Bowling and Booze with Bud Bronson & The Good Timers (Westword 7/1/2015)

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Bowling and Booze with Bud Bronson & The Good Timers
by Adam Perry for Westword 7/1/2015

When the members of the punky rock-and-roll quartet Bud Bronson & the Good Timers walk into a room, their camaraderie — which conjures up classic American-youth ensemble flicks like Bad News Bears — is obvious. The genuine kinship among them is easy to see, whether the group is on stage or, say, gathered at Chipper’s Lanes in Broomfield to talk music over bowling and beer.

“This is too nice,” says 28-year-old singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Brian Beer, a New Jersey transplant, after rolling a seven in his first frame. His preferred local alley is Crown Lanes. “Crown is the kind of shitty you enjoy.”

It’s a description you might also apply to Bud Bronson & the Good Timers themselves. Featuring four good friends from three different states (Colorado, New Jersey and Texas), the band plays heavy, fun, distorted-guitar-driven rock with equally uplifting and debauched lyrics about what Beer calls “glory days that continue forever.”

The foursome is full of unsavory stories, from eating what they thought might be barbecued cat the first time they played Tijuana to buying their “Partycraft” van with $4,000 from a dog-bite settlement. (“Ever since then, we’ve been looking for dogs,” quips bassist Austen Grafa.) And the Good Timers’ music, which is a tad less gritty on the two-song seven-inch released last week than it has been on previous efforts, is becoming a priceless mixture of legendary guitar rock and a faster-paced, more punked-out version of Titus Andronicus’s pub rock.

“As far as themes go,” Beer explains, “when you spell ’em out, it’s hard to make it not sound cheesy. But it’s just coming of age, that prolonged adolescence, that in-between feeling with wanting to be a kid forever and wanting to have fun forever but also realizing that maybe the party can’t continue your entire life. Whether that’s a lifestyle that is tenable is a question we don’t need to answer quite this second — but within the scope of what this band can do, we want to continue that for as long as possible.”

They chose the group’s name to embody those ideas. “It’s just a fictional name I made up,” Beer says. “Bud Bronson sounds like someone who hangs out in the bars every single night and can change your motor oil for you by hand and can drink twenty beers and drive his car home and not hurt anyone.”

“It’s just a fun name. And the Good Timers — we have no problem with saying things directly, and we’re the Good Timers. How direct is that?”

Since 2012, Beer has been fronting the Good Timers in front of sweaty, drunken, smiling crowds at Denver venues like the Lion’s Lair, Lost Lake Lounge and the hi-dive (which he calls “the center of our scene”), recently opening for notable national acts Twin Peaks and Diarrhea Planet. The group’s four members work day jobs ranging from tire dealer to copywriter, and three of them work for Lyft when they can, describing the experience as “driving around Denver making friends and handing out fliers.” There is no independent wealth backing this band, and that take-nothing-for-granted spirit comes out in the Good Timers’ welcoming music.

“I think we all have the self-awareness to do the rock-and-roll thing with some knowledge, and we take it seriously enough to make the music good. But we know that at the very least, it’s just a little form of escape,” says Beer, who puts it another way in the opening lines of “Denver Rock City”:

I know a place we don’t gotta get old/Run wild ’til the day we die/And if you’ve got a sweet koozie and an empty stomach/We can lose our minds tonight.

Guitarist Luke Gottlieb, who grew up on early Metallica in Grand Junction while Beer was cutting his teeth on the Drive-By Truckers and ’90s punk in New Jersey, adds that Thin Lizzy, in particular, is an influence not only because of the band’s tasteful, harmonized guitar solos and boys’-club lyrics, but also because the bandmembers “really took their music seriously, but were a good example of people who didn’t take themselves too seriously.”

When a punk band sings about “learning what it means to be a man” by watching football with Dad, and the first single from its debut LP (the upcoming Fantasy Machine) is a rock anthem about preferring blunts to vape pens, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to opine that it takes itself too seriously.

“When you think about classic rock, you think about those radio DJs making really cheesy puns, and you think about big, sweaty dudes almost embodying all the worst stereotypes of what a guy is like,” Beer explains of the Good Timers’ vision. “But if you’re a good person, if you’re a cool person and you like good things, why can’t we take that back and do it in a fun way? Why do all the assholes get to have good times? We can have good times, too.”

