On Sunday, I went to see Thorns of Life at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz. It was a sold out show. Have you heard of Thorns of Life? You haven’t? Did you check for a myspace? Oh, there isn’t one. And there aren’t any recordings, you say? Weird, how could that band sell out a show, even at a small venue?
Wait, but this band has Blake Schwarzenbach from Jawbreaker in it? I have a Jawbreaker tattoo! And Aaron Cometbus, you say? I’ve read all his stuff! (I have, or, what I can get my hands on) And Daniela Sea? She was on the L-Word and in the Grups! Wow, I have to go! I’ll check out these youtube videos! Hey, they played a small house in Brooklyn! This song sounds fun, and if I try hard enough to live vicariously through the girl in the red shirt dancing up and down, I could have a good time!
Enough in that tone, welcome to the new era of touring when you want to stay small and can’t. Thanks to the internet, a fanbase can be built unintentionally, as it has in the case of Thorns of Life. From the venues they played on their tour, it looks like they would like to take fame and throw it in the East River.
But who could blame them, right? I wouldn’t want people hounding me down for things I did in 1994, or 1984. The internet has made it a hell of a lot easier for people who were four years old when 24 Hour Revenge Therapy came out to wish that they were there, in the Mission when it was only sort of being gentrified, seeing Jawbreaker play a show where Blake’s voice sounded like it was going to fall out of his throat and jump into oncoming traffic as the words followed it into the street, clinging on, not letting go. The fans won’t.
Cometbus, whether he likes it or not (and I can guarantee you that he doesn’t), is an icon in today’s world. People aren’t going to read like they did twenty years ago; culture has brought us to this thing called “reality” and regardless of how ‘real’ it is, people want real. The most “real” news on TV is a joke. Cometbus’ writing is real, and he just wants to play drums in a punk band. The fans want his autograph, he doesn’t want to touch a pen. Dude wants a cup of coffee (and he got it from my sweet neighbors).
So you’ve got this band that no one’s heard but the rumor mill spins fast these days on the web. I didn’t even write about Animal Collective because what’s there left to say? Avey Tare had a burger on thursday but Panda Bear is a vegan? Who fucking cares!
As someone who was very excited to see Thorns of Life in the aspect that I like the music that they’ve previously done and I respect them as musicians and people (Blake teaches, Aaron writes – I don’t know much about Daniela except that she was very nice when I talked to her, and someone brought an L-Word DVD to get signed), the show was a complete success. The music is wonderful, Blake seemed happy to be there and played with passion. Each song made Aaron want to play faster, harder, he took off his shirt and drank coffee as he hammered the crash cymbal. The songs gallop along, the crowd was bopping along. It wasn’t Jawbreaker, it wasn’t Jets to Brazil, Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpower, the Gr’ups, or any band they’d been in before. Three people making music together that sounds like “self-deprecating rock and roll” being played in a crepe restaurant. Blake taped his setlist to a ceiling fan and had to watch it spin around in vain. They smiled, they sang, the songs had wonderful melodies and I can’t wait to read the words. They were crunchy and not too fast, not too slow. His voice sounds great. I smiled a lot.
They packed ’em in and maybe they wanted to but maybe they didn’t. The tour included stops at a community center, the Gilman, several house shows that were “secret”, a show at the Hemlock in SF that SF Weekly blew up, and a bar in San Diego. They made me feel young young young, and I love that. I bought a T-shirt. It’s too big. I’ll sew it on something else.
A new band made me have a great evening.
Tonight, I saw Calvin Johnson at the Crepe. It was packed when he started and dude cleared the place. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, his baritone is still clear as day, the melodies have not lost a touch of starkness, the banter about playing at an Obama inauguration event in Olympia was charming, he smiled between songs. But people weren’t into it. Can’t win em all.