I’m sure you’ve been holding your breath wondering if I made it to the East Bay to see the Frustrators. As I wrote earlier, the trip wasn’t working out financially. However, luck and confluence happened and I was able to scrape together the funds from donations to go. If you were following my Green Day Mind Twitter feed, I shared some snaps and whatnot of the four Frustrators gigs from 2/18-2/24 at 924 Gilman in Berkeley, the Phoenix in Petaluma, the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, and the Phenomenaut’s Command Center in Oakland. The Frustrators were joined by some amazing East Bay and Los Angeles-based bands as well as the legendary New York City-based crusty punks, Star Fucking Hipsters. I also got to see Prince in Oakland, too.
Thank you, Shannon, Mel, Mary, David, Eileen, and most especially, Christian, for your help. I’ve got a couple of Frustrators buttons and one Jason Chandler-created show flyer for each of you who helped as a small token of my appreciation. Needless to say, it was one of those weeks filled with music and great people, as well as some hardcore injuries that I suffered, including a thrice-stomped on pinkie toe at Gilman (most likely targeted by vicious Gilman waifs, lol), a bum back, and a black eye. Yep… I got punched in the face at the Frustrators’ last East Bay show at the Command Center. All I can say is… what a wonderful time it was… oh and as usual, this post is long. Deal with it!
Get Me to the Gilman on Time
Getting to the East Bay could have been more stressful than it was. In fact, it was beginning to look that way as the Frustrators gigs were planned around the President’s Day holiday on 2/21, and that means a three-day weekend which means the ridership of airplanes goes up triple-fold and the stand-by seats that I fly on go down by as much. As the time to fly got nearer (2/18), the standby seats diminished, as would my hopes of going to the shows if something quite strange hadn’t happened. The Sunday before I was to leave, a friend sent me a message saying she dreamt about me hugging someone in greeting with sheer joy in seeing that person or persons again. She apparently often has such dreams, but usually they come with a more ominous nature to them, and she relayed that the dream was one of the happiest that she had ever had about people. I took it as a sign that I would get out to California, but exactly when was another story.
I was fifth of five on the standby list for the 6:50 AM flight out of Newark airport. The direct flight ended up being late, full, and re-directed from a direct flight to a refueling stop in Denver due to strong headwinds in the Southwest. I moved up to fourth on the standby list after the original fourth dude stormed off when told that the flight was full instead of waiting until the airplane doors closed, the real final say to not getting on the plane. This turned out to be the luckiest move of the day. Though there were chances of flights connecting through Houston to San Francisco, or waiting for the next direct flight, I didn’t want to think about that possibility, so I hoped for this flight. The gruff desk folks grumbled their way through the passenger list (they were having a rough morning due to the delays and such). They finally got to the standby list… and called the very last name… mine. I hopped up, got my boarding pass, talked with the other stand-byers on how lucky we were, stored my bag, sat in my pretty good seat, and promptly fell asleep.
The flight was non-eventful and smooth despite the weather and the stop in Denver. We got to San Francisco Airport a little than it was originally due, and being San Francisco, it was rainy and cold when we landed. I took the BART from the airport to the Alamo Car Rental place on Mission, where I rented a deposit-less car for 1/2 the price than at the airport. It was a cute little economy powerless steering Ford that got me around the Bay perfectly for $221 for six days with insurance. My R/T airfare was $210. I stayed with friends. I ate at Burger King. At lot.
I plugged my iPhone into the car’s audio system, blasted the Frustrators’ Griller, got my bearings and as I drove across the Bay Bridge, I started to cry a little bit. The tensions of the week, despite the happy and encouraging dream of my friend, overwhelmed me, as did the beauty of the Bay. The East Bay is where I want to die one day, so it’s always hard to visit knowing that I’ll have to eventually leave.
I headed to my friend’s place where I crashed through Monday, took a shower, sat down for a spell, and texted with Michelle Lawlor of Lucky 17 Photography, who arrived the night before. Michelle and I had experienced two epic musical events together previously, Pinhead Gunpowder at Gilman in February 2009 as well as the Party! Party! Party! Tour with Honah Lee and the Mystic Knights of the Cobra… you know, that tour where Honah Lee and the Cobras opened for the Foxboro Hot Tubs at Don Hill’s in April 2009. Michelle came out to take photos of the Frustrators (whose pictures of the night’s festivities can be found at her website here), plus to hang out with friends in the Bay. She was staying with Nicole, my Montreal Green Day roadtrip buddy who I first met at that Don Hill’s show. Nicole is a massive Mike Dirnt fan, made moreso by his kindness to her son at Green Day’s show in Holmdel, his first ever concert. During the show, Nicole and her son spent some time sitting on the stage near Mike and Mike gave her son a pick. Mike made sure that he would get to keep it by putting it in his little hand, and closing his hand up around it to make sure no one snatched it out or that he didn’t drop it.