The four musicians, who can often be found around Denver wearing matching jackets, like members of a cheerful motorcycle club, have just launched a two-month tour that they hope will take good times from Colorado down to Tijuana and up to Vancouver, then all the way around the Midwest before returning home.

“We’re all in on this,” says Beer. “We really want to take it as far as we can, touring a bunch and having people in other cities come out to our shows and know the words and sing along and have fun and [feel] the way we do when our favorite bands come to town once a year. I’d love for people to look forward to our shows in that way.”

Fantasy Machine, which the Good Timers say will be ready for release in September on the Illegal Pete’s label, was recorded at the Black in Bluhm studio with Denver stalwart Chris Fogal, who Gottlieb says served as more than an engineer on the album’s twelve tracks.

“I think we had a lot of ideas going in, especially for how we were gonna set up the guitars. We’re a guitar-heavy band. He sat down with the guitar players and just hashed out every song and what guitars were going to come in where and everything. We had ideas for that going in, and Fogal really helped put it all together.”

The Sandlot mentality that’s so obvious when the Good Timers walk into a room is also joyously evident in the brotherly guitar leads that Beer and Gottlieb play on the new tracks. And it’s just as present in Beer’s fellowship-intense lyrics, which touch on all-night salad-days shenanigans with at least as much “we” as “I.”

“That feeling of friendship is huge,” Beer says. “I can’t imagine going through life without it. I know that all of us are just gonna be hanging out forever, and we try to pass that feeling on with the music. What else is life but a celebration of hanging out with your best friends? What’s more important than that?”

As for the young band’s goals, those can be found in the lyrics of the soon-to-be-released track “Living in a Beer Commercial”: We’ll play the hi-dive until the day we die/Or at least until we sell out.

Ten Legendary Summer Bike Rides in Colorado (Westword 6/17/2015)

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Ten Legendary Summer Bike Rides in Colorado
by Adam Perry for Westword 6/17/2015

Metro Denver is such a great place for cycling that you could pretty much head in any direction from your front door and find kindred spirits and stunning scenery. But there are many rides that have rightfully reached legendary status; here are ten that should have you on a roll this summer.

Downtown Denver to Oskar Blues
(Start at Platte River Trail)
We’re sure you have friends who crave Oskar Blues’s ever-popular beer and comfort food as much as you do but don’t have the legs to bike 55 winding miles from Denver to Lyons in order to indulge. So ask them to meet you there; that way, they can give you a ride back. From downtown Denver, take the Platte River Trail all the way to Arvada, use the Little Dry Creek Path to make your way through Superior and Louisville, then head north on Broadway Street in Boulder until it becomes the idyllic rolling hills of Highway 36, which is full of cyclists of all skill levels every weekend. Have a Dale’s Pale Ale to celebrate the end of the run: Some nutritionists are now calling hoppy beer a bona fide recovery beverage.

Poorman Road
(Start at Boulder Creek Path)
If you work in Boulder and need a perfect hour-long lunchtime ride or are simply a newbie cyclist looking to strengthen your legs, try tackling the ten-mile Poorman loop this summer. With a road, hybrid or mountain bike, start anywhere along Boulder Creek Path (pavement and then gravel) and take it until you see the porta-potties, then cross carefully to flood-damaged Fourmile Canyon, where you’ll climb gradually about two and a half miles to a sharp right turn onto Poorman. It’s a grind from the start, feeling significantly steeper than the top elevation of 14 percent because of the dirt surface (which will make subsequent road climbs seem easy), but the awe-inspiring rush of flying down Sunshine Canyon after conquering Poorman is worth it.

Boulder to Coors Field on “Bike to the Game” Sundays
(Start at Lucile’s Creole Cafe, 2124 14th Street, Boulder)
Chicory coffee, two eggs, red beans and a couple of beignets: That’s the perfect way to fuel up before biking south on Broadway in Boulder to Arvada — via Marshall, McCaslin and Coalton roads, then Interlocken and Wadsworth boulevards. From there you’ll jump onto the Little Dry Creek Path at 80th Avenue and take the smooth and serene (except for the smelly Commerce City “Poop Loop”) route to Gate E at Coors Field. At noon on Sunday game days, the Rockies offer monitored bike parking, complimentary energy bars and bottled water, and entry into a lottery for in-game prizes like autographed memorabilia, tickets and invitations to batting practice. Bike all the way from Boulder (forty miles, two and a half hours) and you’ve burned enough calories to justifying inhaling hot dogs and beer during the game, too.

