Reno, Nevada gets cold as hell in the winter. So, it’s no surprise that John Underwood from the folk punk troupe Dirty Kid Discount (profiled in September’s Hidden Gems of Bandcamp) was looking to get down to SoCal to avoid the doldrums of the frigid, grey confines of The Biggest Little City in the World for a few weeks to thaw out. Thus was born The Winter West Tour, which started up in Washington state in Mid-January and worked its way down the Pacific Coast before making its way back up to Reno for the finale on February 10th. Halfway through the tour, John was joined by fellow Reno resident and frontman of the up and coming punk act, Boss’ Daughter, Chris Fox. While I don’t get paid monetarily for the (exceptional?) work I do here at the Scene, I do get compensated in other ways. Getting into shows for free is a pretty cool perk, access to the press pit is a useful benefit as well. My favorite perquisite by far though is getting to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to. Sometimes, through those connections, I even find people that I share so much in common with that we hit off pretty well. Such is the case with Mr. Fox and myself. After getting to know him through email for an article I was writing, we became fast friends. So needless to say, when I noticed that the boys had a scheduled stop in LA, I knew it was a “can’t miss” show for me. Check out part one of my hybrid show review/interview below in this DS Exclusive!
Much to my chagrin, the show was being held in Downey, which is the opposite end of town from me. Making it even less appealing, this was going to be a house show. Nothing wrong with house shows, they just tend to get shut down prematurely, at least in LA. Complicating matters further, I had friends in from out of town earlier and had spent much of the day exploring DTLA with them. “We may have to miss this one AP,” I told myself in an effort to mitigate the disappointment and regret I would feel when I decided that I was too old and lazy to go out later that night. It wasn’t more than fifteen minutes later that I got a message from the honorable Mr. Fox himself making sure I was still coming to the show. When Chris #maximumpartytime Fox messages asking if you want to party, the only acceptable response is “Fuck Yea.” So, “fuck yea” I replied despite my lethargy and apprehensiveness. After rolling a joint tossing a sixer in my backpack (can’t go to a house show empty handed), I was on my way down to the birth place of Taco Bell to party with the Crown Prince of Partying.
The house at which the show was being held looked unassuming, nestled back in a decently clean and quiet looking neighborhood (this is called foreshadowing). I heard the clatter of acoustic instruments warming up in the rear of the structure as I approached, so I walked around the side where I was greeted by an attractive young lady dressed in full punk regalia, who directed me through the gate. As I navigated the corridor between the main house and the garage towards the backyard, there were three or four pockets of people playing bongos, washboards and acoustic guitars, there was even a guy practicing his spoon playing skills. This is a legit Folk Punk show. It was actually billed as Folk Punk Pot Luck (we’ll get back to that later) by the hosts for the evening, The Tochtli Collective. This loosely based DIY co-op is basically a network of people and bands based in LA that help to organize shows, usually in unorthodox locations as this permit happy city pretty much mandates. Whether it be on the LA Metro train, in an alleyway in K-Town or under an overpass in the East Valley, it’s not always pretty, but the show always goes on. They’re a good group of people that are part of the same cause as I am, so as far as I’m concerned, they’re kindred spirits. They also put on an annual Folk Punk festival in the summer which is starting to gain a little momentum and lure in a better talent as it gains more credibility so, be on the look out for that.
As I entered the back yard proper, the sun had finally fully retreated beyond the western horizon. I scanned the thin crowd and quickly spotted the bewhiskered Mr. Fox leaning against the back wall of the one foot high stage. As this was the first time actually meeting him in person I introduced myself and offered him a beer from my backpack to which, of course, he accepted, abdicating “I was going to wait a little bit longer but I guess I can start now.” Don’t play coy with me, Fox. I know your weakness. After quickly exchanging pleasantries, my writer mode kicked in and I started asking questions (which my wife later told me was rude).
“You picked up the tour in Chico, right?” I asked, trying to work into the conversation.
“Yea, rented a car and met up with John up there. Then it’s been a show pretty much every night.”
“No breaks yet?”
“No. Well, we had a day off in Santa Cruz, but we ended up playing an Open Mic, That was probably the best show we’ve had show far. Most receptive crowd at least.”
