THIS IS THE NEW TIMES STORY I WROTE ABOUT THE BANDS OF TWANG N BANG ON SEPT. 3, 2015 WITH THE PHOTOS THAT RAN IN THAT ISSUE.
It dawned on me that maybe some folks didn't this feature story. It went out to 40,000 readers a few days before the event. Here is a link to the online version.
Well here it is, my authentic love letter to the local slo scene and to the bands that make it up. Here is my massive pat on the back to Patrick Hayes, who puts it on and his record label. I wrote this music story because New Times regular music editor, Glen Starkey, was on vacation, and of course, I wanted to promote Pat's amazing effort to do this year after year. I stepped in to help out and wanted to simultaneously give Pat press.
The first-person Artbash article that came out yesterday (from my own perspective) was never, ever meant to be an all-encompassing story about Twang. It came out after the fact, and was supposed to be a light-hearted "slice of life," and that's it. That's why the Artbash story didn't run in the music section - it's not a music story at all. Artbash is always a cheeky, sometimes snarky, first person experience where the writer is immersed in the subject. Whether the writer is on stage reciting a poem for a poetry reading, at a car show, or just hanging out with exotic animals on a farm, it's supposed to be conversational. If you aren't familiar with the weekly Artbash segment, here are the first paragraphs to a few previous New Times artbashes:
Artbash about attending a whiskey event:
"It’s a foggy and dreary day in Avila Beach when I pull my car around to the golf course on Sunday, June 9, for the first-ever Blarney at the Beach—a food, music, and booze festival of Irish proportions. “You’re a terrible driver,” Aileen reminds me for the hundredth time that hour. I blush, nearly apologetically, and motion frantically for the shocked family to continue on their path to snow cones and the other PG-rated fun they were no doubt about to have." - Maeva Considine
Artbash about participating in McCarthy's Pinewood Derby:
"It’s Saturday, June 13, and I’m contemplating life without a finger after the small pine block I’m ripping at an angle on my table saw jumps out of my hand just as I get close to the ferociously spinning blade. My junior high school shop teacher wouldn’t be amused, but I don’t have a band saw and the big pinewood derby race is only a day away. Safety third..." - Glen Starkey
Should I have done an Artbash story on my experiencing playing Twang? No. I see that now. I am way too close to the action, and that makes sense. I am not perfect.
Again, I don't even write Artbash stories, Glen does - sometimes a few others step in when he isn't doing anything interesting that weekend. He had just gotten back from vacation and had nothing "first person" to talk about experiencing that was local and newsworthy. So on Monday morning, with my head pounding and eyes bleary, I decided to think about my own experience on stage and go ahead and do a deliberate personal account (if I hadn't written about it for Artbash, it would not have gotten any second mention in the paper - that may have been the better choice). I did not "take notes" during the event, like I did for the original feature story.
I sincerely apologize if my Artbash story pissed anyone off or upset anyone. I wanted to clarify things here, and maybe I have, maybe I have not. I know that not everyone will like what I do or say, and that's ok. If you made a critique, I took it seriously and I listened. Thank you. Take comfort in the fact I am NOT the music writer (never was!) nor am I even the permanent arts editor. I will not be writing about the event in the future, as I will not be covering either beat in a few weeks time. I was helping out with arts editor position over the summer. That being said, it was a hell of a summer and I have mad respect for my fellow writers there.
Thanks to the many music friends who sent good words yesterday through email, text, and whatnot. Thanks for accepting me, warts and all. I think it's pretty obvious I am not out to do harm or be lame. And you can bet I am working on getting it right. That's life. Two steps forward, one step back. Keep going. Who among us has not experienced this? Without further chit-chat, here is the Sept. 3 story on Twang that ran in New Times, below if you did not already see it. Is it completely devoid of my voice? No. Do I mention the fact I am involved? Yes. Did I try to help out the event by getting the word out? Also yes. Was it an awesome weekend? Hell yes. Do you like what I wrote (or me)? None of my business.
Twang N Bang X is ready to roll Sept. 6
There are a few things you need to know about Patrick Hayes. One: Twang N Bang—the all-day love fest of local music that kicks off each Labor Day weekend—is his baby. Dirty, flawed, and loud as a cat in heat, it’s an ugly baby to be sure, but he’s proud, and he should be (what else could bring together roaring guitar and country picking so harmoniously year after year?). Two: Don’t ever thank him when you’re on stage. Just don’t do it. Rumor has it, when Hayes blushes, he goes into some kind of full-body spasm. Not pretty. And three: Never, under any circumstances, play, “Wagon Wheel.” You will be hoisted off the Frog and Peach stage and promptly deposited onto the street where you belong.
See, Hayes—like many Central Coast musicians—remembers the dark days when people thumbed their noses at country music. The pang of hurt lingers. Nearly 10 years ago, when local bands like Hayes’ alt country group Pennyjar, bluegrass troupe Cuesta Ridge, and honky tonk heroes Red Eye Junction were fresh on the scene, country wasn’t just hated, despised, or spat on in SLO. It was completely ignored. In 2009, Hayes was mad as hell and had a good mind to do something about it.
“That was before the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons thing, before every fucking band in skinny jeans had a banjo in their hand,” Hayes said. “It started as a protest fest, the ‘twang’ aspect of it. But lately, the last couple years have been ‘bang’ heavy.”
Don’t I know it. I came into the fest in 2011, with my first-ever bluegrass group (yes, I had a banjo in my hand, sans skinny jeans). Since then, I’ve bonded with the stage, which always smells so appetizingly of sweat and spilled beer. Whether my passion de jour be punk rock or country, I always feel like I belong. Every musician I’ve talked to this past week has echoed that feeling about Twang N Bang: It’s truly “come as you are.”
