By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
When did rock 'n' roll get so serious? The members of Radiohead act like they have a tougher time making music than Nietzsche did explaining human existence, while emo-punk band At the Drive-In gives pre-performance sermons about proper concertgoing behavior. Audiences in the Bay Area stand completely still, staring so intently you'd think there was a regular 2 a.m. quiz on chord progressions. It's enough to make you spike everyone's drinks, blast the Stooges, and lecture these kids about how rock 'n' roll is -- next to sex and drugs -- the greatest form of entertainment ever.
Thank god for music that doesn't weigh on you like a guilty conscience. Local bands like Zen Guerrilla, the Flakes, and the Pattern strip rock back to the fundamental basics, fusing bluesy melodies, hip-grinding rhythms, and pounding beats into a sound that plays equally well at afternoon barbecues and nightclubs.
According to Andy Asp, guitarist for the Pattern, the resurgence of the good-time garage music is part of a larger craving. "There's definitely a kind of rock revival now," he says, drinking a pint with the band's singer, Chris Appelgren, in the back yard of the Zeitgeist bar. "It's cyclical. In the [early] '90s there was [hard, heavy rock from bands like] Mudhoney. Then everybody in the indie world was so into [post-rock act] Tortoise and math rock -- this really cerebral music. Now, all of a sudden, it's like we want to go out, get drunk, rock out, and not have to pay that much attention."
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Asp isn't just talking about the rowdy stuff -- his band creates it. The Pattern's particular brand of noise is something Appelgren calls "punk rock boogie": short-fused, firecracker songs sizzling with guitar effects and a playful dose of pop. The music is a mix of the best elements of the Stooges' self-centered immediacy, the New York Dolls' trashy vocal theatrics, and the Rolling Stones' take-it-easy attitude.
While the Pattern may not be reinventing the E chord, its agenda for fun is infectious enough to give rock a swift kick in the ass. Its secret formula is not so secret: call yourself a party band, never take the music too seriously, enlist a captivating singer, and write high-energy songs that don't rely on the usual tired topics.
Asp stresses the last point in particular, complaining about the current abundance of trashy punk acts: "There are some bands -- to put it diplomatically, bands of the Northwest -- that have this whole idea that every song should be about broken bottles, wrecking trucks, and rocking out. Chris writes really weird songs that aren't about scratching on the eight ball."
Instead of featuring simple broads and ample booze, Appelgren's lyrics are about normal situations with abnormal twists, like a girl who bakes cakes "on the back of a gun," a boy who pleads for love and breakfast, and a detective case where melted jewelry may go up the nose. Even the age-old theme of lost love is given a unique spin in "Untold": "Your eyes don't shine/ Your feet don't smell the same."
Jordan Kurland, owner of Zeitgeist Artist Management and co-producer of the Noise Pop festival, calls the Pattern's sound and mentality "very fresh." He invited the group to play Noise Pop this past spring after hearing its demo. "The music grabbed me immediately and it didn't take itself too seriously, which I liked," he says.
Kurland burned the band's demo for Mark Bowen and Dick Green, the heads of British label Wichita Recordings. (Green also ran the infamous Creation label with Alan McGee.) The two industry heavies met with Kurland while in town for Noise Pop. "They were totally floored," Kurland says. "They really liked it and sent me an e-mail when they got back, saying, "This is brilliant.'"
While it's uncertain which label will release the Pattern's debut album domestically, Wichita plans to put out its debut EP, Immediately, in the U.K. When asked about the newest name on his roster, Bowen responds via e-mail: "They embody everything that is true and righteous in rock 'n' roll. We know they've got the soul."
The EP's release couldn't be better timed for the Oakland/San Francisco quintet, which takes its soul to the British Isles this fall for the prestigious Reading Festival. The event occurs in late August, with the Pattern joining over 80 different artists, ranging from Iggy Pop and PJ Harvey to Marilyn Manson and Eminem. Following the festival the Pattern embarks on a minitour of the country and then heads to New York for the CMJ Festival. Not bad for a group that wasn't supposed to last more than a summer.
Last July, former St. James Infirmary guitarist Jason Rosenberg wanted to form a band to play Oakland punk rock parties. He called some guys he knew from the local rock scene -- Asp (Nuisance), Appelgren (Peechees), bassist Carson Bell (Cutz), and drummer Jim Anderson (Blackfork) -- and the Pattern was born. "Because we were all so busy -- with work, other bands, our lives -- the original idea was that we were just going to have fun for the summer," says Rosenberg from his office as a graphic designer for Alternative Tentacles Records. "We'd get together, drink beer, write songs, and play some parties. The plan was to play July through September and that was it, because I think I had only written six or seven songs at that point."