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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday's Pick: The Night Marchers, Obits, Worker Bee

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 8:00 AM

The Night Marchers (with John Reis second from left)
  • The Night Marchers (with John Reis second from left)

The Night Marchers


Worker Bee

Wednesday: Blank Club, San Jose, 8 p.m., $13-$15

(Also Tuesday, July 27 at Bottom of the Hill, S.F., 9 p.m., $15)

For once the cliche isn't true: they're NOT getting the band back together. Or, to be more accurate, in the case of longtime compadres John "Speedo" Reis and Rick Froberg -- now fronting the Night Marchers and Obits, respectively -- we should say "bands" plural. Reis and Froberg have led musical careers as inseparable as strands of ancient ivy, playing together in acclaimed post-punk acts Pitchfork (in the late '80s), Drive Like Jehu (in the early '90s), and Hot Snakes (in the early '00s). As best friends are wont to do, the duo even collaborated during times of tremendous geographical separation, with Froberg designing art (from his New York home) for Reis' band Rocket from the Crypt and label Swami Records (both based in San Diego).

That was then. This is now. Although the two live 3,000 miles apart, they're not about to let that stop them from touring together -- even if they have to do it with their own independent bands.

The music of Froberg's Obits is, as usual, punctuated by his trademark nasally snarl. But on I Blame You, its Sub Pop debut, Obits often swaps taut angst for sloppy playfulness, with occasional wah-wah guitar psych-outs, tambourine shakedowns, and even Creedence-esque moments that are more reminiscent of the late '60s than early '90s. It's just as likely to slant into surfy tangents as the angular post-punk in which Froberg's trafficked in the past. Not like you'll wanna stab out your brain's auditory cortex with vinyl shards of angrily shattered old Jehu LPs -- it's just that Obits (despite the name) is less emo than Jehu or Hot Snakes ever allowed themselves to be.

The Night Marchers, meanwhile, revive some of the same stomping garage riffs Reis smashed into fans' sweaty heads with Rocket from the Crypt. But now he's playing it a bit cooler, e.g., no blaring horn section, less distortion, and a more subdued vibe overall. "I'm just an old man with a broken dream," he shouts over galloping snares in one song from the Marchers' See You in Magic album. "Oh, no! And I ain't alone!" Alone? Speedo? Not when he's got Froberg waiting patiently on the side of the stage. It's doesn't stretch the imagination to envision these two touring together a millennium from now. When it comes to both music and friendship, Reis and Froberg aren't just lifers -- they're afterlifers. See you in 3010, boys.

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John Graham


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