This year’s Sunday, Sept. 6, Twang N Bang X (2 p.m. to 2 a.m.; 21 and up; no cover) will offer up a momentous patchwork of eclectic sounds encompassing more than 13 local and regional acts. Grungy dust-kickers American Dirt will collide with the pure rock fervor of HOT TINA and Riot Grrrl ethos of Bearcat. The Turkey Buzzards will ride the thermals with their mellow Americana, peppered by Chasing Rainbows’ ’60s psychedelic pop. Other Houses (Morgan Enos’ melancholic acoustic project) edges up against Red Eye Junction, which will make its triumphant return to the Twang N Bang stage in full nasal-twang glory (full disclosure: This is my husband’s baby).
Once I put down my own guitar (Hayley and the Crushers will make its Twang debut), you can bet I’ll be two-stepping to Santa Barbara heavyweights The Mutineers (melodious country-tinged pub rock) as well as Sacramento’s sledge-hammer-to-the-gut rockers 50-Watt Heavy. True blue country and western pickers Hay will also venture out from Sactown, bringing a few cowboy hats to the mix. Oh, and that’s not all, folks. M Lockwood Porter of Oklahoma will throw his harmonica and pared-down folk into that ring, but not before SLO County all-stars Creston Line rhyme “baby” with “Chevrolet.”
HOT TINA bass player Alexandra Wenzl is doing her best to make Hayes blush, and I fully support her mission. We caught up over coffee and she regaled me with stories of Arroyo Grande’s The Thrash House, where the best underage shows happened back in the early ’90s. After a stint playing in Portland punk bands as a youngster, she returned to SLO. When she popped out her last kid, she took a break from music.
“Pat would not take that for an answer. Every time I saw him, he would ask me when I’d be playing again,” Wenzl said. “He’s always been so intensely supportive—to the point of almost being pushy. But it’s awesome. So few men in this music scene really care whether or not they have a diverse community of artists. It’s so homogenous for the most part. You have to have shaggy hair and wear a flannel. That’s never been me, but Pat’s always supported what I do.”
Just for kicks, I think I’m going to bust out a flannel jumpsuit on Sunday. If Lawrence Rengert II of Chasing Rainbows has taught me anything, it’s to let your freak flag fly. The SLO-turned-SoCal performer will return to the Frog stage for a second year with his groovy rhythms.
“It’s fun to see these SLO musicians come back and bring that energy,” Rengert said. “Also, it’s cool to see younger people forming bands—the fest is really a mix of ages. The fact that someone in SLO is doing their own record label/fest is pretty cool to see.”
That’s right. If you didn’t already know, Twang N Bang is also a label, helping produce American Dirt’s latest record, Sunken Gardens as well as Dead Volts’ latest, We Are Already Dead, among other alt-country music.
In 2009, I had just returned to my hometown of Atascadero from LA with a vague idea of starting a band. With my fledgling music zine under my arm, I began tumbling down the rabbit hole. Hayes immediately asked if I wanted to help put out an all-local compilation. This is the kind of inclusivity that permeates our little community. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation. No band lives in a vacuum.
“It’s good for people to say, ‘Wow, we really do have a local music scene,’” Hayes said. “We all complain about it, but in five years—once we take a step back—we’ll probably be saying, ‘Hey. We had it good then.’”
Maybe that’s true. All I know is that these bands are out there every weekend pouring their souls on the stage. Just ask Americana two-piece The Turkey Buzzards of Morro Bay, who have been gigging nonstop for the past few years (they’ll be at Beaverstock in a few weeks). Their new live album was just mastered and will hit the street soon.
“I remember a time when venues would say, ‘You can play anything but country,” bass player Eric Patterson said.
His music partner/guitar player Dylan Nicholson likened the Twang N Bang experience to being part of a family. And like any family function, it takes a lot of cat herding to make it happen.
“It’s amazing that it can even be pulled off, with so many bands on time all day. It’s a giant feat in itself,” Nicholson said.
Each band gets about 20 minutes, and it’s a frantic yet beautiful dance to orchestrate. Hayes said Twang N Bang day is almost like putting on a wedding. There’s quite a lot of love and yelling involved, anyway.
Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see the SLO scene clearly. Mutineers guitarist Brian Mathusek and drummer Merry Young have played the fest for at least the past three years, through momentous occasions—their marriage—to terrible tragedy—the untimely death of their friend and bandmate.
Through it all, the group has made Twang N Bang more than a priority. It’s a tradition. Hayes and members of American Dirt discovered the band while playing in Santa Barbara around 2010. Now bands from both areas are flowing back and forth, gigging together and spreading the word farther than any one band ever could.
“Twang N Bang is this vortex, where all of these great partnerships have grown out of,” Mathusek said. “Every year, somebody just stands out, and it’s cool to see that.”
Mathusek recalled the first time he saw Sacramento’s Grubdog and the Amazing Sweethearts play their crowd-participation song on the Frog stage. The band (already with three guitar players on stage) passed out a few extra into the crowd. The result? Way too many guitarists ripping it up on a too-small stage while the crowd raised their beers to the sky.
“After that, we were just smiling like idiots,” Mathusek said.
I say, if you can’t laugh with your lineup, what’s the point of playing together? It takes a village to raise a healthy music scene.
“The bands that are successful and keep continuing through life are the ones who have a community of musicians around them,” Mathusek added. “You can’t do it by yourself. Twang N Bang is the annual meeting of people who are still grinding it.”