Utterly Old School
Santa Cruz band Swingin’ Utters — or, as their more thickly thyroidal spelling would have it, $wingin’ Utter$ — are so entrenched in classic halfpipe hardcore that their three-bar blasts of chanting, melodic, tempo-fucked punk comes across as downright old-school and even atavistic, like some Pettibon-penned Cow Palace flyer faxed forward from the era of Reaganomics and jammed with an eclectic roster that might include such yeoman yonkers as Seven Seconds, Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, Circle Jerks, the Descendents, D.R.I. and Black Flag. Call it Oi Punk, if you prefer, but don’t let the nostalgia slouch you. These guys are ready to rumble. Nothing fancy here, just a solid slice of teenage angst and rapid-fire anthemizing about the stuff that tends to suck, all gargled like malt liquor through the rasped vocals of Johnny Peebucks, and occasionally speeved up with the slinging squeal and squawk of Steve Jones-like guitar fills and machine-gun beats that echo the rolling trucks of a skateboard zipping down the Venice Beach boardwalk.
There’s not a little of Social Distortion in the Utters’ embrace of folky influences, from the jig-stomp of early Pogues to the countrified snap of irruptive backbeats, thrummed rhythm guitars and jug band heroics of Appalachian mountain music. They are as economical as the Minutemen in their sonar attack, the songs kicking in fast, yowling at jet speed and closing down before the freebird of indulgent wanking flies. The Utters of Swing are what slam dancing was invented for, and why corndogs go pogo when drumsticks click off the next (very short) song.
Widely regarded, popularly and critically, as one of the better bands still mining the original American vein of prole punk, this veteran five-piece is touring on an anticipatory EP Brand New Lungs, which contains the first new stuff in seven years and will be followed by a full-length release this fall. Mixing in gestures of country, ska and various Euro-folk traditions, the Utters keep it fresh without losing the political snarl or ragged glory that fueled the fury of punk’s fist-shaking first wave. There will never be a shortage of disaffected suburban youth in this world — hence the perennial popularity of good bands like the Utters who continue to honor that fierce surplus of anarchic energy and the middle-finger salute it inspires. It’s the wasted refuge of the teenage patriot.
Swingin’ Utters play with The Cute Lepers and Pirate Radio at 8 pm Thursday, July 15, at WOW Hall; $12 adv., $13 door. —Rick Levin
A Little Punk, A Lot of Spunk
The Gypsy Nomads are creating their own niche in the music world with a sound that seduce audiences like a sultry cabaret show. Originally from New York, this duo — singer Samantha Stephenson and guitarist Scott Helland — blends the elements of old-world folk stories with mysterious melodies and a punk-rock attitude. They are being compared to Gypsy punk bands like Gogol Bordello. The Gypsy Nomads’ music has been featured in indie films and on the Oprah Winfrey show, and they’re currently in the midst of a tour that will end at SteamCon in Seattle this September.
Happy Madness, the band’s fourth full-length album, will be released July 13. The title doesn’t lie — these songs combine a little darkness with a lot of positive energy. The album begins with a track that is appropriately titled “Dark Carnivale.” As is fitting for this dark romp through the night, Stephenson sings in the opening track, “We’ll never leave Halloween; we’ll never leave our carnivale.” Stephenson seduces listeners with a voice that is strong and confident, while Helland’s instrumentals are moody and trance-like.
They tell stories both in English and French, “Vitame Vas” combines a story about Goldilock’s walk in the woods with foreboding French chanting — so the band is affectionately known by some fans as “Frenchy and the Punk.” A sense of magic develops throughout this album, as the Gypsy Nomads explore the interplay between the past and the present.
The Gypsy Nomads plays at 9 pm on Friday, July 9, at Diablo’s Downtown Lounge, all ages. FREE. — Catherine Foss
Don’t Go Out Un-Harmed
It was roughly a year ago that The Harmed Brothers played the Jug-R-Not music festival in Cottage Grove. If you were intrigued by that event but didn’t want to make the 30-minute drive, now’s your chance to see the band right here in Eugene.
The Harmed Brothers call Cottage Grove home, but judging by the tour dates posted on their MySpace page, the whole country is soon going to know about them. The pair, Ray Vietti (guitar/vocals) and Alex Salcido (banjo/vocals/harmonica), are booked to perform nearly every day from the first of July to the end of September, from Coos Bay to Murphy, North Carolina. Fitting, since the band’s roots stretch that far as well.
The band has a twisted history: Vietti gave life to his folky, Americana songs with two others here in Cottage Grove in 2008 and took the band on the road. Soon after, two members, brothers, returned to North Carolina to be with their families. Vietti resumed life in Oregon and found Salcido and another musician, who also soon went his own way. Now, The Harmed Brothers are a lean and mean duo.
Vietti is a songwriter with many stories to tell, and this band has charm — wry observations, melodies not quite sonorous but still captivating, words sung with a slight warble, emotions wholly human. The band is celebrating the release of their brand new CD, All The Lies You Want To Hear. I’m hoping to hear the track “When I Return,” with the lines: “I’m falling fast like a bird that’s lost its feathers / That’s been pining for a note to deliver / When I get back we might not say a word / But will you still love me.” The Harmed Brothers and The Mamouth Life play at 10 pm Friday, July 9, at Luckey’s. (21+.) $5. — Vanessa Salvia
Rosie Flores, the Rockabilly Filly
If the game show category was Women in Rockabilly, Rosie Flores would be the answer to the million-dollar question. She and Wanda Jackson (with whom Flores toured in the mid-’90s) are the two supreme examples of women playing that style of music. But while Jackson surfs through a more pure form of rockabilly, Flores delivers hers with a side of sassy Western swing and a hit of honky-tonk.
She may be 60 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her kicky skirts, cowboy boots and 10-gallon hat that she’s always worn with a flirty style. For years, Flores lived in Southern California; she’s called Austin, Texas, home in recent years, and in 2006 the Austin City Council honored her by declaring Aug. 31 Rosie Flores Day.
For Flores, the explosion of music in California and opportunities for women in the ’70s was too much to ignore. In her teens she played in a psychedelic pop band called Penelope’s Children. During punk’s heyday, she played in Rosie & the Screamers, in which she wrote much of the material and played guitar for the otherwise all-male hard country and rockabilly band. She formed her all-female punk band, Screaming Sirens, in 1984. Several other albums ensued, and thanks to Bloodshot Records, Flores is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in her career. In 2009, Flores recorded Girl of the Century with the Mekons’ John Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts for that hip label. With a tip of her hat and a scuttle of her boots, there’s nothing that Rosie Flores can’t do, and this album proves it. Rosie Flores plays at 9 pm Wednesday, July 14, at Sam Bond’s Garage. (21+.) $10. — Vanessa Salvia