Monday, February 11, 2008


Newsflash...I don't listen to much music anymore. This can make writing about music, well, difficult to say the least. I've been known as a music guy since I first heard Nirvana in the seventh grade. But the past two years have been different. Words are my new music. I've embraced writing in a major way and for better or worse left music behind. I always knew it would happen, just never knew when. That's not to say I don't appreciate music or get moved by it. But now it's different. Thanks to Sirius, I have no use for CDs, which means my attention span for one artist lasts as long as any given song. I love throwing on old rhythm and blues before bed, jazz during late night typing sessions, blues for lazy Sunday afternoons and hip-hop on a drunken Friday night. Which brings me to my point...

Last night I checked out a new band at Alex's Bar called the Night Marchers. The four-piece is led by John Reis, former member of Drive Like Jehu, the Hot Snakes, the Sultans, and my favorite band of all time, Rocket from the Crypt. I dig lots of musicians, but Reis has been atop my Fav 5 list since an old friend named Tim insisted I buy RFTC's Circa Now at his record store called Scooter's Records in Hermosa about 10 years ago. For this, I am eternally grateful to Uncle Tim. I've seen Reis in three different bands (now four) and genuinely enjoy each one. I make the two hour drive to San Diego whenever he plays or the dreaded 45 minute drive to LA for a simple reason: Reis delivers the goods. Music, writing, painting, photography, spoken word, puppet shows...Whatever it is, it has to move me. It's got to be real, passionate, honest. Reis is all of these in a way that no other musician is for me. I've spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars seeing his bands, buying his records, driving to shows, paying for parking, purchasing t-shirts. I've skipped important events to see his shows. I've stayed out late when I shouldn't have. I've pushed my beat-to-shit truck harder than it should have. And never complained because investing in a John Reis project is worth the time, money and effort. The guy is insanely talented and consistent. When he plays, my back doesn't hurt from standing. My mind doesn't drift (which it does often). I don't get upset when some asshole bumps into me. My ears ring and I love it. Why? For all the reasons I just mentioned. Talent doesn't equal success, but it should. If it did, Reis would be the second coming of Elvis in terms of influence and popularity.

The Night Marchers are no different. Alex's was packed for a Sunday night. I was glad to see Long Beach coming out to see Reis, a guy who deserves a crowded room every time he steps on stage. But I couldn't help but wonder where these people came from. The Scene Police will drop Reis' name to earn cool points, but when doing so, they seem to be alluding to DLJ and the Hot Snakes, not the Sultans or RFTC. Strange cuz I prefer the two latter to the two former. RFTC, for me anyway, seemed to be Reis' trunk while all other bands were branches of his musical mind. But RFTC never got the "it" factor from the hipster doofus elite. Fine by me cuz that meant more elbow room at their shows. Goes to show what hipsters know.

Consisting of two former Hot Snakes alumni and a fuzzed out bassist, Reis' new band rules. Of all his previous bands, the Sultans might be the least known, which is a damn shame for many reasons, the most important one being the NMs seem to be picking up where Shipwrecked left off while taking elements from each of his previous acts and rolling them into one. Clean tone pop ala the Sultans? Check. Intricate guitar playing ala the Hot Snakes? Check. Showmanship of RFTC? Check. Fervor of Drive Like Jehu? Check. Yet this is something new, something fresh, something exciting. Reis has always teased audiences with his knowledge of groove-based rhythms that come from the blues, but now he's parading that structure out on stage and letting shit fly. I heard tons of surf influence holding down the fort while Reis and company layered their two cents on top.

I don't buy records anymore. But I'll pick up the Night Marchers for sure. Any person into non-mainstream music has one band that they can say they were there for before the big time. Most of these fairweather fans bitch when their former favorite hits the big time. Although Reis has flirted with rock stardom, he's never been a household name. Every time I see him perform, I wish he would. Whether it's a tiny bar on a Sunday night or the Long Beach Arena with 10,000 people, if Reis is playing, I'll be there because I know the only thing different would be the size of the crowd, not the band.

1 comment:

Robert Glen Fogarty said...

Damn it. I really do need to read this blog every day, as I would have known about this show in advance and actually gone to it.

RFTC #1!