Kepi: The Band, The Copyrights, Wardogs, The Sweethearts July 16, 2008 Bottom of the Hill Review and photos by John Graham Better Than: Getting old and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Kepi isn’t human. Kepi is a genetic impossibility. Kepi is a wind-up toy that never runs down, or an android Peter Pan with real human skin. But there’s no way a homo sapien can have as much energy as Kepi generates on stage. Who, you ask, is this mysterious “Kepi”? Why, it’s Kepi Ghoulie, the hyperactive, bouncy, cartoon-come-to-life singer from spooky-cute garage/punk-popsters the Groovie Ghoulies. Sadly, that Sacramento band recently split after nearly 20 years of penning teen pogo hits about fun-loving monsters, vampire girlfriends, and cryptozoological beasties who secretly love to party. But tonight the Bottom of the Hill saw the first S.F. performance of Kepi: The Band – a quintet that may actually be more fun than the Ghoulies themselves. Unchained from any instrumental duties, the ever-in-motion Kepi is now free to dance, jump, flail, flip out, and goof off more than ever. But let’s start at the beginning. When I first arrived at the venue, local Mohicans the Wardogs were onstage. They certainly looked punk as fuck: shaved ‘hawks, facial piercings, neck tatts, studded belts. But their sound (and those belts) were remarkably clean for a band you might expect to snarl with a rawer, more threat-generating ferocity. As they kicked into a note-for-note cover of The Cure’s MTV hit “Just Like Heaven,” it became clear that these dogs are closer to terriers than pitbulls. They’ll snap at ya, but they won’t chew your face off. Catchy tunes, though. Next up: The Copyrights from Illinois. These kids have melodies like waterfalls, always dropping back down to the songs’ home note with a huge, splashy (and somewhat predictable) resolution. Lots of sing-alongs give their power-pop a punky, somewhat emo-tinged power – in a word, what the Bouncing Souls called “manthems,” rousing shouters for dudes who like to wave their arms in the air and sing about life’s overall suckiness (and chicks).
Finally, Kepi: The Band came onstage in matching lightning-bolt t-shirts printed with each member’s name: Danny (lead guitar), Dino (bass), Jaz (drums), Lys (rhythm guitar), and Kepi himself. Some of that lightning must have hit Kepi on the head when he was a kid, because he’s always charged up. With Danny (also of The Secretions, another great Sacto punk-pop band) flipping his guitar at stage left and the pigtailed, babyfaced Dino and Lys grinning away at stage right, Kepi basically spent the set running around everyone with his hands and feet in a cyclone of motion. Taking photos of Kepi is always a challenge: where you aim your lens is not where he’ll be once the shutter clicks. Even between songs, he’d rattle off blurs of words without ever coming to a standstill.
All told, K:TB sped through an hour’s worth of music, ranging from old Groovie Ghoulies classics (“The Beast with 5 Hands,” “Bye Bye Brain,” “She Gets All the Girls,” etc.) to new Kepi tunes (“Supermodel”) and select covers of Daniel Johnston, Billy Bragg, Chuck Berry, and Motörhead. If you were looking for a calm, casual weeknight out, they were clearly unwilling to satisfy. But if you needed to put some spring back in your step, Kepi & Co. gladly obliged. Talking to Danny after the show, he told stories of 9-hour drives to shows – with inexhaustible Kepi at the wheel as always – only to arrive and find Kepi a whirlwind of mania as soon as the first guitar chord was struck. Danny even expressed the same thought that had been running through my head the whole show: “Kepi isn’t human!” But he sure is an entertaining li’l monster, isn’t he?
Critic’s notebook: Opening act The Sweethearts began the show promptly at 9 p.m. I know it’s an all-ages performance on a weeknight, but that’s too early for rock’n’roll. C’mon, it’s summer vacation: the young ‘uns don’t have school tomorrow so they can stay up late with the big kids, right? It really sucks for the opening band — especially one on tour from out of state (Austin, TX, to be specific) — who frequently gets missed by late arrivers. By the way: I gotta say that Copyrights bassist/vocalist Adam Fletcher has one of the widest mouths I’ve ever seen behind a microphone: he looks like he could challenge Kobayashi in an eating contest. For whatever that’s worth.