SF Weekly Music Awards 2002

A galaxy-spanning journey through space and sound!

Rock/Indie Rock


A lot of people believe John Dwyer to be the savior of S.F.'s underground rock scene. Since he moved here from Rhode Island in 1998, he's served as one half of Pink & Brown (the bodysuited musical grenade nominated for an SF Weekly Music Award last year), guitarist for noise-rockers Dig That Body Up ... It's Alive! (with Total Shutdown's Nate Denver), and the sole purveyor of experimental folk in OCS. But the group with which he's had the most impact is Coachwhips, a trio of raunchy blues-rock wranglers. The band, named after a snake with a skin pattern that looks like a whip, initially started because Dwyer wanted to play guitar in a simple outfit, without any fancy gear. His roommate John Harlow found an old drum kit rotting away in their back yard; though he had no previous musical experience, Harlow began to jam with Dwyer. Hearing about the racket, their friend Mary Ann McNamara asked to join on tambourine, although she too had no prior know-how. The resultant Coachwhips sound is just as raw and dirty as you'd expect considering its trashy origins -- albeit far more fun and far less aromatic. On the threesome's debut, Hands on the Controls, and second LP, Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine(both released this year on local label Black Apple), Dwyer plays chunky, barely-in-control, blues-splintering riffs, while Harlow and McNamara lay down a chugging, propulsive beat. Dwyer sings through a messed-up mike, his ornery vocals coming out distorted and powerful. Song titles like "That Bitch Is Gonna End Up Dead" and "Sex Like a Seesaw" tell you all you need to know -- or can make out -- about the lyrics. This isn't a thinking man's band anyway: It's one you feel deep down in your gut. As Dwyer once said in an interview in the East Bay Express, "If there's a little bit of caveman or cavewoman in you, you're gonna love it."

Erase Errata

Of all the terrific art-punk bands bursting out of the Bay Area in the last year and a half, Erase Errata stands tallest. The Oakland/S.F. quartet -- vocalist/trumpet player Jenny Hoysten, drummer Bianca Sparta, guitarist Sara Jaffe, and bassist Ellie Erickson -- formed in December 1999 as a result of a jam session at Hoysten and Sparta's warehouse space. From the get-go, the Erase Errata sound was evident: angular guitar riffs with as many points as a porcupine, a rhythm section that moved from jazz sprawl to disco thump, and a vocalist who drew comparisons to both Captain Beefheart andBikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna (most likely a first). After a single on Jaffe's Inconvenient label, Erase Errata released its debut LP, Other Animals, on Troubleman Unlimited in late 2001. Recorded over three days, the record's propulsive rhythms recalled early '80s no-wave punk acts 8-Eyed Spy and Y Pants, while also distilling the SoCal fury of the Minutemen. Several trumpet-inflected numbers brought to mind the heady work of Dutch group Dog Faced Hermans (which Erickson's high school band once opened for), while other tunes captured Captain Beefheart's off-kilter blues bastardizations. Jaffe's guitar playing is incredibly complex -- more viscerally than intellectually -- and Hoysten's lyrics feature a wealth of odd characters and hiccupy non sequiturs. But the band's secret weapon may be Erickson and Sparta's supple rhythm machine, which makes the herky-jerky rhythms seem perfect for spasmodic dancing. Since the album's release the group has opened for Sonic Youth, the Ex, and the Mary Timony Band; it has also contributed to both Kill Rock Stars' Fields and Streamscompilation and ToYo Records' Science Single series, and shared a split 3-inch CD-EP with fellow SF Weekly Award nominee Numbers. And just to show how much synergy there is between the band's punk and funk sides, an Erase Errata remix record featuring electro luminaries Adult., Blectum From Blechdom, Kid606, and Matmos is scheduled for release by next January. This is one punk band you can do more than pogo to.


There's been a lot of hype about the "new new wave," a coterie of bands that set the way-back machine to 1984, reconstructing the synth drone and cold dance rhythms of the past while wearing their big brothers' floppy haircuts and skinny ties. It would be a shame if Oakland trio Numbers were lumped into such a category. While the threesome does use synthesizers, craft robotic rhythms, and sing about the chill of technology, the musicians aren't style mavens. In fact, one of the songs on Numbers' debut LP, Numbers Life, released this summer on Tigerbeat6, mocks the über-hip, as Indra Dunis yelps, "Standing by the pop machine/ Looking so good I could scream/ Bangs are short, pants are tight/ I'm too cool to say hi." Not surprisingly, the members of Numbers -- drummer and vocalist Dunis, guitarist Dave Broekema, and keyboardist Eric Landmark -- originally came from the Midwestern, anti-fashion "no wave" scene. In the mid-'90s, Broekema and Landmark performed in a group called Xerobot, which played spastic bursts of noise that seemed intended more to injure listeners than to amuse them. While touring the Bay Area in 1995, the players found the music scene to their liking; two years later, they moved west. But San Francisco wasn't keen on Xerobot's music, and the group soon broke up. Eventually, Dunis convinced Broekema and Landmark to try out some new songs, and Numbers was born. For this band, however, the intention was fun instead of fission, as Dunis' bouncy beats spurred listeners to dance. The songs -- on Numbers Lifeand a recent split CD-EP with Erase Errata -- recall such '80s underground rockers as Devo, the Contractions, and Gang of Four, but contain their own unique touches. Dunis' halting singing says almost as much about being shy as her lyrics do, while Broekema's guitar and Landmark's homemade "buzzerk" organ catch each other in a snarl as tight as a Victorian corset. The band rises to a new level in live performances, inspiring audiences to draw mustaches on their faces and shed their pocket tees. Numbers isn't a revival band -- it's a whole new way to rock.

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