One of the best things to come out of the expansion of the monthly RUMBLE parties is the discovery of each city’s rising talents. Of all the towns we’ve set up shop in, which has just hit seven a month, the one I had regarded as the least promising in terms of talented acts, has jumped to the front surprisingly. Right now, the hottest music city NOT called Brooklyn is San Diego, California. Ok, let’s get the obvious bands that have grabbed some recent attention out of the way – WAVVES and CROCODILES. We’ve also all know of the promise of DELTA SPIRIT, or the history of PINBACK, or scene kings, DIRTY SWEET. THE MUSLIMS….errr, THE SOFT PACK were from San Diego until recently moving up to Los Angeles. SWAMI RECORDS used to also be the indie label from SD that made waves. That’s a great starting point, but the hottest music city you ask?? Let’s start to break it down….
APES OF WRATH - Photo by When we opened the doors in JULY of The Rumble: San Diego at The Casbah, our local partners helped us pick the line-up with one band we already knew and loved, LIGHTS ON, and another they promised would blow us away. More than living up to the hype was the incredible APES OF WRATH, a band that mixes THE EMBARASSMENT, THE FEELIES and DEVO but does it seamlessly enough to feel at home next to NO AGE, or HEALTH. The band is currently in the studio crafting a full-length that I’m stalking them for already. Let’s face it; with a band name this good, you’re already halfway there. “Wide Awake” could be a track straight out of ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life”, where you feel the DIY, sleep in my van, play the pizza joint in Bakersfield, California kind of street cred that’s earned and not found on some little hot shit’s blog. It’s “Death Train” where we witnessed the band own the crowd at The Casbah that evening and pulled the hook tight in our jaw. LIGHTS ON have been sharpening their craft, making regular trips to New York, and are also writing new material that we got a glimpse of at the party that is set to be called, “Here Comes The Ocean”. What at first I thought was a ‘80’s referencing band, turned more into a TALKING HEADS type of creativity. Check out “Ordinary Life”, where they mesh LOU REED with DONALD FAGEN coming out sounding like our generation’s “I.G.Y.”. The lyrics hit you on the bridge of the nose with frankness and honesty, like “I’m not cool anymore man, I don’t even try, so you can take my place in the neon lights, give it a try. Me I’m just staring down the barrel of an ordinary life”. “Listen To The Radio” sounds like a NEW ORDER track that didn’t make the “Pretty In Pink” Soundtrack. “Wild At Heart” was the song that hooked me originally, still a special track that somehow makes me think of PSUEDO ECHO or ALPHAVILLE. “John and Anne” was “Young Folks” before “Young Folks” was conceived; timing is everything.We had the chance to have a number of beers with the band on the scene that will probably jump out next, TAPE DECK MOUNTAIN. Now that Pitchfork is onto them, San Diego’s secret is out. Slacker indie rock at its finest here, and “A Cool Thing” on first listen slides in without fanfare but then collects in your consciousness and demands repeat plays. Their EP, “Sparks” is a soft toke off the hookah, mixing N. LANNON with Merge Records nicely. Missing ‘90’s alternative a la DINOSAUR JR. or SEBADOH? San Diego has you covered with the fresh-faced LANTERNS and their pounding and illuminating sounds. I haven’t seen them live yet, but this is your ‘kill them on stage’ band that leaves the venue with a stack of converts in every town. Another band that seems to be on everyone’s first mention list when talking with San Diego tastemakers is WRITER. This band should be the next band that BARSUK RECORDS signs, so we need to get them up to Seattle soon. “Start A War” is a good starting point for reference sake, you’ll take the bait then you’ll slip through the whole “Blood Drops” release.Our most recent Rumble:SD brought us RAFTER, they represent the kind of quirky indie rock that if someone told you it was from Montreal, you’d assume it was the latest ARTS & CRAFTS release. Rafter bubbles and sweats and dabbles in sex and death. The most recent winner of the ‘best rock band’ category at the San Diego Music Awards is TRANSFER, a band that also runs the OBSCURE MAGPIE record label. “Like It Used To Be” is part MUSE, part RADIOHEAD and U2. Now I’m just teasing you, because I haven’t even brought up Sub Pop’s next blog phenom, DUM DUM GIRLS. This band represents the SD scene all in one, with Dee Dee of GRAND OLE PARTY, you remember her, the drummer/singer that runs circles around PHIL COLLINS in the stu-stu-studio. Her band has members of Crystal Stilts, Blank Dogs and Crocodiles, so dem are some heavyweight friends. Now I’m told they’ve moved to LA as well.Ok, so you’re the arty type, you need something that all the kids in your dorm room at Brown are going to champion, then we give you BEATERS, who’d be right at home at RISD. These guys have listened to WIRE, they know SUICIDE, and they’ve memorized the catalog of CABARET VOLTAIRE. Check out “Fishage”.Still reading? Remember LOUIS XIV? Remember “Finding Out True Love Is Blind“ - it was a bonafide hit, the best pop song T. REX ever put together without knowing it. Brian Karscig from Louis XIV has a new band known as THE NERVOUS WRECKORDS that grows the influences to DYLAN (“When The Beat Comes Down Like A Storm”) to THE J. GIELS BAND (“Doin’ It To Do It”) to TERRENCE TRENT D’RBY (“Burnfire”). They’re out on the road with The Killers, This one is off to the races. Need the lo-fi, dreamy band to fill out your scene? San Diego has their BEACH HOUSE, their GRIZZLY BEAR, they are called FANTASTIC MAGIC. I love the nearly 20 tracks I have on my hard drive from FM, but some of them are downright creepy and haunting and laced with something I think I bought once in an Amsterdam “coffee” shop. Check out “Flowerbeds” some day when it’s raining and your nursing a hangover and the cold bathroom floor is the closest thing to the womb you’ve felt in ages.
Now here’s a band that doesn’t fit a genre at the moment, but sound like you found them off some cool, blacksploitation vinyl LP you purchased online at Dusty Groove Records – IRRADIO. I’d love to see them live to answer my host of questions, but in some ways, I like the picture I have of them in my mind like it is and I hope I’m not disappointed. I image a large band, like those great funk-jazz acts like CYMANDE or TOWER OF POWER or SANTANA before he sold his soul to a cappuccino. Fusing genres as easily as they do drums and horns, this one could be interesting.Another band I’m keeping my eye on closely is QU’EST-CE QUE C’EST. This band has a John Hughes soundtrack up their sleeves, making “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” sounding tracks with ease (“The Get Away!”). I’ve traded some calls and some emails and now I’m eagerly awaiting their next output, which they claim forges forward in their abilities to right an amazing hook. Can’t wait on this one.San Diego, what happened? Sleeper surf town, with the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow man” attitude just woke up and served us all a heavy dose of indie rock acts that cover the full spectrum of the rainbow. The list continues to build as I discover new bands daily like SHARK ATTACK, HOTEL ST GEORGE, SWIM PARTY, BLACK MAMBA, and THE DROWNING MEN.
Labels: Apes Of Wrath, Beaters, Dum Dum Girls, Fantastic Magic, Irradio, Lanterns, Lights On, QQC, Rafter, Tape Deck Mountain, The Drowning Men, The Nervous Wreckords, Transfer, Writer