Denver to Red Rocks
(Start at Washington Park)
There is surprisingly little climbing in this genuine bucket-list ride, which takes you from downtown Denver to the greatest outdoor music venue in the world in just over twenty miles. But after you’ve made it through Bear Creek, the steeper-than-steep (but thankfully short) climb through sandstone to Red Rocks Amphitheatre won’t feel like a “little” climbing. On a summer night — say, July 27, when Alt-J and TV on the Radio play Red Rocks — check out 303Cycling.com’s intricate directions and bike from Denver to Morrison, toward the waiting music and a waiting friend who’ll drive you home after the show.

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Boulder to Ward
(Start on Broadway in Boulder)
Good for professional training, preparation if you’re planning a bike tour, or just a mid-summer quest for some cool weather, the challenging climb from Boulder to Ward via Lefthand Canyon is a staple for Front Range cyclists more interested in physical and mental challenges than scenery. From Broadway in Boulder, head north to Lee Hill, then make a left to begin an unforgettably punishing climb that finishes with a view of a junkyard. Continue over Olde Stage Road — a heart-pumping ascent — until the relenting roll to Lefthand Canyon. There you’ll climb a couple of gradual miles until the iconic left turn that begins the real deal: eleven miles of steep, mostly nondescript climbing that is almost masochistic in the final mile (a 20 percent grade) to Utica Street Market, where you’ll find hearty cyclists sipping espresso and munching on snacks. With 4,000 feet of climbing in forty miles, you’ll need snacks on the way, too.

Cherry Creek Reservoir
(Start anywhere in downtown Denver)
It’s a great, mellow ride from downtown to the heart of Cherry Creek State Park, with barely any climbing but lots of classic scenery on a jaunt you could fit in at lunchtime or make a day of, depending on your starting point. According to local attorney Tim Franklin, who has lived in Denver for nearly 25 years, “No matter what part of town I’ve lived in, it dawns on me when cresting the hill on the south side [of Cherry Creek Reservoir] how lucky we are to have such a beautiful ride in the middle of the city. The Denver skyline framed by the Rocky Mountains, with deer eating grass by the side of the road, has to be one of the best go-to in-a-hurry rides in the country.”

Boulder to Gold Hill
(Start in downtown Boulder)
About 3,000 feet above Boulder sits Gold Hill, with its general store and the Gold Hill Inn (a respected music-venue/restaurant), a population of about 200 people, and a history — dating back to the 1850s — of legendary gold discoveries. For a very challenging ten-mile climb with a maximum ascent grade of 23 percent, take Mapleton Street west from downtown Boulder until it turns into Sunshine Canyon and leads all the way up to Gold Hill, traversing pavement, gravel and dirt. For a more gradual, casual climb to the funky former mining town, take the Boulder Creek Path to serene Fourmile Canyon, where you’ll see lingering damage from the 2010 fire that destroyed about 170 homes in and around Gold Hill. Bring full-fingered gloves if you’ll be bombing back to Boulder near sundown, as it gets cold quickly up there.

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Betasso Preserve
(Off of Fourmile Canyon)
Non-cyclists drive past the pristine, gorgeous and pretty technical mountain-biking trails of Betasso Preserve every day on drives through Fourmile Canyon without realizing the local gem is there. A set of steep stairs leads down to the heavenly mountain-biking haven, which features mostly one-direction trails good for longtime riders shredding and newbies just getting familiar with the enjoyable flow of forested singletrack that intermittently offers sweeping canyon vistas and, once in a while, glimpses of bears and mountain lions. Betasso is closed to cyclists Wednesdays and Saturdays — no doubt part of the reason it stays so pristine.