I arranged to meet them around 4:00 at the Pyramid, the bar/restaurant across the street from 924 Gilman, that night’s show venue. It was still raining out but there were about 20 people standing in line for the 7:00 PM doors to open. I grabbed a table inside, ordered a quesadilla and a beer and waited for Michelle and Nicole. They finally arrived, along with Nicole’s friend, Elizabeth, a New Jersey transplant now living in the Bay area, and we talked about our trips, laughed and got drunk since you can’t get drunk in the no-alcohol Gilman venue. As time wore on, other people who I’ve met on my Green Day adventures came through to use the bathroom, including Jordan, Beth S. Hannah and Lulu, who all live in California. It was great to see them.
We eventually paid our bill and headed to line up about 6:30. There I saw Amber from Tennessee, ToniAnn, Fallyn and Mary from New York, Tony from England, Doc Kerry and the Aussies, and Justin, who now happily lives in the Bay after escaping the confines of Utah. It was freezing, but the doors finally opened, and the losers like me bought our monthly cards for Gilman while the cool kids already with cards lined up to pay for their tickets in another line. There was a short kid about the age of 12 helping sell member cards, who kept making snide remarks about the new people, in essence, snide remarks about Green Day. It got to the point where I just wanted to punch his little face in, but hey, the sign on the door does say something about no violence, so I made a few snide comments under my breath. He was showing his elitism and arrogance, two traits that I’ve found are way too prevalent at Gilman for me, and I was so tired that I had no patience for some child’s crap. I must remember that Gilman is stupid like that and move on. It’s a great place with a bad attitude.
All of the Frustrators shows from the Bay to LA held a bevy of talented bands and acts. I was impressed with each night’s lineups and all of it was due to one incredible guy, Corbett Redford III, of Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits. He put together four nights of great bands at wonderful venues and he and Dan Abbott of Bobby Joe Ebola were MCs to each night’s show. The fantastic lineups were primarily local California bands from the Bay and Los Angeles with the exception of New York’s Star Fucking Hipsters. The bands ranged from young punks like Disabled Intent, the Pillowfights, and Emily’s Army to mid-known bands like the Bombpops, Mystic Knights of the Cobra and Bryan McPherson to more well-known names such as the Billybones, Kepi Ghoulie, and of course, the Phenomenauts and a special appearance by Jesse Michaels with Classics of Love. Major kudos to Corbett for his putting together the week’s lineups and herding a bunch of punks, both not easy tasks, by far, to do.
For this night’s show, the first band up, Disabled Intent, impressed me from the word “go” with their young chops. The lead singer/bassist was very engaging and they did an amazing cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” that completely worked and held the audience enthralled. I wish I had taped it as the song is one of my favorites from last year, and the band translated it well to the punk format.
Sometime after their set, I started to look around for one of my favorite all-time people, Jason Chandler, lead singer of the night’s headlining Frustrators. Chandler created the “Rocktober” logo for the giant meet-up of Green Day fans that happened in England during their tour leg through Europe. I had gotten my Rocktober (which technically doesn’t refer to that band but to “Godzilla Doesn’t Understand Korean,” uh…) hat to wear at the two O2 shows in London. I wore it the last time I went to Gilman to see PHGP, losing it in the crowd at one point only to find it bedraggled outside the venue, across the street and under a car. Once the Frustrators started talking about making a new record, I asked him if I could write about it, and have continued to write about them since. The irony and wit of Frustrator’s lyrics speaks volumes to me and I always get a good laugh on their Facebook page as well. I met up with him in San Francisco when I was there for an extended trip last September. We sat and talked and laughed for a little bit in a bar early in the morning and drank Irish coffee while watching some tourists’ illegally and just-parked car get towed by the police. Good times.
I didn’t see him as I made my way to the merch table, where I eyed not only the great merch created by Chandler for the Frustrators, but also the tour shirt that the Billybones band had made for their Frustrators/Billybones tour. I coveted it from the moment that I saw it on the Billybones’ Facebook page. Don’t get me wrong, I coveted a lot of the other merch, too, particularly Chandler’s t-shirt and hat designs, but there was something about “The Credibility of Stupid” shirt (if I heard correctly, the title of the Billybones’ upcoming album), that spoke volumes to me. There were only 96 of them made, too. I bought one and headed out the back door of Gilman to put it in my car.
