So who ultimately benefited from the Bay Area's famed Dot-Com Boom? The Oakland noise-rock scene. When Internet gold-rushers drove San Francisco rents sky-high, many of the city's low-rent-lovin' underground musicians fled like a horde of cockroaches mass-exiting a fiery tenement building, migrating across the Bay and setting up shop in Oakland's maze of abandoned (and thus dirt-cheap) warehouses. Of course, word spread ferociously through the underground that our beloved burg was rich in low rents and cavernous rehearsal spaces, transforming Oaktown into a refuge for "out-there" musicians from clear across the United States.
A few years on, it's time to take quick inventory of the East Bay's more intriguing so-called "noise freaks," who remain debatably freakish but undoubtedly unique.
First off, a Chicago-to-Oakland relocation trend was established in February of 2003, when drummer Weasel Walter made Oaktown the base of operations for his long-running avant-metal project, the Flying Luttenbachers. (He also drums for Alabama-to-Oakland transplants XBXRX, a true bunch of hypermanic punks.) "I do prefer to live in Oakland," Walter explains. "Not only because it is somewhat cheaper, but also because I find that it offers a certain amount of isolation from the San Francisco rat race. There are less distractions for me, and I get more done." Distractions would definitely seem like a huge no-no for the current Luttenbachers trio, as they perform Walter's intricately structured compositions, which require a jazzbo's sense of precision, a metalhead's knowledge of start-and-stop dynamics, and a soul full of punk abandon.
In October '04, fellow Chicagoans No Doctors -- a shattered-funk, noise-rock quartet -- followed Walter's lead, initially braving the Bay Bridge and settling down in a Market Street space. Since then, half the band (Chauncey Chaumpers and Elvis DeMarrow) headed over to the Mission, while cohorts Mr. Brian and Cansafis migrated to Grandma's House, a wonderful Oakland warehouse residence and performance space over on Myrtle Street.
Questioned about the move, Cansafis (who also goes by the equally odd name Greenagers) offered a characteristically cryptic reply: "Practice. Truckride. Gambling. Gold. Produce. Kombucha. Ocean. Hippies and Hipsters." No Doctors' "T-Bone Parts 1 & 2" seven-inch, due out soon on the SF-based Yik Yak imprint, will mark the band's Bay Area debut. Without a doubt, the single's title hints to some kind of punk-blues shtick, but like the Grateful Dead and Royal Trux, No Doctors possess the ability to start off playing the most rudimentary of folk forms and then subtly shift into exploded, free-form sonic excursions.
Then there's Oaxacan, a trio churning out quasimystical sonic vibrations inside a downtown Oakland rehearsal space. Guitarist Derek Monypeny handed out five-song demos earlier this year, describing the band's sound as "some kind of Popol-Vuh-meets-Mainliner idea." Of course, that means very little to those of you who are not total record geeks, so let's put it another way: lo-fi, noisy world music (multipercussionist Mike Guarino kicks some serious ass) that splits time between chunks of frenetic, fractured tribal workouts and meditative stretches of droning electronics and female vocals.
Sound a little too soothing? If Oaxacan creates a free-form sound that speaks to the mind's eye, then Sixes (aka Ryan Jencks) -- the only genuinely pissed-off "noise freak" here -- unleashes layered, jagged waves of distortion and white noise, poking that poor third eye right out of its forehead socket. Sure, that's an ugly image, but this is ugly, brutal music for creeps, constructed from organ, turntables, guitar, synthesizer, and electronics. In addition to bringing the noize since he moved up here from San Diego in 2000, Sixes has also been running a perfectly stripped-down and gritty performance space (formerly an old storefront) at 3957 San Leandro.
Well, that's about it for now -- until the next wave of freaky musicians issues forth from that grungy Greyhound station on San Pablo. See you then.
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