Golden Gate Canyon
(Start at Parfet Park, Golden)
The words “classic” and “Golden Gate” are heard together a lot in these parts, though immaculate Golden Gate Canyon State Park is known more for fishing, hiking and camping than the stellar cycling routes surrounding it. For a fun half-day loop, begin at Parfet Park in Golden, climb Golden Gate Canyon Road until it hits the Peak to Peak Highway for a few epic miles, then bike up and down Coal Creek Canyon before making your way back to Golden. With 5,000 feet of climbing in fifty miles, you’ll get in an impressive workout and some seriously stunning views. Take a detour to Crawford Gulch Road and get a picture by the “Caution — 19% Grade” sign if you want to gloat.

Super Flagstaff
(Start in downtown Boulder)
Meet a friend for coffee and a snack at the hip Trident Cafe before climbing Ninth Street to Chautauqua Park, where a right on Baseline Road will take you to the internationally famous six-mile climb known as Super Flagstaff, put on the cycling map in part by local legend Andy Hampsten. Cyclists new to difficult climbs will relish the challenge of switchback after switchback as Boulder and the Flatirons start looking smaller and smaller and your legs get used to the unrelenting ascent to the iconic panorama at Sunrise Amphitheatre. But a bigger challenge — which includes an even more beautiful view, at Lost Gulch — is the 1,000 extra feet of climbing if you skip the amphitheater, continue all the way to the mailboxes at the beginning of Boulder Open Space, and roll over the other side to Meyers Homestead. Fair warning: The almost unbelievably steep, twisting climb just before Lost Gulch is a heartbreaker.

SHOW REVIEW: Cage the Elephant & Portugal. the Man at Red Rocks (Westword 6/2/15)

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SHOW REVIEW:
Cage the Elephant & Portugal. The Man at Red Rocks
by Adam Perry for Westword, 6/2/2015

With the lights of Denver in the background and Red Rocks’ iconic natural beauty surrounding him, 31-year-old Kentuckian Matthew Shultz shook and spun and generally ran around the stage last night as his Southern alt-rock band, Cage the Elephant, entertained a sold-out young crowd. The former construction worker and plumber, who has said he discovered punk music a few years after Cage the Elephant (with its southern-fried 2008 blues-funk single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”) became famous, showed a smidgen of raw power a la Iggy Pop while racing around the big Red Rocks stage and into the crowd. However, Cage the Elephant’s inherently pop sensibilities ultimately made Shultz’s act – preening haphazardly like he and his mic stand might both fall over and break at any moment – look mostly like a Some Girls-era Mick Jagger fronting Bush.

Unlike the night’s co-headliner, the sweetly dark Alaska psych-pop outfit Portugal. The Man, Cage the Elephant portends an element of danger in their live performances. You know: Axl Rose might jump into the audience and punch you out; Rose might also decide an audience member looked at him the wrong way and call it a night; G.G. Allin might defecate and throw it around; Glenn Danzig might grab, and toss, your smartphone if you take his photo; and the baby-faced Shultz, a stagehand frantically following him around to give the microphone cord slack, might get too close and bob his shaggy hair in your face.

About that stagehand – he’s a busy guy. With how much exercise Shultz gets running all over during Cage the Elephant shows, his stagehand’s job – making sure Shultz’s extra-long microphone cord doesn’t get stuck on a monitor or elsewhere – appears not unlike a cat following a string it will never catch. Multiple people around me wondered aloud why a band co-headlining Red Rocks doesn’t have access to a cordless microphone, but the consensus was that it’s all part of the show, ostensibly part of the “danger” façade.

Portugal. The Man, however, played a set that was relatively reserved and refined, its best songs, such as “Modern Jesus“ and “All Your Light,” mysteriously beamed somewhere between Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” and tastes of Traffic’s “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”

The moment it hit me that the aforementioned creatively dark combination equals T. Rex, Portugal. The Man wowed the capacity Red Rocks audience with a patient, gratifying Phish-esque jam into T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution,” simultaneously giving the metaphorical light bulb over my head a soundtrack. It also made me feel old – for the thousands of teens in the audience, Cage the Elephant’s sing-along performance of its claim to fame (“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”) no doubt seemed like a window into classic rock.

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Personal Bias: When my show-mate and I saw a young man with a baseball cap over an obvious gaping head wound, blood running down his face as he nonchalantly balanced two beers and a hotdog while walking up the challenging Red Rocks stairs before the Mowgli’s‘ early set, it was a little tough to focus on the music. When he sat down, the guy’s friends didn’t even say anything at first, as if it was normal for him to return from grabbing pre-show beers looking like “Massive Headwound Harry.” Eventually I was convinced they’d taken him to find assistance.

