos of my new son, Jim (thanks for hundreds of emails from everyone patting me on the back for becoming a dad, that’s really nice of all you people!!!), who is 37 days old today, you can still go to http://www.bigtakeover.com/author/Jack+Rabid/ and click on the February 18 entry, they are still there. He’s a damn site cuter than I ever was at his age, the little bugger.

And remember, those who want to see old Springhouse videos from MTV in 1991 and 1993, they are now up on our myspace page, at www.myspace.com/springhouse

I want to say a few words in the coming week about the death of my friend of 22 years, MIKE CONLEY of Las Vegas to Los Angeles early ‘80s punk rock band M.I.A. who died tragically last week from a parkling lot fall in Chicago. But right now I am too choked up to speak on the subject, he was a good mate. So give me a few days, and let’s let the current music be the spotlight while I collect myself.

But sorry to see you go, Mike, I will miss you and the fun times.

Anyway, here is Jerry!

NOISE POP, SAN FRANCISCO, NIGHT 1, FEBRUARY 27
by JERRY CONNOLLY
Noise Pop’s sweet 16 officially began tonight (not counting yesterday’s opening party), and frankly it’s hard to believe that it’s been going on that long. 16 years—who would’ve thought…? What started as an excuse to showcase a night of bands with bit of distortion and love of melody has morphed into one of the country’s better-known music festivals.

OK, so it’s not on par with SXSW but maybe it’s not trying to be. The overall feel is less an obvious industry love fest and more of an event where a fan can enjoy an evening without fear of being kept out of a show by industry snobs filling the room with their hot air and BO, or run over by the truck dispensing free ginseng energy drinks. Noise Pop seemingly caters to the actual music lover, and in this writer’s eyes that’s the way it should be. This fan-centric attitude can only come from the top, and by that I mean KEVIN ARNOLD, its founder and passionate supporter of independent music. To say that he has done a service to the independent music community is the understatement of the decade. Thanks Kevin.

The plan of attack for tonight is to begin the evening in the Western Addition of San Francisco at The Independent. THE WALKMEN are headlining with the billed being rounded out (in descending order) by THE BROKEN WEST, NYLES LANNON, and A MODERN MACHINE (though I will end up having to miss all but the first of these four bands to catch what’s going on elsewhere at the fest). For those keeping score, that’s a New York band headlining with an L.A. and two San Francisco bands opening. As for the locale, the club is situated about five minutes due west of the seven painted ladies or seven sisters of postcard row (one of the more famous tourist spots in The City). Google that for a frame of reference. The club itself has hosted live music for the past 30 years and has previously gone under the names The Kennel Club and The Justice League among others. In my eyes its one of better venues in The City, as it has a good sound system and user friendly layout in addition to the prime location.

As I walk in the door ten minutes late, A Modern Machine are already on and playing to about 100 people (not bad for an opening act, night one of the festival). It’s only 8:10, so it’s safe to say that thing’s run on time here at Noise Pop, and I need to get my act in order. Anyhow, the sounds offered could best be described as “alternative.” You know what I mean, kind of “new wave” and kind of “rock.” It’s by no means bad, but at the same time it’s not really, well… good. This trio clearly knows how to play, and have put in the practice time but it’s nothing special. The song they were playing as I walked in ended with the line “Don’t ask why you won’t remember.” Oddly appropriate as I’ve already forgotten what the song sounds like. Prior to the next song the singer announces that EMILY ARTA will be joining them on vocals. This is all well and good but I don’t know how I am to benefit from this bit of luck, as I don’t know who she is. The following song comes with the instruction that it is a cover, and even better, it’s a dance tune so “try to dance.” I have no idea what the song is, or who could actually dance to it. Again, it’s not bad but that’s about it. Two more songs and A Modern Machine exits the stage to polite applause from the growing crowd.