Outside, people and band entourages were gathered under a tent to smoke and shoot the shit, but there was no sign of the Frustrators that I could see around. They had come earlier in the day to unload their stuff and weren’t back yet. I stored stuff in the car and then back into Gilman, stopping to warm up under the giant heater near the front door. I headed toward the merch table again when, I saw him! The J-Man Grilla Gorilla himself, Jason! He looked up and saw me, too, and the hug I got was probably one of the best hugs I’ve ever had in my life. Warm, friendly, funny, and full of love, particularly when I told him that our good friends from across the Big Pond in England who have known him through Frustrators forums and Facebook for many more years than I have, but have never gotten the chance to meet him, Netty, Lis, and Sharon, wanted me to give him a giant monkey hug from them, too. My friend’s dream from earlier in the week of greeting someone in sheer joy and happiness had completely come true.
Weird and wonderful. This tour was like that for everyone. The Frustrators, Mike, the giant “we worship you” rockstar, Terry, the crazy-eyed shredder guitarist, Art, the quiet power and not-feeling-well drummer and Jason, the reluctant-but-loving-it frontman, opened up their hearts and love for music, laughter, small venues, and people throughout the Bay tour. They were so damned happy to play together again after such a long hiatus that it was infectious, like a disease. If I had to choose a name for the entire portion of the tour that I followed, it would have to be something like “Frustrators Love of Fun Disease Tour 2011” or some variation thereof.
We talked for a moment about how nervous he was. It had been a long time since he sang in front of an audience, and from previous conversations, he was concerned about whether his voice would hold up throughout the week. I felt a little awkward trying to avoid an impending fangirl moment, so I left him there as the next band, The Pillowfights, were about to start. They were cute and quirky, and as their name implies, they brought pillows to… uh… fight with. They threw them out into the audience, and it was funny, but I don’t know if they were prepared for what happened next: the waifs of Gilman tore their pillows apart, leaving them in shreds with pillow stuffing all over the place, on the stage, on the floor, even hanging from the ceiling. Oh Gilman, slay those pillows!
The Pillowfights – “Talk Shit Get Hit” – 924 Gilman 2/18/11 – Bring them new pillows at their next show – See request on their Facebook page.
Next up was Emily’s Army, whose drummer is some famous dude’s son, but really, every time I see this band play (it was my second time, the first being at The Bowery Electric in April 2009), I am impressed by how that doesn’t matter. These guys get tighter and tighter as a band and as performers, and as I’ve written before, I look forward to their potential long careers in the music industry.
Emily’s Army – 924 Gilman 2/18/11 – And the pillow stuffing keeps flying joined by toilet paper!
Their set was vibrant and the Green Day fans and Gilman waifs alike were having a giant mosh fit, and yes, there was pillow stuffing still all over the place joined by toilet paper. Their set ended and folks milled around again and at some point Mike jumped behind the merch table to sell stuff and talk with the fans. Unlike back at Gilman when Billie Joe performed with PHGP, there was a much more relaxed atmosphere around him, a tentativeness at first from fans to go up and speak with him, but the longer he stayed there, the more people came up to talk with him. Like Billie Joe at Gilman, the vibe that he gave off was not a superstar’s vibe, but one of genuine down-homeyness, a mellowness that attracted even moreso than his newly dyed-hot pink hair, which shined like a beacon everywhere he went.
The Billybones were up next and I had never seen them perform. I met the lead singer, Steven William Fortuna, aka Billy Bones, very briefly when I ran into Kevin Preston of Prima Donna and him at Green Day’s show in Irvine. He certainly looked like the seasoned punk rock star who’s been around since the late-1970s when he was in one of Los Angeles’s first punk bands, The Skulls. Kevin not only was in a 2000 formation of the Skulls, but also produced the Billybones’ 2008 7″ We’re Selfish. I was sitting and talking with Elizabeth when Billy Bones and his band walked into Gilman before their set, and Billy, who was probably one of the oldest people at Gilman, really stood out in the crowd. He had the air of punk legend about him because, well, y’know, he is a legend, and still rocks out, giving a dynamic performance that stirred the crowd up to no end. Sadly, there’s no video footage that I can find of the band from Gilman. But Michelle Lawlor of Lucky 17 Photography captured them perfectly through her photos at her blog.
Eight Years is a Long Time…
If the headlining band was nervous, they didn’t show it. As the Frustrators got ready to perform onstage together in front of an audience for the first time in eight years, what was there to be nervous about? Well, a lot, but the excitement in the room compensated for any nerves as a room full of Frustrators (and of course, Mike Dirnt) fans were excited as hell to hear songs from the band’s first two recordings, Achtung Jackass and Bored in the USA as well as the new Griller, for the first time in years.
They ripped right into the set’s first song, “I Slept with Terry.” The Frustrators had warned on their Facebook page that anyone who dared to be at stage front better know the lyrics to the song, and the crowd huddled around Jason’s feet didn’t disappoint. And it was a good thing, because at times, Jason barely remembered the lyrics to some of the songs himself. Luckily, he got better as the week went by, ha!