Random Detail: Frank Zappa’s “I Could Be a Star Now” famously said of rock ‘n’ roll, “In this business you either gotta play the blues or sing with a high voice.” Needless to say, Cage the Elephant does not play the blues, and Shultz’s soaring voice (even higher than that of Portugal’s John Baldwin Gourey) sounds remarkably similar to that of Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken, just less soulful and extraordinary. It’s as if McMicken was raised on Ray Charles and the Dead Milkmen and Shultz was raised on Ray Charles and Fall Out Boy.

By The Way: Cage the Elephant’s jangly 2014 single “Cigarette Daydreams” – with its “looking for the answers in the pouring rain” chorus – sounded downright meaningful and magical at Red Rocks. But doesn’t everything? Maybe; but no, I’m not testing that theory by going to see Ed Sheeran later this month.

Innocence, Experience and $45 T-Shirts: U2 in Denver

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SHOW REVIEW:
U2 at the Pepsi Center, Denver
6/6/2015
by Adam Perry for Westword

$10 beers, $45 t-shirts and an egregious number of people having their pictures taken in front of an oversized concert poster for the show they were about to see: this was the scene inside the Pepsi Center leading up to U2’s 8 p.m. set in Denver on Saturday night. Nine months ago, U2 released a myopic album – Songs of Innocence – that was forced down the throats of 500 million iTunes users via an infamous automatic-download deal with Apple. That obscenely aggressive and corporate marketing strategy has led to perhaps the biggest backlash against U2 since the Replacements’ 1981 lampooning of U2 in the form of the snarky song, “Kids Don’t Follow.” But U2’s previous tour (“U2 360”) was the most financially successful tour any band has ever embarked on, and the sold-out Pepsi Center was filled on Saturday night with hardcore U2 fans – mostly in their 40s – raising their iPhones in approval as history’s signature arena-rock band emerged.

Actually, Bono emerged first, like a boxer or a television evangelist, climbing a small set of stairs to a catwalk as he was showered with politician-esque adoration. In sunglasses and bleached blond hair, the Irish rock star raised both arms to the crowd – a move he would repeat through the evening – and when the gesture was returned, I couldn’t help thinking how truly weird it is that Bono has become the Pope of rock ‘n’ roll.

Indeed, after the frontman crossed the catwalk to meet his three waiting bandmates and the light show kicked in, along with the quixotically adult-contemporary tribute to punk rock “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” things got even more Catholic and egotistic quickly. Bono knelt on the stage asking for fans to “surrender”; he also called on concertgoers to “sing their blessings.” Sure, the band showed its pure musical prowess with two still-powerful 35-year-old post-punk tracks (“The Electric Co.” and “I Will Follow”), but that smidgen of a rock concert was a prelude to a sort of living museum exhibit about Bono’s childhood.

Five of the next seven tracks were from the controversial Songs of Innocence album and featured Bono intermittently walking through a double-sided video screen featuring moving images of his youth. At one point the singer commented, “All this technology is about making every seat feel like a front row seat.” And that’s true. Because of the diverse setup, there may not have been a bad seat in the house, especially not the one given (during “Mysterious Ways” and “Desire”) to a young woman named Victoria, who Bono picked out of the crowd to take live video of U2 that was streamed in the arena and online.

The press seats were where center ice is at Avs games, in the first section above the floor, because that gave the best view of the horizontal interactive-video spectacle that featured a small stage at one end and a stereotypical arena-rock stage at the other. But those seats, as any, also provided a good view of the 55-year-old Bono strangely pouring bottled water over the crowd as if dousing it in holy water, kneeling in an emotional heap screaming “comfort me!” over and over, and repeatedly playing air guitar and air drums in such an awkward manner he looked like both Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator and Phil Hartman as Frankenstein.