By this time John had finished setting up his drum kit and music stands, covering it all tidily in the rear corner of the performance platform and joined us just off to the side of a few crust punks assembling a washtub bass. “AP, this is John. John, AP. He writes for DyingScene.” Chris says, acquainting us rather professionally. As I reached out to shake his hand, John smiled and said “Hey man, nice to meet you!”
“How are you holding up on the tour? You doing alright?”
“Yea, we’re having a great time! Thanks. You think that tarp will be enough?” he asked, anxiously staring back at his nest of neatly covered instruments.
“For the rain? Yea, it’s not supposed to rain until way later tonight. It’s been forever since I’ve had to worry about the weather at a show, much less one in LA! We’re loving El Niño.”
“I know!” John laughed, “I haven’t played a backyard show in a while. They’re always pretty fun though!”
About that time, the first band, Crusty Stale Toast took the stage with Julio, the MC for the evening’s affair leading up the vocals. They admittedly hadn’t played or practiced in a long time and were a bit rusty. Chris later told me the band name was more of a joke. They don’t really even have a name because they just play whenever they get together, not so much a band. But, if that’s all I have to go on, they’re Crusty Stale Toast. John politely excused himself and got a little closer to the stage as the troupe began playing. They played a rapid thirty minutes,it was rustic, honest folk music with violently screeching violins and blistering fast banjos. As they wrapped their set, in true DIY style, Julio invited everyone and anyone who wanted to play up onto the stage for one of the songs which was just instrumental. John wasted no time fetching his trombone and taking them up on their offer.
I turned back to Chris and continued our intervi… I mean conversation. “I love that he just picks up any random instrument and he can play it.”
“Dude, have you heard him play?”
“No, not Solo. I’ve heard him in Dirty Kid, but nothing live and none of his solo stuff.”
“It’s incredible!” Chris’ face lit up as if he was a proud parent beaming about their kid at a band recital. “He starts with a single instrument, recording it while he plays and then looping it. Then he scrambles and picks up another instrument, plays that one, recording it, then loops that one in. Over and over with different instruments until finally, he’s built the entire band that’s playing behind him. Then he’ll get the acoustic and start singing. It’s insane to watch!”
Right as the first band was clearing the stage for the next act to set up, another one of Chris’ local friends showed up and joined our growing little social circle. Earl is considerably sized guy. Not fat, just sizable, both in physical stature as well as personality. He’s infectiously boisterous, one of those larger than life kind of people that you instantly love, totally uninhibited and full of unrestrained energy. After introductions were made and a few minutes were spent on familiarizing ourselves with one another, Earl reached down to the backpack resting on the slightly muddy, spongy plot of land we had staked for ourselves and came back up with what appeared to be one of those small, plastic First Aid Kits for you car. As he opened it I saw that it was, indeed full of medicinal instruments, just the kind used for medical marijuana. He began to pack a bowl before I stopped him, “You wanna hold off on that and smoke this joint first?” I asked as I retrieved it from my bag. “Sure” he replied “I’ll save this for later”. He put his kit back in his backpack as I lit said spliff and passed it clockwise to Mr. Fox. Looks like I picked the right circle.
Funny thing about the smell of weed, it attracts show goers like a single drop of blood can attract sharks from miles around. The “venue” was still fairly scantly filled but it was starting to get a little more saturated so it was no surprise when we were approached by a young man wearing cut off camos, looking as if he had just hopped off the train from Dixie. “You mind if I join the circle?” he inquired politely. He stretched his arm out towards us, his hand holding a twelve ounce can of PBR. ” I can give you boys a few beers in return. I didn’t pay for ’em. We just stole a few cases from the Wal-Mart up the street, so we got plenty. Security was light.”
“Right on. If you’re going to steal, steal from Wal-Mart!” Chris endorsed, while taking the young, disheveled chap up on his generosity, his inaugural beer of the evening having been drained by this time.
“Sure, I’ll take one too. Only because it was stolen though.” I chuckled as I grabbed one of the boosted brews. This night seems to be turning out pretty well so far!
*Since AnarchoPunk can’t be bothered to do his job all in one sitting, we’ll be back next next week with Part Two of this Three Part Special DS Exclusive (that’s how you spin laziness)! How many beers will Chris Fox drink? Will AP smoke so much weed that he finally forgets that he writes for DyingScene and go away? Will anyone bring anything edible for the Pot Luck? Tune in next week to find out! As always, thanks for reading!*