Jason announced the next song from the setlist written on his hand (YFrog photo here), “Trout,” recorded for an Adeline Records compilation “Might as Well, Can’t Dance” over a decade ago. I haven’t heard the song too many times played forward… it’s also on the band’s Achtung Jackass, but recorded backwards. “Tuort” is the one I’m used to. I asked Jason once why they recorded it backwards for Achtung Jackass and he said that they thought it “sounded as good backwards as it does forwards.” Well, I’m going to have to agree with that, so it was great to hear it in the forward position. Terry gave the first of many guitar thrashing moments at the foot of the stage, and it was fun to throw our hands up in the air and worship his guitar power chords. It was just about this time of the night that the Gilman crowd started to go completely wild in the moshpit, joined by Emily’s Army, the Pillowfights and Disabled Intent. I received the first of THREE TREMENDOUS STOMPS on the same pinkie toe… and while I winced in pain the first time, by the third time, I had to leave the dance floor as it felt like my toe had burst like a grape. I swear those Gilman waifs targeted my pinkie toe on purpose!
After “Trout,” the band asked for more drums and less snare in the monitor, and Jason said, “can we get more applause in the monitor, too,” and of course, the obliging crowd did as commanded. The next song up was “Stigma” from the new Griller, and Mike and Jason joked that the song was off their new “1/2 of an album” and that they only released four songs after eight years because “We love you that’s why we give you half of what we have” and that “We love you like a family, that’s why we give you half of what you deserve.” And all the while, Jason kept wiping the sweat off his brow thereby destroying the setlist written on his hand.
From there, Mike told the story of the song, “.25,” and of having to have someone put a bullet through the head of his 17-year old Japanese Akita dog after it got a bad case of mange, told with jazz interlude by the band. When the audience went “eeww,” Jason had to tell everyone that the “dog was fine,” but when you hear the song, well… you know, the dog wasn’t fine in the end. Heck, all good things must end, y’know? Afterwards, Stanley the Chicken made his stage entrance as Mike told the audience that they could play with Stan, so it was all good again as the band moved into “My Best Friend’s Girl.” I heard that later on in the tour, Mike realized that the story of his dog depressed people. I’m sure, though, that it wasn’t as depressing as having to actually put your dog down like that. And at least we get a great song out of it.
The next song, “Hide and Seek,” about working and not working at the same time, is pretty much the story of my life and it was followed by “Stupid,” with its refrain of “I feel stupid.” Yep. Both of ’em pretty much sum me up in a nutshell. The rest of the set went by in a blur since sometime between “Stupid” and “Pirate Song,” (an incredibly fun song to dance and scream the super-fast pirate lyrics to), I got my pinkie toe crushed for the second and third times. The third time, I had to leave the pit and I headed toward the backdoor of Gilman, standing between the door and the merch table and wincing in sheer pain. I’m pretty good in pits and I’m been known to throw down in the craziest of them, but having the same pinkie toe stomped by coincidence was weird. I was sure that if I looked at my toe at that point it would be a bloody burst of mess. So, instead, I didn’t look at it and pretended to be cool in the corner when all I wanted to do was scream in pain.
The gig ended and the band had successfully gotten through their first live show in a thousand years, and they and the audience, were happy as clams. The bands hung out and talked with fans and sold merch, and eventually the night ended and we all said our goodbyes. Besides the music, the funny quips were what I loved the most about seeing the band, as Mike, Terry and Jason were full of one-liners throughout this and all of the shows. It’s kinda what I love about their music, the hint of intelligence, the whimsy of seriousness, the storytelling of odd situations, irony, laughter and a throbbing beat with a good sing-along melody. Having fun is the best disease of all.
The Frustrators recruited Greg Schneider to film the week’s shows and hopefully, one of these days, if we’re lucky, God willing and the crick don’t rise (heck, we’re still waiting on the new Frustrators website!), we’ll get to see the tour as well as back and front stage antics professionally filmed and edited. Though, if we have to wait eight years for it, we will all be awfully frustrated. Until such time comes, enjoy the HueyCam videos below of part of the show.
Frustrators at 924 Gilman – HueyCam – Pt. 1
Frustrators at 924 Gilman – HueyCam – Pt. 2
Stay Tuned for More Frustrators…
Stayed tuned for more about the shows… as soon as I get around to writing about them! Sorry that this is so long. I’ve said before how much I need an editor! Feel free to share your memories of this show if you were there in the comments!
I also have one copy of the Frustrators’ Griller that I’ll be giving away next week, so, brush up on your Frustrators history if you want to win it!