I had never seen U2 in concert before. The woman next to me remarked how she saw the quartet at Mile High Stadium in the early ‘90s (“I’m a lot older now; Bono is a lot older now”) and, seeing them again for the first time since, realized they haven’t written any good songs in the twenty-plus years since. Her opinion seems about right, but – despite the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. having the collective stage presence of a man reading Camus in a leather chair – it’s worth a trip to see U2 in concert just to hear the Edge’s skyscraping, singularly exceptional guitar style in person, and feel the still-influential and exciting momentum of oldies like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

It’s just that the technology – and the inherent spectacle – can’t cover up the fact that, while U2’s stage show has remained ambitious and gigantic, the group hasn’t been writing great music and lyrics for decades. In fact, in the moments when the multimedia extravaganza is so huge and the songs being played are such broad-stroked morass, the technology and the spectacle — especially when juxtaposed with from-on-high politics — become simply transparent and a little depressing, leaving many concertgoers to pine for a stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll show during which the songs, and a band’s performance of those songs, either stand tall on their own or not. As U2 played “Beautiful Day” I felt a twinge of pain for missing Garage Fest at the hi-dive.

“Riding Through Anything” (Bicycle Times May 2015)

“Riding Through Anything” illustration by Juliana Wang (julianawang.com)

This month’s Bicycle Times (issue #35) includes my featurette “Riding Through Anything,” which is kind of a bike-commuter mantra for those of us who jump on a bicycle every morning no matter the weather. That might sound nice in San Diego, but in places like Colorado it’s a learning process day to day. Pick up a copy of the new Bicycle Times, on newsstands everywhere from Barnes and Noble to your local independent bookstore, to check out “Riding Through Anything.”

SHOW REVIEW: JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION (Westword 5/20/2015)

photo by Adam Perry
photo by Adam Perry

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Has Mastered Primal Fun
by Adam Perry for Westword 5/20/2015

Jon Spencer is prolific, taking turns in underground noise-rock and garage acts like Shithaus, Boss Hog and Pussy Galore, among others. He formed Jon Spencer Blues Explosion almost 25 years ago in New York City, and the trio has not lost an energetic step, as its nearly seamless set at the Bluebird Theater in Denver showed last night.

Dark and dynamic young opener We Are Hex – whose frenetic leader Jilly Weis somehow made the Bluebird’s cramped stage into her own wide stomping ground – provided a good prelude to Blues Explosion’s famously bass-less rave-ups by injecting generous helpings of Karen O. into flashes of the most raw, raucous shades of Samhain and early Danzig. Then, the 49-year-old Spencer, ducking and duck-walking a la David Johansen and Chuck Berry, led his funky garage-rock act (which peaked early with 1994’s classic punk-blues LP Orange and 1996’s more radio-friendly Now I Got Worry) in deftly ramming an hour and a half of music together, Ramones style, before a sweaty fifteen-minute encore. The reappearance was somehow even more driving than what came before, and included “Brenda,” “Blues X Man” and the Beastie Boys-esque fan favorite “Fuck Shit Up,” which had been requested repeatedly from deep in the crowd throughout the show.

It wasn’t always easy to tell one song from another or sometimes, in the case of a sadly shortened “Ditch,” when the next Blues Explosion song had begun. But it was easy to tell how much the trio (Spencer with twangy guitarist Judah Bauer and thumping drummer Russell Simins) enjoys playing together after all these years, still juxtaposing Spencer’s Iggy-meets-James-Brown revival antics with powder-keg rock ‘n’ roll thinner and funkier than the Stooges’ seminal Funhouse, but just as primal.

Spencer’s endearing trademark myopic name-dropping – fitting the term “blues explosion” into every spare second like Ozzy proclaiming “We love you all!” or Wiz Khalifa, early on, reminding listeners his name is Wiz Khalifa – was ubiquitous as ever, along with the diffident Bauer’s occasional Albert King flourishes and Simins’ Muppet-like frenzy. A great drinking game – though one that might end in alcohol poisoning – would be taking a shot every time Spencer said the name of his band during one of its concerts.

Simins (with his sparse one-tom, one-crash setup) was at times as forcefully grooving as John Bonham, as tastefully thrashy as Bill Stevenson and as head-bopping as anything played on Paul’s Boutique. But it was his constant dependability as the possessed Spencer’s home base – his foundation – through enjoyable flashbacks like “Wail” and unrecognizable dance-party sludge, that really impressed.

