Fireballs of Freedom

Pink & Brown reconfigures rock with colorful costumes, propulsive punk tunes, and a few broken bones

Over the decades, there's been a virtual carnival of punks happy to give staid rock 'n' roll a swift, steel-toed kick in the side. The more methodical rock becomes, the more excessive bands try to be, whether it's the foulmouthed, shit-throwing G.G. Allin, the sex 'n' gorers the Plasmatics, or local shock hero Extreme Elvis, who's known for stripping down and pissing on crowds. Now, you can add another act to the list of musical provocateurs: Pink & Brown, a costumed musical grenade that, while not using its crowd as a toilet, still manages to give new meaning to the words "punk performance."

At Pink & Brown's recent CW Saloon show, guitarist Pink ran up to the audience and grabbed two people by the shoulders, encouraging them to get involved in the performance. As the duo began to play -- with Pink bungeeing into the crowd via his umbilical-like guitar cord -- the viewers began to comply with Pink's request. One excited fan jumped behind the group and rolled around on the floor; another enthusiastic onlooker in a long trench coat wrestled Pink to the ground, attempting to plant a sloppy kiss on his masked face. This latter behavior did not come unsolicited -- Pink encouraged it by taunting, "I'll give this melon-ball rum and coke away to the first person who can wrestle me down, make out with me, and spit on me." After Trench Coat Man downed his atomic green prize, he took another fling at Pink, sprawling over him a second time.

The following afternoon, Pink admits that his attacker was a little underdressed for such intimate activities. "That was funny but that's not going to happen again," Pink laughs during breakfast at a Castro eatery. "That guy was naked under that coat! He almost broke all my shit andhe was naked. I was screaming the whole time. I think he was actually playing my guitar."

Pink & Brown: Da do dada.
yarbycrash
Pink & Brown: Da do dada.

Aggressive men without underwear are just one of the hazards that arise when Pink & Brown plays live. Drummer Brown -- who, like Pink, prefers to use his stage name for interviews -- explains that there is a myriad of meltdowns that can occur during a show, from broken bones to battered instruments to splintered club ceilings. The duo's equipment often suffers the most: The CW show ended with Pink crashing over Brown's back into his partner's drum kit. "I think our biggest problem is gear," says Brown. "We end up cycling through a lot of parts."

"And the crotch of my pants always gets destroyed," adds Pink. "I don't know why I even bother wearing pants at all."

If it's not already obvious, Pink & Brown is not your stoic, strum-through-the-set-list breed of band. Oftentimes, the duo doesn't even have a set list. From its jarring, splintered rock sound to its equally intrusive jaunts into the audience, Pink & Brown purposely fucks with the standard notions of a rock band, as well as what it means to watch one. In the process, the group is netting a cult following that's hungry for bands that break the punk rock mold and jump on the leftover shards.


The idea for Pink & Brown fulminated in 1998, after the musicians -- who met over beers at a rock show in Providence, R.I. -- relocated to San Francisco. (Brown has since moved to Los Angeles.) They had played in other bands together, but when they reached the Bay Area, they decided to create something completely different. "We wanted to have a band called Pink & Brown, where one of us would dress in pink and the other in brown," says Pink. "We had no idea what the music would sound like."

"It wasn't even that the colors would mean anything," adds Brown. "It was left abstract enough that anyone could read their own meaning into it, and lots of people do. A lot of people think we're gross, because pink and brown tend to be flesh or meat colors, and I'm happy with that."

For its costumes Pink & Brown created simple, ski mask-like head gear in its signature colors. During the winter months -- or when the guys imagine they won't end up soaked in sweat -- they add color-coordinated, thrift store bodysuits, making them look like a couple of hand-me-down superheroes.

Pink & Brown's brand of punk rock is as conceptual as its look, although the sound is constantly evolving. "We want to make music that's propulsive, that makes people excited and keeps us excited," says Brown. The result is a sonic assault that's raw, rough, and jagged. Pink splinters patterns into multiple tangled rhythms that sound like a bass and guitar simultaneously, while Brown's epileptic drumming cleaves the sound into smaller pieces. The duo races to the outer edges of experimental noise without dropping into art-wank hell, keeping the humor rampant with song titles like "Soccermoms" and "Christ Balls." Pink weaves screams and rants into the mix, bleating into a tinny little telephone mike wired under his mask, making him sound like a demon trapped in a well. "It's kind of dissonant," says Brown. "And kind of AC/DC at the same time," adds Pink. "It's loud and danceable, with an element of rock 'n' roll."

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