My hope is to stay around for at least one song by the next act, Nyles Lannon, as his band features two members of FILM SCHOOL one of whom is a friend. I have time for only the one song as I need to bike across town to see the San Francisco premiere of THE GERMS film What We Do Is Secret. As luck (my luck folks) would have it there are technical snafus and I have to leave before the band starts. While walking out of the club I notice that the crowd has more than doubled and the line outside is at least a hundred strong. From the looks of things I’ll likely walk into a full house when I return after the film to catch NYC’s Walkmen.

I make my way across town the to The Mission District and arrive at the Roxie to see a long line of Germs fans waiting to get in. A quick scan of the people in line reveals member of various Bay Area bands such as JAWBREAKER, THE TRASHWOMEN, and THE AVENGERS. While waiting to get in, I take time to eavesdrop on a homeless man working the line for change. It seems Elwood is, like a lot of us, obsessed with politics and he is taking time to query the movie goers as to their preferences. He seems most concerned with whether people are going to vote for HILLARY CLINTON or “ MORAK OBNAMA. ” This being a liberal town, that is not such an odd question I suppose. The disconcerting part for me is that when Elwood gets to me he immediately chuckles and says to anyone listening, “Now this one here, he a “ MACCAIN ” man.” What did I do? Thankfully the line gets moving and I don’t have to explain myself.

I will admit to having low-expectations for the film which premiered this past June at the Los Angeles Film Festival to positive reviews. Oh, the Germs are fine but I’ve not had great experiences with rock bio-pics, and have little reason to think this will be different. I mean, it stars SHANE WEST (as singer DARBY CRASH), whose most notable credit to date is NBC’s ER. How good could it be?

As the movie begins, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that much attention has been paid to detail. The film looks great – there is no denying it. From background music to flyers to the clothes the actors are wearing, one gets the sense that this is a work of passion. For the most part the casting works. West bears a striking resemblance to the man (boy) himself, as does RICK GONZALEZ as PAT SMEAR. BIJOU PHILLIPS comes off as a more attractive LORNA DOOM and NOAH SEGAN makes a fine DON BOLLES. The story moves quickly from the band’s forming to their first gig opening for THE WEIRDOS at The Orpheum, and includes a lot of the events that are part of the legend. We see the band gaining confidence as things move on with the foursome all the while unaware of the implications of Darby’s five-year plan. We later see Darby shoot up for the first time, and then see how things take an obvious dark turn as the downward spiral has begun. If you know the story of the group, then you know how things end – badly. That’s not to say it is handled badly by the filmmakers – quite the opposite. What they’ve done is give us a non-judgmental film that does a great job of capturing the spirit of the time. The fact that the surviving members of the Germs and JAN PAUL BEAHM ’s (Crash’s) family, not to mention many former scene members, were involved is largely responsible for the quality of the end product. Thankfully my fears of a dull time were unfounded. My only complaint is that the film seems to have been made for an audience that already knows the story, and there is not much in terms of character development, nor are Darby’s demons fleshed out. Events just play out. Ultimately this matters not as the story is great and the look and sound of the film are spot-on.
The post-film question and answer session with the Director, RODGER GROSSMAN, West, and Producer TODD TRAINA was also a treat. After listening to the hell that these three went through to get the film made, I have to believe there is an interesting documentary or book in the making. From the financing falling through again and again to the much maligned opening secret Germs reunion show at the Echo in L.A. (with West filling in for Crash, as he has on subsequent Germs’ tour dates) there seemed to be any number of reasons to pull the plug on the project. If anyone needs a lesson as to what can go wrong in making a film I suggest that you talk to these three. Hats off to them I say – what was essentially a 14-year odyssey turned into a very worthwhile film. Grossman’s goal was to “work from truth and get the movie as close as possible” and it seems he has succeeded.

As I mentioned earlier I had intended to watch the film and then head back to The Independent to see The Walkmen. Sadly the What We Do is Secret Q&A ran a little long and was too good to miss. Given that I opted out of the Walkmen and ended my evening at the Roxie.

The next night I’ve got some rare photos of ELLIOT SMITH and then a set by local heros THE DODOS. Until then….

Thanks Jerry!! And don’t forget, one and all, to order the current issue of The Big Takeover, issue 61, details found on the link on the homepage…

 

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