Spencer, if nothing else, is relentless, a quality that was strangely almost lost even as far back as the 550-capacity Bluebird’s bar but downright palpable up front. Blues Explosion is truly a band best appreciated so close you can see Spencer’s sweat flying around as he commandeers his theramin.

TWIN PEAKS IS PROVING THAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ISN’T DEAD (Westword 5/13/2015)

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TWIN PEAKS IS PROVING THAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ISN’T DEAD
by Adam Perry for Westword 5/13/2015

The video for “Making Breakfast” — Twin Peaks’ infectious, sarcastic mid-tempo Ween-meets-Pavement love song — is one of the most uplifting things the Internet has been blessed with in recent memory. Just try not smiling as young Clay Frankel sings lines like “I’m the one who loves you / don’t let it get you down” as he’s shown intermittently having eggs cracked over his head and dancing sheepishly while making eggs and coffee on a grill in an alley.

Similar to what Red Fang is doing for metal, Twin Peaks — which started in 2009 when the Chicago quintet was in the thick of high school — is bringing unpretentious joy back to straight-up American rock ‘n’ roll. Via energetic live performances and whimsical, creative videos — like the one for “I Found a New Way,” which features the band playing baseball Sandlot-style against preppy opponents — Twin Peaks is proving Gene Simmons’ infamous “Rock is finally dead” statement wrong.

In a brief recent Westword interview, co-frontman Cadien Lake James responded to Stereogum’s assertion last year that Twin Peaks is “carrying the torch” of rock ‘n’ roll by saying, “I don’t know about all that, but Gene Simmons is wrong for sure.”

As for what current act he thinks deserves the title of torch-bearer, Lake emphatically nominated Fat White Family. But, while the F.W.F. is bringing punky explosiveness and even G.G. Allin-style bodily discharge back to pure rock ‘n’ roll, Twin Peaks, especially on its 2013 debut Sunken, is throwing back to an era when even the Stones seemed innocent.

Mixing pretty underlying Pet Sounds vibes and gritty Crypt Records-esque garage-punk production,Sunken—drenched in reverb from the opening notes of “Baby Blue”—begged the question of whether Twin Peaks’ fuzzy studio sound is influenced more by the lo-fi style of haunting oldies or more modern shoegaze.

“Both totally have their place,” says James. “For me it depends on the song and the approach I want to take. Generally I appreciate old-school ambiance a bit more, but there’s nothing like the My Bloody Valentine-esque vibes when you’re using synths or whatever.”

Wild Onion — a more polished follow-up released on Grand Jury last fall that features the aforementioned “Making Breakfast” and “I Found a New Way”—finds the self-proclaimed “all-right dudes” of Twin Peaks more intentionally going for both honed-in Abbey Road engineering and early-’70s Rolling Stones bombast.

James, for his part, says the group was focusing on “just being able to break the rules in clever ways. We just wanted to do some live stuff with a lot of energy, yelps and hollers, that kind of Stonesy stuff. But it doesn’t really sound likeExile [On Main Street] in the end.”

And it’s true: Wild Onion drips with Twin Peaks’ obvious youth and levity, which effectively make the band’s brand of rock, no matter how raucous, a more accessible, comforting version of neo-garage than James’ heroes, such as Thee Oh Sees, the Black Lips and Jay Reatard.

According to James, those artists (and garage rock in general) “shepherded me while I was forming my taste, playing music to have fun with it, [doing] something universal that you could play even if you have minimal experience playing.”

One of Twin Peaks’ first gigs was in a garage, and James & Co. even sometimes practice in drummer Connor Brodner’s garage, so it’s not just these guys the term “garage” doesn’t just indicate a genre.

As for playing all over the United States and Europe, becoming adults while also becoming famous, James says the way-back bond between the young members of Twin Peaks has a positive effect on the band’s burgeoning career.

“Some people refer to us as famous, [and] we definitely get recognized,” James says. “But it doesn’t feel crazy to me yet. We’re still just some dudes. I’m a very open and honest person anyways, so it doesn’t phase me really — maybe a tad weird but not really. I think as far as our history with each other, we’ve all been homies so long and wanted to do this together that we find ways to keep everyone else going based off what they need.”

Twin Peaks plays the Hi-Dive on Thursday night with Plum and Ned Garthe Explosion.