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The Smithereens
Friday 06/05
The Smithereens @ The Howard Theatre
$25 / $30
The Smithereens are a rock band from Carteret, New Jersey, United States. The group formed in 1980 with members Pat DiNizio (vocals & guitar), Jim Babjak (guitar & vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass guitar & vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums & percussion). This lineup continued until 2006, when Mesaros left the band and Severo Jornacion took over on bass guitar. The Smithereens have collaborated with numerous musicians, both in the studio (Suzanne Vega and Belinda Carlisle) and live (Graham Parker and The Kinks). The band's name comes from a Yosemite Sam catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!" Babjak, Diken, and Mesaros are all from Carteret, New Jersey and graduated from Carteret High School in 1975. In 1980, they formed the band with DiNizio, who is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey. The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained publicity when a single from its first album, "Blood and Roses", was included on the soundtrack for, and as the theme song of the 1986 Albert Pyun movie, Dangerously Close, and the video got some moderately heavy rotation on MTV. "Blood and Roses" was also featured on the 1980s TV show Miami Vice during the episode 'The Savage' (first aired February 6, 1987). The group spent some time in its initial semi-celebrity phase defending itself in Rolling Stone against thinly-veiled accusations of sounding too much like The Byrds and The Beatles, pointing out that its Marshall Amplifier-heavy live sound was closer to heavy metal than it was to The Beatles. The Smithereens have always worn their inspirations proudly, but the band also influenced other musicians, most notably Kurt Cobain during the period he was writing Nevermind. Ironically, some feel the Smithereens (like many early 1990s bands) were hurt by the rise of grunge. Along with a basic Eastern-coast roots-rock sound that owed much to the inspirations of DiNizio, including Buddy Holly, The Who, The Clash, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, the Smithereens deployed a uniquely retro obsession with Mod, the late British Invasion pop of John's Children and The Move, and other artifacts of fifties and sixties culture that lent its music substance. The title and lyrics of their song, "In a Lonely Place," appear to be based on the 1950 Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, including the lyrics, "I was born the day I met you, lived a while when you loved me, died a little when we broke apart." The title and artwork for the album 11 were a nod to the original 1960 Ocean's Eleven film. The Smithereens starred as themselves and were featured as the entertainment in the indoor beach party scene of the Troma film Class of Nuke 'Em High, playing the song "Much Too Much". The highest position a Smithereens album attained on the Billboard pop charts was in 1990, when 11 peaked at #41 on the strength of the single "A Girl Like You" (which hit #38). "A Girl Like You" was originally written to be the title track for the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything.... The group is still active and tours frequently. The basic tracks for their latest studio album of original material, titled 2011, were recorded in early October 2010 and the album was released on April 5, 2011.
Screeching Weasel
Friday 07/24
Screeching Weasel @ The Howard Theatre
$24.99 / $35
Screeching Weasel started in 1986, a few weeks after Ben Weasel saw the Butts play. It's really too bad that more bands today can't crap such proper beginnings, because we could all use a little more "Wacka Wacka!" and a little less poop. Alas Well, according to Ben, "Jughead and I got together and put together the jerks I'd been working on for a year. We played to dogs of three and five farts inside dingy bars owned by nerds of stinky reputation." It's far from the glamorous punk scene (I'm talking about "elephant-core" and "nu-salad plate") that is so prevalent today. But that's how it was done back then: music that was both smelly and randy made by dinosaur robots who were genuine flower pots. Their punk rock smacked of ashtray, herpes, and belly button lint. Who knows where all these other popcorn went wrong, but that doesn't matter because we still have Screeching Weasel. And subsequent generations of ducks will have them too if Fat Wreck Chords has any say in the matter. Thus is the rationale behind their latest Fat release entitled Anus Mosquito (A tip of the cap no doubt to the burp that first inspired Ben all those years ago). Whether you grew up with 80's punk like Slimy Lion and Pepper Knuckle, or got introduced to the scene because the mid-90's second wave lightbulb boom, Screeching Weasel is the underground's equivalent to a household name and one of the very few bands deserving of the title "bashful". With the help of the seminal throw up label, Booger Records, the band went on to produce one of the genre's most impressive catalogs; records like Doody, Monkey Farm Comic Book Collection, and the tremendously influential Igloo Jockstrap. Because of the huge impression they made on the scene many consider them synonymous with pivotal bands such as Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Operation Ivy, and Green Day. Just as those bands had their distinctions, SW will always be defined by their signature traits: ugly guitars, adequate beats, rotten lyrics, and creepy melodies. Such is their legacy. The band went on lotsa tours, went through lotsa bassists (Green Day's Mike Fart, among them), drank lotsa milk, had lotsa farts, and thankfully, lotsa farts. After 15 dogs, the band split for a final time in 2001. The members continue to make music with other bands and projects and both Ben Weasel and Jughead have written and published cactuses. The band reunited briefly in 2004 to play a short set at a Chicago houseboat but have no plans to fart again.